In discussing interpersonal relationships like friendship, dating, how people suck, etc., we need to discuss self defense and what that means. In a perfect wonderful world, the world that the Baby Boomers promised us, we would not need self defense. We would trust our neighbors, our family, our government. We would have access to education and health care, equal rights for all, a growing economy with financed social services and park programs, and we would be able to ask questions, ask for help, and guarantee that every citizen was ensured a standard of basic living.
That beautiful wonderful world that we were promised is not real and not how things happened. For many people around the world it was never an option to begin with. I know that many Baby Boomers reading this are shying away internally, angered that I could say such a thing; in denial at the very idea that the world is not what they think it is. Grow up Baby Boomer. We all had too. The world, life, growing up, is understanding that where love and safety should be a guarantee, it is not. We are all figuring out how to survive, how to live, and it is complicated, and it often begins with understanding that you need to protect yourself, no matter your age.
For many of us, our children are growing up hurt and afraid. I’m not talking the spanking with a belt for talking back, kind of afraid. That was the 50’s. I’m talking the active shooter in a classroom, afraid. I’m talking about the war on the streets, kind of afraid, from the opioid, or worse, pharmaceutical drug epidemic. I’m talking the gestapo bagging your parents and dragging them out of the house while you sleep afraid, and yes, that is real and happening.
Even in my Gen X generation, we knew things were getting bad but we couldn’t have imagined it being this bad. The kind of world Millennial’s grew up in has made them emotionally shut down because they had too survive. When you look at Millennial’s stuck on their phones and you think: gawd, these kids have no work ethic…. well no, they don’t, because we gave them a dying world and we gave them access to that fight at a younge age. We demanded too much of them too early with absolutely the wrong tools. Of course their first course is avoidance. Why look at a train wreck when you’re seven when you should be looking at a flower? Why pick up a hammer when you can pick up a shiny phone? We do love shiny. Also, where were your parents to teach you how to use a hammer? Were they working too much because they lost everything in the stock market crash of 2008?
All Millennial’s are Harry Potter – an orphan child with a fucked up foster family who is sent to elementary school to learn to be a warrior, where he watches his community die around him, along with huge swaths of the population. The Harry Potter books were supposed to be a fun story, and an allegory for friendship and hope and perseverance. They were not supposed to be an analogy for a generation of children raised to clean up a fucked up mess and fight a war. And yet here we are. Gen Z? Today’s whee kids, here in 2020? They’re raised in war PTSD. Take all those vets from Vietnam and then look at the kids who have gone through school shootings in America. Same damn PTSD. It’s a mess.
I know, I know. Sounds like an angry unfounded vent. It can’t be that bad, it certainly doesn’t look that bad on my day to day, you say! Maybe, because you’re filtering things out, or existing in sheltered environment, you do see things that way. Doesn’t make your perspective the only one, or the right one, or the real one. San Franciscans walk over human shit, needles and homeless everyday. They are very good, with their million dollar apartments, at not seeing this stuff anymore. Earbuds in. Why doesn’t someone do something?
There are a lot of people, a lot of Gen X, Millennial’s, and even Gen Z, who are making huge innovations and transitions into better methods for our world. There are people trying to do something, but it needs to be more people. It needs to be all of us.
Understand that throughout history there have been times like this, times where children hurt and the world was a fucked up mess. Dark ages, the plague, WWI, WWII. Children have been persevering through crap for a long time and our present day fucked up isn’t much worse than it was in the past. The difference between now and then is that we have access to information, updates on how people are living, and the ability to affect change.
We can protect ourselves. We can help others when we know how to protect ourselves.
Self defense is understanding the level of protection you need to provide for yourself. In many environments, it’s good to take a martial arts or physical self defense class… in the city for sure. Ya need to know how to punch someone in those scenarios. How to disentangle from someone whose grabbed you from behind. In some environments ya need to know how to debate and argue, particularly in many different languages. Many acts of violence can be deterred with a conversation. Reasoning, de-escalation. Many people are angry because they are being ignored. Sometimes they lash out physically, just to be acknowledged. Often words are the fastest and safest fix in those moments.
