I’ve seen a lot of the responses in relation to the incident at the Academy Award ceremony recently between Will Smith and Chris Rock. The responses tend to be polar opposites with people either praising Will and pointing anger at Chris for the insensitive joke, or villainizing Will for the act of violence and defending Chris.
In this post I am going to share a different perspective for consideration. I’ll use myself and my experience as an example. Then I’ll give you an exercise to try for yourself.
What stood out most to me as I watched the aftermath of the event were the posts made by multiple women stating, “if my man doesn’t defend me like this, I don’t want it”. This resonated with me because there is a part of me that could relate. Then I looked at it from the lens of everything I’ve been learning these last few years, and I came to a realization.
Much like many of the women I’ve seen making those types of comments referenced above, I too used to think it would be sweet for a guy to use violence against someone in my honor. I can think of one situation in particular where I watched a movie with a past partner about two brothers that went off with a vengeance trying to save one of their spouses who had been abducted. My partner at the time got all macho and protective, claiming he’d do the same thing if it were ever me.
I remember reacting very positively. I took as a symbol of strength and protection or something, which made me feel safe, happy, and loved. I also remember trying to relay that experience to someone else later on, almost like I was bragging about my boyfriend’s strength and love for me. I actually find this really funny now, but in the moment I was angry and annoyed when the person I told gave me a weird look after I relayed the story.
Rather than being happy for me, they were concerned. Others could see how toxic that mindset was back then, but I couldn’t.
Several years have passed since this experience, and in that time, I’ve experienced a lot of healing, growth, and learning. Looking back, I recognize that I felt this way with my partner because I was seeking the kind of feelings I didn’t consistently have as a child through my adult relationships. I know now that is not healthy for me, nor is it healthy or fair expectations to place on romantic partners.
With this new understanding, I see the kind of emotional outburst we saw with Will Smith more as a lack of emotional maturity and self-awareness. I can think of times in my life when I’ve used violence against others in an emotional outburst as well, and looking back I would say the same thing about my prior self in those situations. If we’re being driven unconsciously by our past pain, we often end up hurting others.
Even the people we love most. Even when we don’t mean to or want to.
I’ve found that violence and aggression stops being attractive when you recognize a true symbol of strength is self awareness and the emotional intelligence to be able to handle conflict without violence. It’s not as cute when you realize that it is an impulse or unconscious pattern. As a result, those outbursts could easily redirect toward you under the right conditions. This can apply with physical, emotional, and/or verbal abuse.
The incident at the Oscars was a mild situation and I’m in no way implying Will Smith would be abusive to his wife. That said, I felt I should share this different perspective as something to keep in mind when it comes to general mindset on this topic.
The posts I saw praising the behaviour is problematic because the next generation is watching and learning from ours. If this attitude is adopted and normalized widescale, it can put more people at risk of experiencing abuse. Conversely, the posts I saw villainizing Will is equally problematic because it fails to address the cause – unconscious trauma.
Domestic violence and abuse – be it physical, verbal, or emotional – or such abuse in general, is often the result of these types of unconscious patterns and emotional outbursts based on unconscious pain from the past. Abusers aren’t abusive all the time, and that’s how people often get stuck in those situations long term. It is up to us to take notice of this type of behaviour and monitor for signs of a pattern.
Remember: Hurt people, hurt people.
If we want to see a reduction in this type of behaviour in our culture, a good place to start is by putting an end to condoning this type of behaviour in ALL situations… even when provoked by insensitivity or even intent to hurt with words, such as a case like Will & Chris.
Lead by example. Seek to become aware of your own patterns. Give yourself the time and space to heal, and put in the effort to break the patterns that are no longer serving who you want and choose to be – because that is the real you. Invite others to do the same.
If you’re open to it, at this time I would like to invite you to do a little exercise.
Take a few minutes to think about your dating and relationship history. Do you have a pattern of ending up with people who are irritable? A bit of a hot head? Emotionally or physically abusive – to you or to others?
If you’re still with me, try taking it back a bit further.
What was your childhood experience like? Did you experience and/or witness domestic violence or abuse? Were your parents irritable and unpredictable? Did you grow up in a loving and nurturing environment, or did you feel more isolated and alone?
If you made a connection about yourself with this exercise, please put some thought into what I’ve said above. Maybe we grew up in a chaotic environment and that is what feels normal to us, so we unconsciously seek out what feels familiar.
If that is the case, I want you to know that we can teach ourselves to look at things differently and place higher value on other attributes in relationships. The partners we end up with aren’t always healthy for us, and we can change this by changing the story around the behaviour itself.
For more depth on this topic, I encourage you to read an incredible post by a psychiatrist.
I hope you found this helpful! If you learned something new and would like to share, I would love to hear from you in the comments.