We all know the internet can be a hive of chaos. People are always at each other’s throats, throwing cheap insults back and forth, deriding and degrading and dismissing others and their feelings. We all should know by now that cyber-bullying is a real problem, not only at school level but generally speaking, as well. The internet provides not only a mask but a barrier, a wall: You can hurt someone without being caught, you can hurt someone without punished, you can hurt someone without seeing them cry.
I have to wonder if people saw the effects of what they do, if they would continue to do it. Looking at a still of someone crying or watching someone crying in a video against multiple attackers is different to most people than being in a room with only themselves and someone else, hurling insults at that someone else until they see them break down.
Would it be different?
Hurt people hurt people
I just read in a specific article that “trolls” are more likely to suffer from mental illness. I can see this as being true but extremely irresponsibly written. Many people think of mental illness rarer than it is or of it being different than it is. Up until 12 years old, I thought going into partial-hospitalization or full inpatient would mean seeing kids my age in the corner, rocking to and fro, and sobbing to themselves. Turns out, I’m the only one I’ve known who does that. Ever.
But I know I wasn’t alone in my gross stereotyping. When NAMI itself points out that 1 in 5 adults in the USA are expected to struggle with mental illness in any given year, you have to start rethinking it.
When I first heard that statistic, I fervently disagreed. I disagreed because so many consumers of mental healthcare are so fiercely misunderstood and ostracized, that I couldn’t wrap my head around it being so common.
But a lot of people go undiagnosed or without help.
And I could talk about this forever, but what I’m trying to get at right now, is that so many people are lacking in happiness in health. Everyone’s so angry. People are acting out with rage towards strangers. It’s not because they are mentally ill. It’s not that the mentally ill are somehow “worse” or more “evil” than “neurotypicals.” It’s that there is a ton of unresolved pain and malnutrition in the world, both of which literally lead to depressive symptoms. The problem is not the mentally ill or even mental illness. The problem is how we approach pain; how we deal with it; how we don’t–how so few people get help.
One of my counselors in partial told me when I was around thirteen or fourteen years old:
“Hurt people want to hurt people.”
See though, I don’t believe that. I myself am in a lot of pain and while I admit to vengeful impulses, I rarely ever actually want to hurt someone. It’s more a matter of “hurt people hurt people.” It’s often subconscious, e.g. someone having a bad day goes to a grocery store and flips out on the cashier because the cashier dropped something. Normally, they wouldn’t give the cashier a hard time. But they let themselves be influenced by this bad day.
Taking responsibility for your actions is always important. But when people refuse self awareness, it becomes more complicated to them, and they are likelier to hurt someone out of retaliation for something else.
The goal is to be assertive. You have the right to express your needs and express your feelings. But next time you have an impulse to lash out or say something hurtful, remember to ask yourself why and ask yourself what effect will it have. We are all hurting, mental illness or no mental illness. We all have bad days. How are you so much of an exception that it’s okay for you to spit venom and for no one else to spit venom on you?
Think about it.