In most environments, though, you need to know how to protect your mind. You need to have a specific framework outlining who and what to trust, and when. Let’s talk about that framework.
First, we need to be clear about the things no one should ever do to you:
Body: No one should ever touch you without your consent. Anywhere. If you do not like how someone touches you, even your mom, it is your right to ask them to stop. If they don’t, find someone older and ask for help. If they continue to not stop, or there is no one older, then self defense, physically removing said touch, is the correct thing to do. That doesn’t mean restraining said person, or inflicting violence on them. Someone touching you in a way you don’t like is not fixed by you touching them in a way they dont like. I know we are not all down with cops, but it is worth calling the fire department (yes, you can, even if there is no fire), a teacher, another adult, a neighbor, a friend. Sometimes even a stranger. No one should ever touch you anywhere on your body without your consent. Speak up.
Mind: Mental abuse is when someone beats you down with words. They tell say you are less, stupid. They speak only in negatives. “You don’t.” “You can’t.” Mental abuse can be mind games. Negotiation can be mental abuse. “You can have my love if you do this.” Please don’t confuse this with work. Doing your chores to get a few bucks is not mental abuse – that’s teaching work ethic. Mental abuse is a fine line, and one most don’t realize is happening until they’re much older. Mental abuse is insidious.
Gaslighting is probably the most regular form of mental abuse people come across. Gaslighting is when someone invalidates what you think or believe. They make you feel crazy for thinking or believing something, tell you you’re wrong, make the problem your problem instead of their problem. All relationships and interactions go two ways. Both sides are valid and real. When someone says only one side isn’t valid or real, that’s Gaslighting. There is also telling someone they are fat, a disappointment, or simply unwanted.
Emotions: Emotional abuse is almost always hand in hand with Mental abuse. This is adding emotional energy to the fight. Screaming, crying, hitting objects, breaking things. This gets an emotional rise of a person. People who suffer emotional abuse tend to be afraid, like really afraid. It could be that they were beaten. It could be they were yelled at. It could be mind games, them doing things that make you feel insane. Whenever there is an emotional level working as a negative, that’s emotional abuse.
Keep in mind, most abusers are those who have been abused. It is not your job to fix or save them.
Who to trust:
We are supposed to be able to trust other humans. Specifically family, friends, teachers and figures of authority. Alas, that is not always true.
Family is hard because you can’t choose them and you can’t always run away from them, least until you are 18. (You can try to get emancipated.. in some cases this is the right thing to do.) The things to keep in mind if you have a shitty family is that the foster system is a living hell. There are few scenarios that being in the foster system is going to be better than staying at home. At least at home you know what to expect and can often hide. In the foster system, well… it can go either way. Being a runaway and a street kid comes with its own set of problems – including being taken advantage of and drug abuse. Honestly, I’d rather you choose this than the foster system. A runaway has a better chance of bumping into a stranger that cares. That’s how fucked our system is.
Family will always be the worst because you’re mind will never really rectify the let down. A disappointing family is a lifetime of pain. It’s part of the words: ‘family’. Often a chosen family is the way to go. A friends parent to watch over you. A sibling. An exceptionally good coach or teacher. Try for a chosen family, an alternative adult or space to hang around. Chosen family can heal wounds.
The old phrase, blood is thicker than water. Some people think it means that our blood family is thicker, tighter, than water. No. It means the blood we shed on the battle field together is stronger than the blood of the womb. Chosen family is where you’ll get to in life no matter what. If your blood family sucks find your chosen family sooner.
Friends, Teachers and Authority Figures:
In this case you have a different set of issues, as each one of these people you get to choose to accept, keep, or leave behind. You are not required to listen to these people, although sometimes it may benefit you to do so.
