One hard thing about my work is — I get hate mail sometimes. Maybe you do too — or you just get exposed to other people’s hurtful messages, and feel “punched in the gut” or outraged when you’re just going about your business reading articles online or scrolling through your social media feed — in a pandemic!
But there is a miracle going on of people rising up and helping each other and taking risks and doing everything they can think to do — and especially if they’re in a leadership role — they still get blamed and attacked! Are you as sensitive to that as I am?
Three-plus weeks into this global coronavirus lockdown, I want to talk about another virus of sorts, and that’s the growing “permission” some people are giving themselves to tear down, put down, attack and mock other people they don’t even know — people with opinions they don’t agree with and probably don’t even understand. They’re just lashing out.
We’ve all seen it, and maybe you’ve even put your toe in, and taken part in it a little bit. It’s easy to do — it’s almost encouraged. But if you grew up with childhood trauma, chances are that being exposed to this kind of thing is a trigger for you. And what’s so hard about that is, when we’re triggered, we can end up fighting back in a way that creates even more harm — not just for the other person, but for ourselves — I hear from hundreds of people who have lost years, decades of their lives to being caught up in attack mode.
This has always been a bad thing, and it’s gotten worse over the last 10 or so years, but now that we need to be working together to get through an actual worldwide crisis, we just can’t afford the hate. We can’t afford to divide people over things that aren’t even true, and we can’t afford to lose the contributions of people who can help but who get too torn down by the haters to be effective.
We need each person now — we need our ideas and our goodness, we need our willingness to step up and help and we need the best everyone’s got inside themselves. it’s time take a stand now so that one day, when this is all over, we can be safe and free and in a better world than we had a month ago, or even right now.
So in this article and video I want to talk about how to take a stand against people who try to tear you down — in person or online — or when you witness someone tearing down another person. Because you know the saying, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”
So let’s be the good people, and let’s not do nothing. Let’s take on the haters.
I’m going teach you a formula. So stay with me here.
First, I just want to say that most of what I experience online is good! You readers and subscribers bring so much joy and meaning into my life with your comments and e-mails, and your encouragement and your expressions of relatedness. I put a lot of love into my work and I get a lot of love back, and I’m really grateful for that. That’s the main thing that I experience online these days.
And… about one in 10,000 messages I receive is hate mail — or.. a nasty personal attack. For example, I get a few tough guy messages that say “Oh grow up, everyone has trauma you little victim!” (They obviously haven’t watched my videos, and they obviously don’t know what CPTSD is like!). Or they call me a crazy fraud, or one time, under a video where I was teaching about relationships, a guy said I was too ugly for any man to ever want a relationship with me, and wrote out the evil laugh thing of “BWA HAHA HA! — and honestly even I laughed.
But most of the other hate mail I get is from women, which is baffling to me, and there are usually two themes:
1) Who the hell do I think I am to try to help people (like what are my credentials);
2) They complain — even though I give away hundreds of articles and videos and tools, and my free course, and free group calls — that it costs money for my advanced online courses. They say this with a lot of name calling and put downs about what they think I believe — and of course they don’t have any idea what I believe because… well, you can tell they’re just lashing out.
So, I almost never to respond to haters because it just gets them going and they can end up polluting our whole community around crappy childhood fairy, and I’m not going to let anyone make this a dangerous neighborhood for all the good, kind, tenderhearted souls who come here. It’s a bit of a miracle that this community has come together. I’m protective (for anyone reading the post rather than watching the video, and wondering where all the comments are, you’ll find an enormous and robust community of commenters on my YouTube channel).
So the other day I got this really yucky message via e-mail — it was someone who had downloaded some free thing off my website and then she got an e-mail a couple days later about one of the paid courses, and boy, this ticked her off! She had very strong ideas about what people should do and believe and she didn’t think I was doing it right, and called me a couple of epithets. Now normally I immediately delete personal attack comments but for whatever reason, it was really bothering me what she said, and I broke my own rule and wrote to her (I’ll tell you how it all came out in a moment).
I’m telling you what I wrote just in case it might be helpful when you take on a hater sometime — either someone who is attacking you or you hear someone else getting attacked, particularly when it’s someone who is out there trying to make a difference — doing their best to serve. We must protect those people, or at least protect our common purpose in getting the people in our individual countries and throughout the whole world through this pandemic without a total civil breakdown or worse.
