Am I the only one that got sucked in to watching every single episode of the recent HBO series Newsroom?
What happens to a highly successful middle-aged man that grew up eldest child in his family of origin, with an abusive alcoholic father in the household? He finds out at age ten that he is big enough to fight off his father and protect his mother and younger siblings. By middle age, it has become deeply ingrained within him to detest bullying and be an upstanding protector of the vulnerable. At face value, that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
Yet, episode six gives us the ghost that won’t give up the haunt. News anchor Will McEvoy’s childhood history was revealed during a session with his psychiatrist. Only after that exploration did he realize that during a recent TV interview, he had become the very thing he hates. Will perceives presidential candidate Rick Santorum to be a bully. When Will interviews a gay, African-American Santorum-supporter, his intention to protect the vulnerable goes terribly wrong. During the course of the interview, it is Will that becomes the bully.
Okay, I know it’s not real life, but I thought they did a great job in this episode of illustrating one of the many ways even our best intentions can backfire, do a u-turn, and come back to bite us.
How did Will get so off-track?
What if when Will encountered the “bully” it activated his childhood fear of his father? A successful middle-aged man might have trouble admitting that to himself and fall back on power, control, and dominance, in order to not feel his fear. In that state, the Santorum-supporter is no longer a human being to empathize with, but a threatening object to defeat.
Staying in touch with our own inner states and motives isn’t that easy. Sometimes we only see these things in ourselves with the help of others. Will’s psychiatrist helped him see what had actually happened: in order to fight a bully while not admitting to his own fear, he became a bully, and ironically, wound up targeting the same guy he had originally seen as victim.
We will be tackling some of these difficult dilemmas in October at the next Living Ubuntu retreat – When we become the thing we hate: How our trauma and unhealed wounds erode empathy, fuel fear, and create “others”. All details are below and on our website. As of now, we have 2 open spots.
I hope you will join us.
Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
[Ubuntu] n. Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human beings.
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When We Become The Thing We Hate
How our trauma and unhealed wounds erode empathy, fuel fear, and create “others”
Friday, Oct 26 – Sunday, Oct 28 2012
Up in the mountains of Idyllwild, CA
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