As babies we are all Empatharians. We gesture our truth, we are sensitive little humans, if we hear a piano playing, we listen. It’s nature is to be open to experience and to feel the emotions of those around us, to respond in harmony with the music…
At what stage does this change? How did we land up with police shooting pepper spray at people peacefully playing violins, as happened in Portland, Oregon on June 28th? Playing violins apparently needed to stop, in the policemen’s view. Why, we can only speculate. But perhaps it is because they are self-centered short-sighted humans, humans who felt threatened by the heartstrings being pulled, as they inevitably are, by violins. That would indeed be sad.
Of course, if the music is too loud, or there is some threat, the baby is traumatized, and shuts down. The baby learns to dissociate, a “freeze” response, since they are unable to fight or take flight from this “threat”. Healthy brain development can stop, until equilibrium is brought back, healing touch reconnecting the baby, hopefully. The baby moves kicking and flailing his arms, to bring himself back. He cries at the top of his lungs, screams that a caregiver will rush to calm, hopefully right away.
When a caregiver does not respond, the baby learns that he doesn’t matter, that he will not be taken care of. A baby fails to thrive, and of course, if completely abandoned, cannot survive.
If material needs are taken care of, but the caregiver is not present emotionally, another lesson is learned by the baby eventually. He also learns to ignore his feelings, suppressing or sublimating hurt and anger into cruelty or over-eating, hyper- or hypo- activity, and various sociopathic or even psychopathic thought processes. The child grows up without being able to love, work, or play normally, because he had no one to reflect his own feelings, no one to love him unconditionally.
He becomes the carer of his parent sometimes, and survives in his world by pleasing his caregiver, always attempting to keep his parent engaged, and by his side. In a toddler this is called an Anxious Attachment. The child is not secure, always worried the caregiver will leave and not come back.
Sometimes another adult- a grandparent or other caregiver- will step in and give the child the focussed love and attention that becomes that unconditional love that a child needs. Quite often, when I worked at Head Start, a teacher could work with a child and develop the self-esteem and self-confidence that would be helping the child survive for the rest of their lives as an integrated human being. We used to say: give us 9 months with a child, and we will change them forever. So, children can recover from depleted maternal situations, and research has borne this out.
Nobody’s upbringing is perfect, and that’s what helps make people resilient as well. As long as their caregiver is “good enough”, so there is some amount of focussed attention and unconditional love, the child has security and a good sense of self. They learn to respond to negative situations with a “this too shall pass” attitude, cry perhaps, but recover more quickly. It actually helps the child to weather circumstances as they mature, that they’ve had some negative situations and learned that they can recover.
So how did the police in this situation with the violinists lamenting the death of one of their victims, actually find it unbearable enough that they had to shoot pepper spray at peacefully assembled people? I don’t know actually. But chances are they weren’t born assholes. Could be it was intolerable to think they’d actually murdered someone?
If the good cops side with the bad or mistaken cops, it’s a strange situation as well. Many of them are former military, and they are used to taking orders. They assemble with face shields and battering arm shields which are military issue, perhaps they begin to feel they are facing an enemy, not their own countrymen mourning a friend…
Perhaps they also dissociate in a traumatic situation, so that they become a machine, not a person, not a human being. They are kicking their legs and flailing their arms, screaming at the top of their lungs- inside. But outside, they’ve learned not to display their feelings, they’ve shut down their feelings for survival. They follow orders.
Heaven help their spouses and children in this situation. When the boiler plate is lifted, quite often the lid explodes, and people get hurt. Police families are high in statistics of domestic violence and even child abuse. It’s a sad fact, and sensitivity trainings seem to do not much good. Violence breeds violence.
There is another way. Like pre-school children, we humans can be rehabilitated at any stage of development. Give me 9 months, and we can make you all human again. Empatharian Movement for Peace is a curriculum that rehabilitates our neurological pathways, for any age level. In the end, it’s humans loving each other, unconditionally.
Hard to do when you’re staring at a plastic face shield and guns…
But Empatharian Movement for Peace helps train peace-builders too, strengthening our abilities to Make A Stand Peacefully, without violence of thought or action, with empathy. And again, it’s neurological. We become More of ourselves, our core of who we are, when we do the work. It becomes Play!