“What’s wrong with you?”
It’s natural to say that to someone when their behavior is off the wall.
But it’s better to say this:
“What’s hurting you?”
Because behavior is a form of communication.
There’s always a cause for behavior. A trigger. A root. What we call a Precipitating Factor in CPI training.
Pain tries to tell us things, and we need to listen.
I wrote this poem from the perspective of someone who needs help—someone who any of us might teach or counsel or provide care for or encounter. I wrote this to emphasize how important it is for us to be empathic and trauma-informed. It’s a compilation of tragedies I’ve heard about over the years, from people who have seen or felt or witnessed or dealt with the effects of these experiences.
I hope it helps you build trust and understanding.
Warning—it’s disturbing. But if we can’t speak to these things, then who can?
I Couldn’t Understand
Today I felt alone when my family walked away while I pleaded for help. I couldn’t understand why no one listened to me. The same message I cried out so many times in the past.
Today I smelled fear when I was taken down. I couldn’t understand why they grabbed me for refusing to take my medication. The same medicine that makes me confused and nauseous.
Today I heard that I was a loser when I failed to understand what was in front of me. I couldn’t understand what made people so cruel. The same situations that other people struggle with.
Today I saw prejudice when the others called me a “retard.” I couldn’t understand why words are used to cut and hurt. The same words that hurt others like me.
Today I touched pain when my mother put out her cigarette on my back. I couldn’t understand why the person who said she loved me would treat me this way. The same person I loved with all my heart.
Today I tasted blood when they beat me up because I was different. I couldn’t understand why no one came to my defense. The same people who claimed to be my friends.
Today I died when they shoved my face into a pillow until I couldn’t breathe while they raped me. I couldn’t understand why they were doing this to me. The same community that I grew up in.
Maybe it is not me who doesn’t understand. Maybe it is other people who don’t understand. Maybe it is society that doesn’t understand. Maybe it is the world that doesn’t understand.
But I’ll never know.
* * * * *
We need to prevent tragedy with empathy and compassionate intervention.
I hope this poem helps you improve care in your organization or for someone in your life. Please feel free to share it and pass it on.