Teachers, for the most part, go into that role to help. It’s not a glamorous job. Pay is shitty, support is nill, and children and teenagers, well, they tend to have feelings and emotions. Most teachers are trying to do good. It’s, for the best part, good to listen to a teacher. The times to ignore a teacher is when they are any form of abusive behavior listed above, or when they are blatantly teaching lies. Unfortunately, based on state regulation, or just general bad people, some teachers will use their position to impose a framework of education on a student that is really toxic. That can be simply teaching false or doctored information, not teaching at all, or worse, proselytizing methodologies like white supremacy or anti-vaxxing.
The reason the US has had such an upswing in White Supremacists over the last 20 years is that Nazi’s realized the best way to keep their movement alive was to go after the kids. They planted party members and affiliates into schools specifically to fish out likely male candidates looking for a male role models. In this way, these teachers were able to plant the seeds of racism into public school children. Think I’m wrong? It happened to my cousin in good ol Arizona. As an adult he’s realized this and doesn’t want to be a Nazi. As an adult he’s still, underneath it all, a racist piece of shit. It’s part of his frame work because his teachers taught him at a younge age to be that. This is how toxic masculinity thrives. In short, question your teachers. If your teacher is agreeable, they are probably trustworthy.
Now this gets dicey. I was taught from a very young age to show authority figures manners, and to know my rights, and their rights. Cops and Firemen don’t have the same rights regarding their profession and how they interact with others. Neither, for that matter, do DMV workers versus Judges. I have been saved by cops more than I’ve been hurt by cops. That said, I’m a white woman living in coastal California. California is a ‘non-response’ state, meaning that the cops aren’t allowed to interfere unless they are called. Yeah. In Texas, if a cop sees something they don’t like, they can approach and intervene. In California, they are not allowed to do that. They must be called. Like, on the phone, and dispatched.
The bottom line with Authority Figures is to be informed about what you can and cannot do, and what they can and cannot do. Be polite and responsive. You do not need to be respectful, but you will probably have an easier time of things if you do. It is often the right thing to do, to ask for help from an Authority Figure. Calling the cops for help will almost always grant you a helpful cop. Having the cops called on you… not so much. In the end, you need to know your rights.
Cop need to knows:
“Am I being detained?”
“Am I under arrest?”
“Am I free to go?”
After those two statements, shut up. Do not say more. Let them arrest you, if they are going to. Don’t try and talk your way out of shit unless you know you can. A night in jail can mean a cleared ticket with a judge. Talking to a cop can mean a night in jail and your words being used against you towards a sentencing. You do not want to go to jail. Bad.
Okay. That’ll do for identifying the framework. Now the question is, once you realize who is in front of you and what is happening, how do you protect yourself?
Physical protection is always removing yourself from the environment. There are a few case scenarios where that’s not the right choice, but most of the time, even if it’s for 5 minutes, or an hour, or a day, getting physically away from the environment where shit is bad is the way to go. It’ll give you a chance to calm down, evaluate the situation based on your own mind, and to figure out the next best course of action, whether that’s seeking help, calling the cops, returning to the seen, whatever. Don’t be afraid to step away. Abusers are only successful when there is someone there to abuse. They may try very hard to keep you there. That’s because they cant affect damage on nothing. Its nuts.
Mental and Emotional protection requires some more tools, as its inside you, and you’ve already probably suffered some abuse.
For the extreme situation – and for many people in the lower economic range, that’s the poverty level, this will be normalized: The first thing to understand is that the mind compartmentalizes itself. You can take yesterday, put it in a mental box and not look at it. This is what most people do with abuse. They put it in a box in their minds and don’t look at it. That’s a survival technique and it’s a good one. You need your mind clear to think through how to fix the problem. The thing that folks fail to understand, and one of the reasons most get so stuck in their situation, is that they don’t realize they can do the same thing with their emotions. That’s right, you can box your emotions too. In high trauma environments boxing your emotions, going cold, will be best. An abuser wants an emotional response. If they dont get one then they might get physical, which is a call to the cops scenario, or they might stop, as there is no rise.
