Like so many millions of others, I was so saddened and sickened to hear about the tragic death of Tyler Clemente, the Rutgers freshman who commit suicide after being so cruelly and publicly outed by his roommates. Among the many issues central to this story, are two that stand out for me as a psychotherapist and coach: Intolerance, and “Unthinking”, or unconsciousness. Obviously, filming and publicly airing footage of a gay man having a sexual encounter with another, is predicated on homophobic sadism, so the perpetrators have actually just unwittingly outed the darkest parts of their own psyches. They will have to face their own intolerance and cruelty, and live with the consequences somehow. But it’s also the issue of committing this violation of privacy and decency, probably framing it as a “joke”, and not thinking through the consequences of such an act on the heart and dignity of a fellow classmate, that’s the clincher here. As a psychotherapist I find unthinking acts, unless they are ones of kindness and generosity, to be very dangerous and damaging.
It’s the ultimate copout to not think through the possible immediate and long-term effects of one’s own behavior on others. One’s own “moment of hilarity”, or “thrill”, can become a lifelong legacy of pain for the recipient, in this case, pain so intolerable, that the young man ended his life jumping off a bridge.
My biggest wish for all of humanity is to not only grow more open-hearted tolerance for difference, but to commit to thinking through to the impact on others– to be more conscious (and empathic) in all relationships. What a world we’d have if everyone worked harder on this every single day!……..
Susan Lager, The Closer Couples Coach