As soon as we decide someone else is them, not us...
In the Second World War there were of course something like 800 000 people treated for ‘shell shock’ or battle fatigue. Now known as PTSD. Of course there has been a lot of war since then and many more people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to the violence of war and of course other violence, accidents and natural disasters.
They are not weaker than you, they have just and more trauma in their lives than you (just in case you are entering a judgemental state of mind here.) And their minds may have been weakened earlier by a less than satisfactory attachment to a parent. This does of course make for less resilience of mind and therefore more possibility for further damage.
But I want to go off on another tack. I am not sure where I got this from but it (may be DW Winnicott or Bion? Someone know?) was found that strangely enough, during the 2nd World War the mental hospitals became more empty of those who were psychotic –that psychosis and neurosis symptoms seemed to have improved during the war. Because of course for these people the enemy suddenly became very recognisable. They – the Germans ect – became a common and out there enemy. So now the enemy within – either the painfully severe super ego of the neurotic depressed person or the escape from this in the case of psychotic people (bit too simplistic) – could be quieted. It was no longer inside themselves. It was THEM; the nasty benighted Krauts! (Apologies!)
Of course, after the war was over the mental health picture changed again and symptoms rushed back. And they had all the PTSD problem to cope with. It led to enormously valuable work in this area – after quite a bit of less than useful or empathetic ‘treatments’.
Now I read with horror of the murder of a young Gay woman today and the nasty toilet brush touch. I know that to her attacker/s she was a ‘THEM’.
Unfortunately our society today has too many people who have had too much stress, trauma and unpleasant and toxic childhoods. The only way they can cope with the pain, anger, shame, sadness is to disown it and place it on another person.
They don’t want it but it must find expression (this sort of damage always needs some form of expression) and it is always good to have someone to blame or just embody our ‘bad’ feelings. Just like one might shout at the dog after a bad days work or snap at your husband when your mother -in-law tells you once again how much better they were at being a mother than you are...just luckily you don’t go too much further than that. Just luckily you are a bit more resilient, less damaged...
I am not condoning the torture and murder of that young woman. I just know that we are a damaged society. One where finding ‘the other’ to punish and hurt to displace our own hurt is far too violently prevalent.
That is why we have to urgently work for a change in the childhoods of our nation’s children.
Only in this way can we make a society that is more tolerant of difference.
Rather than one that feeds emotionally on intolerance. As we sadly too often have now.