It's a Gaslight Life For Us!
Today, I experienced some bullshit from a man I know. It was a situation that blew up when it shouldn’t have. We didn’t agree and I walked away, but this man decided to “yell” at me via direct message, attack me for challenging his word choice, and mock me for responding to his nastiness. He did this while peppering the conversation with extreme politeness, you know, the veneer assholes put on their fuckery to convince themselves they are being reasonable while they attack you.
I’ve sat with this at various portions of the day, debating whether it was worthwhile to say anything, but then I realized that this is something other people can benefit from, as well as being cathartic for me to write. I’ll catch some shit for it, because now I’m talking about a specific person. Except that I’m not. While this happened today, it’s a common scenario whenever I challenge people about their oppressive tendencies. It’s so common that it’s almost become a joke, just like the men engaging in this bullshit.
Social justice warrior (SJW). Woke. Argumentative. The real racist. Immature. Unreasonable. Obstinate. Confrontational. Dramatic. Angry. Opinionated. Know it all. Bitch. All these words have been used to describe me when I confront someone about their isms…their racism, sexism, ableism, sizeism…anything that challenges their oppressive worldview and requires they examine what they’re doing and how it harms others. And it happens quickly. You challenge it and they accuse you of attacking them or shaming them when all you did was challenge their language or behavior. I’m not fake nice about confronting people – I prefer straight-forward, honest conversation. What I usually receive in return is personal attacks and the dismissal of anything I’ve said on the topic.
And this ain’t new. It happens so often that I’ve stopped interacting with some people. I know it’s going to happen eventually, so I don’t really bother to make new friends. What’s the point when they are going to get pissed when I point out problematic language, behavior, or attitudes? I’m not afraid of confrontation, but I am tired of the self-deception and lies people engage in to protect themselves from their own toxicity.
So, today’s teachable moment is about gaslighting. For those who don’t know, gaslighting is a verbal tool used to make you doubt your reality. Its wielders often claim they don’t know that they are doing it. I think they are so used to doing it that it sounds normal to them. And you know how I feel about things that are “normal.” Break that “normal” shit with a bat.
Gaslighting is a weapon used to convince you that your feelings are wrong when in fact, our feelings are how we interpret and engage with our environment. It’s what helps us assess threats or allows us to relax. Our emotions are our situational guides.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and walked away feeling awful about yourself? Where you can’t pinpoint any nastiness, rudeness, or cruelty but you feel like crying?
Have you ever had an exchange with someone that left you feeling confused and upset but there wasn’t anything about it you can identify that would have done that?
What you are responding to is gaslighting. It’s a combination of lies, nice-nasty talk (you have a really cute face), feigned ignorance, all or nothing speak that leaves you wondering what the fuck just happened. It’s intentionally confusing because you can’t figure out what to respond to and any response outside of courtesy and politeness is framed to seem extreme and inappropriate. Basically, it conditions you to ignore your instincts and be nice at your own expense.
I am a huge advocate for learning to listen to your emotions. We get trained out of it early. Too early. We’re taught that our feelings are not valid. That they aren’t natural. That you are meant to twist them to fit with other people’s expectations of you. You’re taught not to cry when you are hurt. That to feel hate is evil. Suppress your fear. Mute your joy. Withhold your love. Avoid your envy. Mask your sadness. Hide your disgust. Silence your suffering. Ignore your grief. Repress your rage.
We are taught that our emotions are the enemy that we must always control and when we can’t control them, ignore them. We are taught to harm ourselves because our emotions are inconvenient to those around us. And because we are ignorant about ourselves, it makes it easy for those who have no problem manipulating others to do so, using our learned ignorance against us.
We live in a society that holds up lies as the ideal. People lie to be polite. To be accepted. The thing is, to be nice, you must be a liar and the first person you need to become good at lying to is yourself. So, we lie about how we feel about things until those lies become truths and those truths become the norm, and the norm is self-deception of such scale that even the tiniest threat of revelation is met with extreme prejudice – personal attacks meant to undermine and discredit you and whatever you said that triggered them. And then they’ll blame you for it.
If you don’t say anything, they blame you for not speaking up. When you say something, they blame you for being too sensitive or argumentative. They’ll tell you they like you for the very things they attack you for doing. And all the while, the conversation stops being about the problematic behavior and becomes about why YOU are the problem after you called attention to it.
It’s interesting how that shit works. Because their goal isn’t to reflect or change; it’s to shut you up. It’s to force you into silence by any means necessary. And they will always put on the nice face and use the conflict and your refusal to buckle to their bullshit as “proof” that you are unreasonable and melodramatic. The irony is that their response is an emotionally-led defense to challenging their worldview and as that would cause too much realness, they squash it. And they will lie and pretend that they are just being easy-going while you are the unreasonable one.
I’m telling you right now, they are lying to you and everyone around them. You feel it. You know it. But social conventions have programmed you to deny it. Politeness demands you ignore it. Manner require that you let it go. Except…it’s hurting you and leaving you vulnerable to more of their shit.
So, if someone tries to convince you that your feelings aren’t real…
If they say cruel shit but follow it up with a compliment…
If they dismiss your concerns as emotional and dramatic…
If they attack you for asserting your right opinion because they disagree…
If they try to make your feelings look like mental illness…
If they treat you like a fucking burden for caring about people…
If they prioritize their feelings over your humanity…
If they expect you to take their shit in any way, shape, form, or fashion, you have my permission to cut them out your life. They may be nice people, but remember, nice people are liars and liars don’t deserve your time.
You deserve better than that.
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