Saturday, October 29, 2011

Preparation: Examine Yourself

Examining yourself is a big issue.  We all have false motivators that we need to work through in order to be healthy people.  Our actions may unwittingly be driven by a need to feel important and loved, motivators that will only hurt us and those around us in the end.  My suggestion is that before you jump into abolition work you take some time - a week, a month, half a year, whatever it takes - to examine yourself.  Journal.  Be real with yourself about your addictions and motivators.  Ask trusted love ones the hard questions like, how do I handle criticism? What are my strengths?  What are my weaknesses?, and be willing to hear the answers. Get a therapist.  Get a mentor.  Get a spiritual director.  You can't successfully go into this type of work unless you've already dealt with the crap in your own heart.  This is a life-long process, but we can find a lot of freedom and healing even if we're not perfect.  Here's a few things you may want to consider while examining yourself:

The Messiah Complex
I'm speaking from experience on this one.  I tend to be the vigilante-save-the-world-leap-first-look-later type.  I want everything to be right, I want everything to be healthy, I want everyone to be happy.  But there are a few things you need to know going into it: you can't save everyone.  Today a child caught in sex trafficking died.  You and I will never know the child's name.  You and I will never know the child's story.  This is the reality.  We're fighting a battle that is not yet won and there will be a lot more casualties before it's over.   So pray about it, do some journaling, tell yourself that you can't save everyone and that's okay, and try to live in the reality that doing your part is enough.  I've come to have peace about this.  You may or may not be religious, but for me it really helps to know that God knows.  God knows.  It's also helpful to look at your motivators: why do you need to save everything?  In trying to save the world, what are you trying to save in yourself?

Sex Addiction
What is it?  Porn?  Constant masturbation?  A string of significant others used for your own sexual gratification?  We live in an era that doesn't consider this type of behavior wrong.  But the truth is, an addiction is an addiction.  It doesn't matter if it's drugs, anime, or alcohol - if you're being driven to it as some form of escapism, chances are it owns you.  Do a simple Google search on "addiction" and you'll find that addictive behavior alters your brain pathways.  That is, when you start turning to something as a stress reliever it begins to alter the pleasure pathways of your brain, habituating you to that action and creating a need.  When you try to break the addiction - whether it's a substance or a habit - you become irritable, restless, and absent-minded, thinking almost constantly of the thing you can't have.  In my mind one of the big issues about a sex addiction in particular, as opposed to alcohol or something, is that it begins wearing down your respect for humanity.  If you're engaging in porn or using people for your own sexual pleasure you're objectifying them.  This, in fact, is the very thing traffickers do to their victims, objectify them.  So if you want to get involved in the fight but yourself are a sex addict, you have some mindshifting of your own to do first.   Get help.   It's imperative before you get involved in anti-trafficking work, because the temptations are everywhere.   You don't want to become a john while you're trying to stop them.

Other Addictions
As stated above, research shows that addictive behaviors can create pleasure pathways in the brain, developing in us a need to continue that particular behavior.  When trying to break a habit or addiction a person often becomes irritable, irrational, and reactive.  Addiction just isn't good for you.  My belief is that the worst part about addiction is that it's reactionary: you are turning toward something for a reason.  Addiction is a form of escapism: I feel better about myself if I drink, when I'm full of self-hatred eating makes me feel better, etc.  If you're living out of addiction, you're not healthy.  I think every person is looking for peace, but continuing in your addiction is not going to produce it.  So as you examine yourself look for places where you might have unwittingly developed an addiction.  Work through it.  Get a counselor, talk to a trusted friend.  It may feel like a long road sometimes, but you can overcome.

Prior Responsibilities
Don't go divorcing your husband and leaving your 3 children at home so you can move to Thailand to work with trafficked girls.  Look realistically at your life stage.  Are you finishing college?  Are you over your head in debt?  Do you have kids at home that need tending to?  As I hope you find out on this blog, there are many ways to get involved in anti-trafficking work and not all of them require that you sell your firstborn child to do so.  Something as simple as mentoring a child through Big Brothers, Big Sisters is a substantial contribution to the cause, and it doesn't ask that much of your time or financial investment.  So look at your life, be honest about what you can take on at this stage knowing that it may change down the road, and move forward in it.

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