Posts Tagged ‘Empathy’

Like almost 12% of teenagers in the United States, I suffered from depression when I was younger.  (and still, but that’s another story).

Depression is insidious, partly because we overuse the term, but also because we have a lingering belief that folks should just “snap out of” whatever is bothering them, totally discounting that this is an illness that needs to be dealt with.

Building positive coping skills is an important part of treatment for people struggling with depression.  Coping skills (the fancy psychological term for how we make ourselves feel better) can be anything, from listening to music, to running, to petting a dog, to painting, to talking on the phone.  The possibilities are endless, and it’s important to have a large list, because each coping skill is not going to work in every situation (i.e. I might not always be able to go for a run, or some days my favorite movie doesn’t help, etc).

One of the most prevalent coping skills suggested to me, and that’s often suggested for folks through the popular media, is that things will improve in the future.  It was a movement of support for LGBTQIA youth a couple years ago.  It’s still something I tell myself.

It’s not the most effective thing to tell someone struggling with depression.

Part of being depressed is the loss of hope, of optimism, and of future orientation.  When you’re depressed, you’re not too interested in tomorrow, because things are awful today, right now.   Depression saps your motivation and energy.  “It gets better” might be true, and it’s a great message, but it’s not enough on its own, because depression works against that.

I truly believe that often things do get better, if only because feelings of intense sadness are just that – feelings, and feelings pass.  What we must be careful to avoid is invalidating people’s depression and sadness now, in service of a misty, hopeful future.

 

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I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy lately, both because of the upcoming presidential election, and because of some bad luck I had recently with property crime. Detroit Today had a segment yesterday about criminal justice; host Steven Henderson pointed out this might be one of those rare issues on which things actually get done, as liberals’ and conservatives’ views align.  It’s like seeing a unicorn.

The BIG ISSUE with criminal justice is the purpose and the results.  Or at least, that’s what I take from the endless debates about costs and treatments and outcomes and recidivism.  We need to know what we’re putting people away TO ACHIEVE, and if we’re actually achieving our goals.

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I was fist pumping wildly while listening to NPR on my drive to work this morning; not a daily occurance.

This, basically.

Twitter has finally stepped up against the hateful misogyny to which it has turned a blind eye since it’s inception.  A press release was issued today.

Any picture or video of an “intimate nature” (this is sexts/naked pictures, for those without patience for euphemisms) that is posted without the consent of the person in the picture is now off-limits.  Here are the action steps:

  1. If you see a picture of you, you submit a complaint to Twitter.
  2. A team confirms it’s you in the picture (they say you “verify it’s you” not sure what that really means)
  3. Picture is blocked from public view
  4. The person who posted it has their account locked
    1. They now have the opportunity to prove you consented to have your naked form plastered around the internet
  5. If no proof of consent is found, the picture is removed permanently, the account is suspended permanently

I was also yelling YES! because this applies not only to boobies pictures, but also personal information (birth certificates, addresses, driver’s licenses etc) posted without your consent.

Is this a perfect solution?  Absolutely not.  But it’s important for a couple reasons.

First, I count this as a victory of feminist activism.  Revenge porn (when someone, usually an ex, posts private, intimate content without consent, generally to punish and shame) and doxxing (when personal information about someone who disagrees with you is posted online, and/or other really, really scary shit is done to intimidate and harass) has been the subject of countless essays, thought pieces, book chapters and online fights.  I’m SO GLAD it’s had an impact!  A company is actually having to change it’s policies.  It doesn’t matter (well, it does, but keep positive) that Twitter was dragging its feet and that this is an imperfect solution.  Now Reddit looks to be following suit.  This is a good step.

Second, it acknowledges these posts as real harassment that has a real effect on the (usually women) people who have their information posted.  On the radio, a domestic violence activist reminded listeners how compromising pictures/information can be used as a form of power and control, intimidation, and emotional abuse.  Maybe those in power positions will think twice before attacking on all fronts.  Maybe it will encourage a bit of self-control.  We can dream, yes?

Third, this is a step toward encouraging respect online.  It’s super easy (and psychologically inevitable) to be an asshole when you’re anonymous.  Now, maybe we can see a bit more accountability, some more understanding that these are actual people, actual women (and men) who have real lives and see real effects from online abuse.  Empathy, anyone?

Okay, no policy or rule or law will ever stop hateful behavior; only speech, time, understanding and empathy can do that.  But it’s a start.

Fist pump!