Meaningful Learning


The Role of Trauma in Dissociation and Shoplifting: My empathic reflection on the Recent Case in New Zealand of a high-profile woman.

A reflective Image of a sphere dropping into water.

As most of you in Aotearoa and perhaps some abroad will know of a recent event where GG, a member of the Green Party in government, was caught shoplifting. This incident has unfolded against the backdrop of significant trauma and abuse she has endured, including threats of rape and violence since entering politics. This is a tragic scenario for both G and the Green party.

Given the information we know about in regard to the (online mostly) vitriol she has endured, it is crucial to explore how trauma can intersect with dissociation and lead to behaviours like shoplifting, and to emphasise the importance of empathy and understanding for individuals facing mental distress.

GG’s experience with threats and abuse reflects the traumatic nature of public life, particularly for women in politics. Trauma can lead to dissociative responses, where individuals disconnect from their surroundings as a coping mechanism. This detachment can impair decision-making and lead to actions that are out of character, such as shoplifting.

In the face of persistent threats and abuse, individuals like G may reach a breaking point where their usual coping mechanisms fail. The intense pressure and trauma experienced can overwhelm their capacity to make sound judgments, leading to behaviours they might not engage in under normal circumstances.

G, recognising the impact of her actions on the Green Party, voluntarily stepped down from her position. The public response, however, has been mixed, with some continuing to subject her to abuse and criticism. It is important to acknowledge that individuals facing mental distress, particularly as a result of trauma, deserve empathy and understanding rather than further discrimination.

The public should consider the impact of relentless abuse on an individual’s mental health. Discrimination against someone facing mental distress is not acceptable, and we must strive to foster empathy and support instead of perpetuating harm. Rather than condemning, it is crucial to recognise that anyone, under the weight of severe stress and trauma, can be vulnerable to actions outside their norm. There are many reported incidents of this type of behaviour under the impacts of trauma and distress by well-known persons over the years. And there but for the grace of…it could be any one of us.

G has acknowledged her actions, and the legal system will appropriately address the shoplifting incidents. The public therefore should respect the legal process and refrain from further damaging discourse.

Criticising G in the public arena while being unaware of the toll of trauma is akin to throwing stones from glasshouses. It is a reminder that public figures, like anyone else, can be deeply affected by their experiences, and judgment should be approached with a nuanced understanding of their mental well-being.

Instead of perpetuating the cycle of abuse, society must advocate for empathy, understanding, and mental health support. Acknowledging the impact of trauma and fostering an environment of compassion allows individuals like Golriz to seek help without fear of further harm.

This case sheds light on the intersection of trauma, dissociation, and unexpected behaviours. It serves as a reminder that, in the face of mental distress, empathy and support are crucial for individuals to heal and move forward. The legal system will address the shoplifting incident, and it is imperative for the rest of us to settle down, leaving room for understanding and healing.

Onto the Bullies

Let’s move now to the bullies. There has been a disturbing trend where powerful privileged men (mostly but not exclusively) within the media, often in positions of influence, feel entitled to engage in bullying and attempts to demean strong and outspoken women. This behaviour is not only disheartening but also reflects a larger issue of systemic inequality and the misuse of power dynamics. The use of privilege and power to perpetuate bullying and attempts to diminish strong, outspoken women is nothing short of appalling. Such behaviour not only reflects an abuse of power but also contributes to fostering a toxic environment, particularly within media circles.

Women who are strong and outspoken are often targets of such behaviour, facing constant attempts to undermine their credibility, belittle their achievements, and silence their voices. This not only stifles their individual potential but sends a harmful message to society about the acceptability of such conduct.

The behaviour of powerful privileged men highlights deeper issues of systemic inequality, where those in positions of power feel immune to accountability. This perpetuates a culture where bullying is normalised, creating barriers for women and reinforcing gender-based discrimination.

It is crucial to call out and bring to task those individuals who engage in such bullying behaviour. Public forums provide a platform to address these issues openly, fostering accountability and sending a message that such conduct will not be tolerated.

Advocacy for respect and equality should be at the forefront of any discourse surrounding bullying behavior. Emphasising the importance of treating individuals with dignity, regardless of gender or status, is essential for creating a more inclusive and respectful society.

It is imperative to amplify the voices of those who are subjected to bullying and attempted demeaning. By acknowledging and supporting these individuals, we contribute to dismantling the structures that allow such behavior to persist.

Addressing this issue goes beyond the responsibility of the individuals directly involved; it is a collective responsibility of media organisations, institutions, and society at large. Establishing clear guidelines against bullying and enforcing consequences for such behaviour are vital steps toward fostering a culture of respect.

Promoting empathy and education is key to addressing the root causes of bullying behaviour. Initiatives that foster understanding, challenge stereotypes, and promote healthy communication can contribute to a shift in societal attitudes. C’mon Aotearoa NZ we can do better than this.


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