Responses to Harm

RESPONSES TO HARM

By Mary Cook, M.A., R.A.S.

Worried FaceWhen someone harms us or is hurtful in some way, we tend to absorb and retain these energies.  We often obsess about the experience and tell everyone we know, letting the story and its feelings grow.  Our response to harm may be self-righteous indignation, or chronic pain and suffering.  It may be retaliation.  Or it may stimulate our own feelings of low self worth or self hate.  We might invest time, thought and emotion in wondering why someone hurt us.  We can reflect on their possible thoughts, feelings, upbringing, goals and motivation.  We can spend copious amounts of time thinking of the ways they should change and mend the hurt that they cause.  Our communication, body language, and actions are often attempts to manipulate or punish, those whom we feel have hurt us.

Even when our own behavior is harmfully wrong, we tend to focus negative responses onto those who confront or impose unwanted consequences on us.  We thus add to our own unhealthy behaviors, the emotions of anger, bitterness and blame toward others.  We commonly become angry with our own body, or diseases that we contract through our unhealthy habits or neglect.

Ironically we believe that maintaining vigilant attention to the components of past negative experiences will alert us to prevent repeat episodes.  Conversely this is the very force that precipitates continuing problems.  These patterns of externalizing what is wrong, without taking responsibility for solutions, keeps us stuck in escalating negative patterns.  The amount of painful energy that we absorb from the original problem multiplies from our defensive and offensive reactions to it, and repeated recounting either in our minds or to others.  This is how the energy of harm expands, attracting similar experiences, preventing solutions, and blocking the flow of our own evolution.

We are all imperfect human beings with healthy and unhealthy traits.  We live on a planet where pristine paradise, natural disasters and constant change coexist.  And yet we court false beliefs dictating that we should have all that we desire for as long as we wish, and none of what we fear.  This denial of the duality and transformations of the earth and its inhabitants, puts us in constant conflict with life.  Attempts to capture, cling and control external circumstances are doomed to failure and misery. This focus causes us to forget what we have to give, and overlook the blessings that we do receive.  No matter how, when and where harm began, responses that increase our negative energy diminish, and if severe, preclude the possibilities of natural joy, hope and appreciation in the rest of our life.  The dark and light side of life are inextricably woven together.  Just as ignorance precedes knowledge and healing follows illness, shadows are necessary to allow us to more clearly see and appreciate the light.

Cultivating a mature adult relationship with ourselves means that we acknowledge the whole of who we are.  This entails honesty, deep understanding, responsibility for our well being, learning, growth and integrity.  It includes setting healthy boundaries between aspects of ourselves, other people or situations that are destructive.  It is wise to do this without anger or other negative emotions, because a mind full of complaints and criticisms isn’t capable of finding a solution.  We can refuse to participate in or add to any harm that visits us.  Our best response to harm or potential harm is to seek safety, assistance, healing, a better understanding of ourselves, and personal and spiritual growth.

Instead of focusing on who hurt us or why, we can identify the consequences of harm that we carry inside of us and in our interactions with life.  We can surrender all of the ways in which we are hurtful to ourselves and others.  We can shift our focus from harm to healing, from perpetrators to helpers, from past hurt to present safety, from victim to miracle, from anger to peace, from despair to grace.  And we can do this work with the emotions of compassion, curiosity, faith, gratitude and humility.  This puts us in the energy of the solution and in harmony with life, regardless of current conditions.  When we no longer feed the fire of negativity, we can rise from the flames of harm and allow our hearts to tell a whole new story.