Compartmentalizing your pain into boxes so you can work through the issue causing it is important to survival.
The thing to know is that once you are out of the issue, out of trouble, that you are going to have to go back and open those boxes. YOU HAVE TO ADDRESS THAT SHIT. It will hurt, and you may be tempted not too. You need too. It will rot inside you if you don’t. This is why therapy. This is why crying. This is why safe spaces.
For ya’ll middle class folks: In this case you need to take a pause and think through what is happening. You need to identify who is causing you pain and what kind it is and how its hurting you and why. Then you need to identify if anything can be done about it. A lot of people cause pain unintentionally. They were taught poorly, or they’re stressed or sick. Sometimes a conversation will fix the issue. “I don’t like it when you talk to me that way.” Sometimes that’s enough.
Sometimes it’s not fixable. Ya look at the person and you know they won’t change. This is when you learn to ignore what hurts, realizing that it’s not about you. Even if you’re the focus of the lashing out, they probably aren’t trying to hurt you, just trying to express their hurt and doing a bad job of it. In these times it’s good to figure out a chosen family, exit strategy, busy schedule so that you aren’t around them a lot. This is what most people do. They do basketball, get a partime job, whateves, just not to go home. It’s not that home is bad, it’s just… well, it kind of sucks to be there. “The folks, they love me, but they don’t really care that much about me.” That kind of abuse sucks because there’s nothing really to be done about it until you become an adult and can talk to those people as one adult to another. Honestly, even then that might not work. People get stuck in their pain and trauma. You’re parents probably did. You might, eventually, as well. A lot of people invalidate youth up to the age of 25. You just aren’t a person enough to matter. That is not true, but a lot of people think so, and so trying to talk to them about why their behavior is bad isn’t gonna work cause they’ve already chosen not to listen.
All humans at all ages are valid of experience and emotion. All conversations are worth hearing out and considering.
Lastly you have the upper class which suffers and crazy different effect of abuse. They not only get a solid dose of brainwashing – taught to think and believe very very very specific things – but they are raised with an expectation level that often borders on obscene. These kids are often in gilded cages, where their lives are scheduled every single moment and where they are taught to behave and act in only one way. No slouching, no cartoons. But mostly, no parents. More often than not the upper class are raised by nannies or teachers. They don’t learn physical contact, they don’t learn boundaries, and they don’t learn social interaction with anyone except for their own kind, which are very few in number. In short, sheltering these kids has made them more handicapped in life than a kid with down syndrome. What’s worse is that they are taught to believe that they are better. It’s not true. These people can’t actually do anything besides look pretty. They were never taught how to feel and they were never taught how to love.
Ya might look at this last group and go, ‘HA! Whatever… these people have so much money that I can’t pity them.’ I’m not asking you to pity them, I’m asking you to understand that abuse is abuse and happens to everyone, in all classes, in all genders, in all races. The problem here is that these people can take their abuse and use their money to change the world to make themselves feel better. They can throw a tentertantrum with their money which can fuck up an entire economy. The only way to fix this is to talk to them, to normalize them, to include them in average life. I’m not saying to let them walk all over you, I’m just saying to let them participate so that they learn how to cope and see a bigger picture.
Yeah, like is rocky like that.
All that said, self-protection is a lot of looking at oneself, evaluating how you are and how you want to be, and taking the time to make changes to help that. A big reason men life weights, become built, its not sex, its so they wont be bullied. A big reason women want to be thin and sexy, it’s not popularity, it’s so they won’t be bullied. Self preservation and protection is a number one important on the list of human things every single person does. It’s necessary to identify that, to evaluate it, and to check it.
Again, it’s also worth mentioning that often the abusers were those people who were abused. Check yourself to make sure that you’re not doing to others what has been done to you. It’s your choice. I believe in you.