As I write this, the media is saturated with articles about Harvey Weinstein and his problematic behavior that was widely known for decades in Hollywood.
Many are questioning how people could know this about Mr. Weinstein yet proceed with business as usual. One of the best answers I’ve read is by Scott Rosenberg (seen here: http://deadline.com/2017/10/scott-rosenberg-harvey-weinstein-miramax-beautiful-girls-guilt-over-sexual-assault-allegations-1202189525/)
Rosenberg shares a brutally honest and open perspective of what it means to be a beneficiary of someone powerful and the ambivalence– often denial– that comes along with maintaining the relationship. The case at hand is about Hollywood, but it has themes that are universal and generalizable to all settings.
Relationships are complex and people often find themselves in relationships where they struggle with reconciling the negative and positive aspects of someone close to them. As Rosenberg illustrates, when someone is helpful to you and you have a good time with them, a part of you wants to look the other way when it comes to the disturbing parts. Downplay it. Pretend it’s not there. File it away in the ‘not such a big deal’ department.
It’s called compartmentalization. It’s a defense mechanism because it protects us from uncomfortable thoughts and feelings; it keeps the reality check at bay, enables us to proceed with business as usual. We all compartmentalize for various situations, ranging from minor to major. We may know something, be aware of it, but not be in the space or have the emotional bandwidth to really look at closely and feel the feelings.
Rosenberg’s piece drives the point home that it doesn’t just take courage to take action or speak up, it takes courage to see the truths in front of you– as ugly as they may be– and truly let them in.