How can someone do something like that?5 comments
So many times people ask me, “How could someone do that?” They wonder how someone can act inconsistent with common values and/or social mores. They cannot reconcile in their heads how this can be, especially when they are talking about someone who hurt them. And, they could be talking about the soldiers in the Serbian concentration camp, their partner who cheated on them repeatedly or a man who raped them.
Several people I have met with feel like it is important to make sense of the senselessness. It is as if the ‘Senselessness’ of it keeps them in a distracted place of confusion and frustration. They perpetually ask themselves ‘why’s and ‘how’s on a gerbil wheel of thoughts getting them nowhere. As if they could figure out Why? their view of the world would be organized and peaceful once again. In other words, if they could make sense of it, they can heal.
Actually, this interests me a great deal. The knowledge and assumptions of these aforementioned people—that there are benefits to “making sense” of things that happen to them– have been well validated by trauma research. The way we make meaning around events affects a great deal of how we feel about them and how we respond to them.
For example, if we see it as senseless, we are confused, disoriented and may feel incomplete. Sometimes we conclude that we somehow caused it, because there is no other explanation. Conversely, if we interpret meaning even around a horrible of togetherness and helping each other- the negative effects of that event will lessen.
I also have a different perspective. Probably from doing this for so long or maybe from life lessons, but I understand that there are so many reasons why people do things. After hearing and witnessing so many things that humans are capable of doing, there is not much that surprises me.
People ask me, “Can you believe they said/did that?”
I think, “Yes, I can believe it. I’ve seen it all.”
This is not because I am jaded or skeptical or see the worst in humanity. Quite the contrary; I see the good and connectedness of all. And it is in seeing the good in all that can help me see why someone who is good can do something hurtful to others. (People aren’t totally good or totally bad.)
I can always see what could have prompted someone to do something. I don’t know if it is intuition or just an understanding how the simplest things can lead people astray temporarily. These ‘simplest things’ can really complicate a person’s life: things like poor self image, anxiety, self judgment, fear, and self doubt. These are not an excuse because people are responsible for their actions.
However, if it is seen from this compassionate perspective, (rather than, “How could someone do that?” you’d think, “ That person must have been really scared to have done something like that…”) those of us who have been hurt stop blaming ourselves and stop being confused, so that we can use our brain space for healing instead.
Jodi Aman / /