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On September 22, 2010, 22-year-old Rutgers student Tyler Clementi committed suicide. Two other students had taped Clementi having sex with another man, and posted that video on the Internet. In the wake of that tragedy, youtube was flooded with "It Gets Better" videos. The movement was well-intentioned, if not entirely on target. In this guest dispatch to The Zero, Zak Mucha points out...

The Problem with "It Gets Better"

By Zak Mucha, LCSW
Published by The Zero, October 10, 2010

Things may get better, one way or another. There will be times when it feels like it will not get better. And nothing will ever get better. We end up thinking: "This is my life, this is how the world is. . . ." If you find yourself thinking that, then you can no longer wait for things to get better. You have to do something.

We’re told to be nice, be good, and maybe they will go away. They won't unless we make them. It's unfair that we have to make them change their behavior. Good people always have more work to do. Good people always have to carry that weight.

There is a difference between attacking someone and defending yourself. We defend ourselves when we have already been hurt or when we know someone is going to hurt us. We know because they have already done so, over and over.

They don’t even have to touch us; words hurt more than a slap. . . . The difference between physical and emotional pain is emotional pain can last longer, emotional pain interrupts progress in our lives.

Those people who enjoy hurting others, who enjoy humiliating others, they do not want to fight, only to attack. Bullies don't want to pay the cost of possibly losing a fight. That's why they don’t fight fair; they come in packs, or they say they never "intended" to hurt anyone. They will attack if they see no cost, if they think they can get away with it. . . . If you are the target of these attacks, the cowards have to pay some cost. Every time.

The problem is that good people, we are told, shouldn’t hurt others. . . . But good people have to defend themselves. Good people have the right to walk wherever they want to walk—at school, on the street, at home.

Historically, good people have had to fight for this. Historically, good people have been willing to carry that weight and fight, no matter the odds.

This is easier said than done. Everything is easier said than done.

But if some cowards attacked another, you wouldn't hesitate to defend the victim. We have to recognize our own pain and respond as we would if we saw another being attacked.

We have to give ourselves permission to practice self-defense. Then we won't have to console ourselves with the hope that someday, "It will get better."

By then, we will have made it so.

Zak Mucha, LCSW, is a therapist as well as the supervisor of an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) program, providing services to persons suffering severe psychiatric and substance abuse disorders in Chicago's Uptown and Edgewater neighborhoods. He has presented workshops addressing clinical and social issues. He is an advisory board member of the National Association to Protect Children and a 2010 Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis fellow. Mucha is also the author of The Beggars' Shore (Red 71 Press, 2000), Heart Transplant (co-author) with Andrew Vachss and Frank Caruso (Dark Horse Books, 2010), and the forthcoming Heavyweight Champion of Nothing (Ten Angry Pitbulls, 2013). He maintains a private practive for indivdual therapy and counseling.

© Copyright 2010 Zak Mucha. All rights reserved.


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