40 minutes into watching 12 Years A Slave on Saturday night, and I had to walk out the room because I was in so much pain.
I’d missed the beginning although I knew the story. It’s not a film I would have chosen to watch even though it was released to fabulous reviews last year. After 40 minutes or so, the pain of watching had become more than uncomfortable, it had become actual physical pain.
Yesterday morning, as I was weeding in the garden (my favourite time for reflection), I started to reflect on my reaction to the film. I wasn’t sure what it was that made it so difficult to watch. It’s not the only film that causes that reaction. I’m guessing (hoping?) I’m not the only one that feels like this when they watch films and documentaries about slavery or domestic violence or wrongful imprisonment.
My husband thought I was over-reacting. As he pointed out, you can’t do anything about something that happened more than 100 years ago. Slavery was abolished in 1833 in the UK (and 1865 in USA) though we know it continues to exist today.
My garden’s not had much attention this year … so there were a lot of weeds. I find weeding very relaxing. I can weed and think at the same time. Weeding helps me process my thoughts. I spent a lot of time weeding when I was studying to be a counsellor.
I kept asking myself “what’s causing the reaction?” “how can watching a film cause pain?” “why can’t you just sit and watch a film without wanting to go and fix the world”.
The lightbulb moment
As I plucked one weed after another, filling up my bucket, I had the lightbulb moment that I was waiting for.
The common theme is equality and justice – or rather inequality and injustice. How one human being could ever have felt justified to treat another human being in that way is beyond belief. It’s so far outside of my value system.
Equality is one of my absolute core values. When what you are doing (or seeing) is in conflict with one of your core values, you feel an emotional response. That is what was happening to me watching 12 Years A Slave – a deep emotional response.
What are values?
We all have a value system. Our most important values (our core values) affect everything that we do: how we behave, how we think, and how we feel. Your values are the unspoken rules and regulations; the terms and conditions by which you live your life.
Values are those intangible nouns such as loyalty, independence, freedom, stability, security, success, happiness, integrity or love.
Our values are partly cultural, partly upbringing, partly just you. When you understand your values, you make better decisions. Understanding your values is one of the foundations of all the work that I do with women who want more confidence. When you get clear on who you are and what’s most important to you, you will have the confidence to make the decisions that are right for you.
But that’s not it. The lightbulb moment from 12 Years A Slave prompted me to take action. To do something else. Something I was so excited about, I dropped my weeding bucket and ran indoors to share with my family. I’ll tell you about that in my next post.
p.s. if you want to understand your own values, you can grab a copy of this activity which I do at all my workshops: Core Values in 5 Easy Steps. There’s always a lightbulb moment or two when we do this. One client realised why she’d hated her job from three years ago even though on paper it looked to be the perfect role for her and how that was stopping her from applying for similar roles.