When some stressed out person is inclined to blame or criticize, or say the whole world’s going to hell in a handbasket, or thinks they know better how everything should have been done, and thinks you and everyone else is an idiot — you can try my personal guidelines for standing up:
- Be polite. Don’t sink to their level.
- Maintain your boundaries. Be ready to leave the conversation (delete, block, etc.) if it becomes too much for you.
- Don’t assume bad motives. Most people actually do want a good outcome for all – it’s just that we disagree about the best way to get there. People resort to personal attacks when they feel desperate, and they can’t actually think of constructive proposals. There’s no need to solve the world’s problems in this conversation.
- Focus on a common goal to restore good will. It’s OK to have a difference of opinion. A good outcome would be to agree you have a common purpose (to make something better) and that fighting won’t help.
It’s OK to ignore haters! You don’t need to put yourself in harms way. But if you decide to open dialog, you can borrow what I said last week:
Dear (name), I got your note. I normally don’t respond to personal attacks, but I thought today I’d try to remind you that when you say these things, you are attacking a real person (people). I know you are a real person too, and I know you are trying to make things better. So I just wanted to give you some encouragement to try a better approach.
Because of your work as a (whatever they do) you are in a position to do a great deal of good right now. Therefore, I urge you to stop attacking other people, and instead give all your heart to developing the best in yourself.
To do this (you can tell them), when you feel the urge to criticize, you could pause a moment and remember:
- In my childhood, did I feel I could express myself and still be loved and heard?
- If I didn’t learn as a child how to offer love, encouragement and support, how can I learn to share these things NOW with the people whose lives I touch?
- When I’m feeling angry and scared, how can I stop myself from tearing down other people?
- What is the best outcome that can happen for the people whose lives I touch?
- Is there something I can do today to help bring about that best outcome?
- How can I open my mind to all the good that others are doing, or attempting to do?
- Is there some way I can help those people to be strong, and to keep going?
- What do I need to do to take care of myself, even as I serve others?
- Instead of the way I feel now, would I feel differently if I increased my focus on what is good?
- If I see someone making a bad decision, or saying something I believe is wrong or harmful, what is the BETTER approach that I can propose, and how can I share my opinion in a way that is likely to be heard?
(and here’s how I signed off ) Because you see (put their name here), we need you right now — and not only that, but we need the BEST in you. So I hope you’ll try your best to share your best in these scary times.
OK, I told you that I’d let you know what happened when I sent this note to the person who had been hating me….. She apologized. She said she was stressed out, and she was sorry. She even thanked me. I wasn’t expecting that. When you engage with angry people there’s always the chance you’re get some anger thrown at you, so I dreaded opening her e-mail. But if you commit to reflecting hope and encouragement for others — to bring that positive presence everywhere you go — you just might reach their heart.
You’re not going to open any hearts if you meet hate with hate. And you definitely shouldn’t put yourself in a situation where you could be hurt and abused.
But you can shine with most powerful energy there is — it’s light. Light means hope and positivity and refusal to go along with bashing other people.
Stand up for other people. Have their backs, even the ones you disagree with. This is the time to join together and each do our part to help get all of us, safe and connected and working together, from where we are now, to that happy day when we’re free again.
Don’t wait for some “grown-up” to appear and make it happen. We’re the grown-ups now.
And remember, we’re going to hug and have coffee together and sit in classrooms and offices and shoe stores and the single people will go on dates and the older people can have the young people all come to dinner and we can be together again. Let’s make it a better world with more unity among people everywhere, than it was when we started with this horrible pandemic.
Let’s do our part to get to that day. We won’t take each other for granted. We won’t tear each other down. And we’ll get there.
Thanks to our guest artist today, Harry Fricker!
If you’d like to dive right in and take my full course that teaches the basic science of Childhood PTSD, as well as strategies for healing your symptoms and changing your life, check out my online course Healing Childhood PTSD.
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If you want to try the techniques and you haven’t yet, click here. You can learn it and try it in less than an hour, and when you do, you’ll receive invitations to free Zoom calls that I lead regularly. Right now I’ve added a whole bunch of extra calls so this is a really nice time to learn the Daily Practice.