Saturday, September 09, 2006

Recovering from personal oppression

"As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air--however slight--lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."
- US Supreme court justice William O. Douglas (1898–1980)

As we have all heard enough of political oppression, this will deal with personal oppression.

Two of the meanings of oppression given in one dictionary are as follows:
(1) The act of subjugating by cruelty
(2) The state of being kept down by unjust use of force or authority

For those who have suffered from oppression by another, Justice Douglas says that it creeps up on them while they little notice the change. By the time they realize the state of their life, they can't explain how it happened.

What's more, the oppressor often can't explain how it happened either.

One person may have gone "a little too far" and the other, in a quiet attempt to be understanding, forgave the offence. The next time, it got a bit worse, and so on.

What neither the oppressor nor the oppressed often does not understand is that the oppressor (the cruel one) has lost control not just of an occasional situation, but his life. He feels overwhelmed by his situation, as if he is sliding down a slope into a bottomless pit. His cruelty is an attempt to show that he can control something in his life, even if it is at the risk of harming the last good thing he has left in it.

Does this mean that we should forgive the cruelty and forget its damage? Not at all. It does mean that we should be aware that some people keep their problems so much to themselves that by the time a loved one or friend notices that something is terribly wrong, the cruel one's life is totally out of control.

We need to be aware of small signals and clues, as they may be the only ways we can tell that something is wrong and may be spiralling out of control. When the oppressed one tries to cover or make excuses for black and blue bruises, the lives of both people may already be totally beyond their control.

It is possible to turn a life around, to make a new beginning with better control and new goals. However, this tends to be very expensive, emotionally as well as in time or money or both. Such a change takes much longer than anyone would like to believe.

Does an oppressed person have that much time? Can the oppressed person work to make that change themselves? Rarely and no. It takes a professional who specializes in reprogramming individuals. Most psychologists are not trained to deal with such deep psychological problems, though some will act as if they have the ability and begin to take money for "therapy" that seldom works.

What's the answer then? As with most problems that have reached the point of being severe, solutions take a very long time. A person who has lost control of his or her life, be they oppressor or oppressed, is like a recovering addict: a recurrence of the problem is one bad move away.

Addicts have support groups for those trying to kick the habit. People who have lived with personal oppression have only limited resources in terms of support. Those who have been oppressors have either no support or extremely limited support, which is why many of them find themselves in prison.

The purpose of this article is not to be depressing. There is an abundance of that on the street wherever you go. The purpose here is to point out that some people need help and have no place to get it. Support is desperately needed for a former oppressor and for the oppressed.

Someone who has suffered in an oppressive situation often will get sympathy if they venture to open up about their case to others. But that sympathy does not last long enough to be of much help to a recovering person. When it suddenly stops, the recovering person feels abandoned.

If you really want to make a difference in someone's life, you could offer to be that support. But, be aware, it sometimes means dropping everything you are doing to help when the help is needed. An undependable support person can be worse than none.

New lives are possible when someone cares enough to provided the needed support.

Bill Allin
'Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help everyone learn the clues and hints that may lead to others who are in deep trouble.
Learn more at

No comments: