Kindness by a Thousand Messages

This is a post about Recovery, the self-care and mental health process.

There is a parallel between pervasive social messages about equality and about self care. I think learning “self-justice” can be just as important as learning about justice for others.

When I discovered Tumblr in my late teens, I discovered an abundance of both. Posts about forgiving yourself and loving your body went go hand in hand with posts about how all bodies are equal and everyone deserves compassion.

Unconditional love runs the gears of both systems. Not everyone who believes in social justice has necessarily mastered it, and people might not love themselves whilst they defend the rights of others.

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It isn’t a secret that people who go through trauma can sometimes become the most giving. In psychology, the extreme of this is a Saviour complex. What doesn’t kill you, could make you stronger, or at least, kinder and more compassionate.

It isn’t easy to hear about self-compassion when you don’t have it, or you don’t have any compassion in your life. If you live in a tough, individualistic environment where strength is valued, you’d naturally be repelled by the saccharine notion that softness isn’t a bad thing. It would seem like a trick, not to be trusted. Letting your walls down would seem to guarantee an ugly defeat.

Being told that this is normal, that this is called trust issues, wouldn’t help. Your emotional defences would be raised, and further softness would fall on numb ears.

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This is how the conflict between individualistic right wing people and communalistic left wing people could play out, if everyone was ideologically pure.

However, people are far from pure ideology. Everyone has a background, everyone has been hurt, everyone has defences. Left wing people don’t actually run on pure love, and right wing people aren’t as emotionally invulnerable and disconnected as they’d like to believe. Reality meets in the middle, with messy defensive arguments on all sides, give or take.

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We are all humans, and we are influenced by the messages from our society. This can be in a messy, insulting, internet brawl, or it can be from articles on niche socio-political websites. To me, it looks like more and more messages about self care are appearing, as part of a more informed generation learning to respect themselves and the planet. To others, they might be receiving thousands of messages the other way, about self-supremacy, as part of a more desperate and disillusioned generation each trying to escape disaster for themselves.

Is Unconditional Self Love a Trap?

This is the perpetual question. Unconditional love and respect for others is widely taught in most major world religions, and most of us would hope to have unconditionally loving relationships with the people close to us, yet there is always doubt. Doubt that this actually includes us, when we maybe don’t have religion or maybe family support. Doubt that we will look foolish and weak for having tried to be gentler. Doubt that we tried hard enough to be strong and that if we finally do it right instead then the pain and isolation will be over instantly.

This doubt can’t be answered. In situations of conflict or war, being strong can be more valuable. In a lot of society, individualistic behaviour is encouraged and community efforts are seen as shameful, odd or embarrassing.

At the end of the day we all have to decide for ourselves. Will we listen to thousands of messages about positivity, love, and supporting each other and ourselves, or the messages about distrust, protection, and an endless race for supremacy? Will we combine the two? Ultimately, it’s always a human decision.

 

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