It is like they become institutionalised. No established careers, no solid ambitions for the future, surrounded by the wrong sort of people that by living within that environment for so long they believe life is static and that they are happy. They easily lie to themselves to justify their circumstances rather than make any effort to change and improve it.
They retreat back to what they are used to, what they are comfortable with despite the unhappiness. They see it as normal. They dumb themselves down until they almost stop using their minds, constantly preoccupied by the entertainment of their superficial day-to-day activities that delay any effort to improve their mind and condition.
They don’t see a future. Quite the reverse, they ignore it, runaway from it, make excuses and delay progress with false and imagined ideas that only involve “fun” until one day they find themselves in their thirties with nothing.
They yearn for a better life, but they have no self-confidence, no self-esteem to try and build one. They process the world as they are told to and say what they think they need to say to get approval rather than genuinely translate their feelings and be honest with themselves.
The world is too hard and so they withdraw back into that lifestyle where it is familiar, they are used to it and so they don’t need to work hard. It is like people who take drugs or drink alcohol try to drown away the pain of their feelings, only they have shut their minds to drown away the challenges of living.
I feel so much love and so much pain that so many people are blind to their own capacity because they have been infected, poisoned by their environment and are simply too weak to break the chain that they instead give up and become enslaved. They repeat the cycle. They give birth to the next generation making the same mistakes, just differently and so the chain continues generation after generation.
“My dad hits me and he tells me that I am ugly and no one will ever love me. He married another woman, it’s her fault. She tells him what to think because she hates us.” Her hereditary liver illness making it hard for her to sustain a conversation without some form of physical pain.
“My dad was really violent to my mum and to me. I had enough one day and called the police. He left after that and never came back. I felt guilty in a way, but I was happy when my mum said that it was just going to be us. Then one day there is another man in my house and he was her new partner. We had no say. If we didn’t like it, we could leave. So I left.”
“They never let me do anything, go out and see people. I can’t wear what I want, speak when I want. I am just told that I am stupid. A stupid girl. My brother likes to hit me. I hated life and wanted to die.”
“My friends were taking drugs, and so did I because they are my family. My parents didn’t give a shit if I was dead or alive. I was worthless to them and sometimes I would think about what would happen when I die. I think nothing, nothing would happen. My boyfriend tells me that I am pretty, my friends think I’m cool and I like that. So I do what I can to get attention.”
Several years ago I set up my own program called Sole Sista Hiking. I would often borrow a car from a friend – as I don’t have one – and would take vulnerable women out on hikes and day trips so they can escape and allow nature to detoxify them from all the psychological abuse and manipulation.
I now have 450 members who volunteer their time to be with these young girls and make them feel connected in a safe place to be themselves rather than what they are told to be, to take them away and feel connected to the peace of nature.
In that space, that quiet, they reflect objectively and feel safe in the intimacy of my presence to talk about what is, what actually has happened rather than deluge their minds with fake problems or activities to pre-occupy their attention from what is actually going on around them.
Almost all of the girls have experienced abuse by men, whether it is their father or brother or boys at school, it has mostly come from verbal and physical abuse by men. Women have also abused them, only differently; they are indirectly told that they are not pretty enough, told to wear make-up and act a certain way that is pleasing. If they don’t, then they are ugly.
I try to set an example that I myself pushed through all of that cruelty to find self-esteem and create my own destiny, despite having no one. I suffered incredible hardships and yet I studied and now have a steady career with the reward of travel to make them motivated to look forward to something.
I do it all for them, because if I can do it, so can they.
It is hard for two reasons. I am alone in this and have no one to support me to support them. The second is trying to push through those mental blockages and barriers they have to get through to them, to source that courage to leave and create a new life for themselves away from it all.
I try to speak their language, try to talk to them through the lens of their worldview, but it is hard especially when I fear their aggression. It is also difficult because of cultural barriers, patriarchal ideas and false concepts that enable violence is very difficult for me to accept, but it is a part of their identity and need to find that balance.
When they realise that I actually care, that I really love, it inspires them to experience a glimmer of self-esteem, because they realise that I see the real them. They start to mirror that – and it is a slow process – because when I see them, they see themselves and start to hope for something better.
Is there anything more that I can do? Maybe I can plant the seed and water the garden with the hope that they may grow, but the real problem is the violence of the weather, that men and women continue to manipulate, lie, and deceive, it is too overwhelming sometimes when culture is embedded with this horrible hierarchical system.
I wish I had the power to change it all, to be a refuge for these young girls so that they can spend more time with me as I slowly help them work through all the psychological abuse both socially and in their personal space that tells them they are only good enough if they obey and do what they are told, and even then…
In Genesis 3 after the serpent tricks Eve:
To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
The serpent has no power over me and neither does any man.