Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Constant Student...

I'd like to believe the age-old saying "you learn something new everyday" applies to everyone.  Sadly, this appears to be untrue for most people.  You have to be willing to open your eyes, read things that make you uncomfortable, talk to people you disagree with, and most importantly, be an expert in your own life.  I don't mean your professional life - you probably already do that.  What I'm talking about is your emotional life.  Sit down with yourself and get honest.  Trust me, I do this all the time and it can be excruciating.  Sometimes when we get real with ourselves we come to scary realizations.  Oh hey, that boy I've been dating for two years has no intention of ever moving in with me.  Holy shit, what do I do now?  Yes, I'm talking about awful stuff like that.

Today, for example, I read a wonderful article emailed to me by my roommate.  I loved it.  I had an ah ha Oprah moment while reading.  The article was written by a man who is on a feminist journey.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A man actually making it his professional goal to understand women.  It's about how women are made to feel "crazy" when they react emotionally.  It's about how society has reinforced this idea.  It was extremely well-written.  You can read it here.  One of the hardest things to swallow was the idea that I could be making other women feel crazy as well.  It's not all mens fault.  Unfortunately.  There is enough blame to go around.  When we are told that being upset makes us "crazy" repeatedly, we begin to believe it and express ourselves less and less.  Thus, a vicious cycle is born.  When a man doesn't return a phone call for 24 hours and I am upset and told I'm overreacting I actually begin to question my initial reaction.  But, really his is just plain rude.  When I make a very sarcastic remark to one of my girlfriends and she responds angerly, what do I do?  I say "I'm just joking, you're overreacting."  In actuality, I had just said something rude.  All of the above are classified as gaslighting in the article.

"Gaslighting is a term often used by mental health professionals (I am not one) to describe manipulative behavior used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they're crazy.
The term comes from the 1944 MGM film, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman. Bergman's husband in the film, played by Charles Boyer, wants to get his hands on her jewelry. He realizes he can accomplish this by having her certified as insane and hauled off to a mental institution. To pull of this task, he intentionally sets the gaslights in their home to flicker off and on, and every time Bergman's character reacts to it, he tells her she's just seeing things. In this setting, a gaslighter is someone who presents false information to alter the victim's perception of him or herself."
See what I mean?  Here's another excerpt from the article which happens to me all the damn time.  My friends do this to each other on a daily basis.  
"No wonder some women are unconsciously passive aggressive when expressing anger, sadness, or frustration. For years, they have been subjected to so much gaslighting that they can no longer express themselves in a way that feels authentic to them.
They say, "I'm sorry," before giving their opinion. In an email or text message, they place a smiley face next to a serious question or concern, thereby reducing the impact of having to express their true feelings.
You know how it looks: "You're late :)"
Now be honest with yourself for a minute.  When was the last time you sent a text like the above?  I actually wrote a rather passive aggressive email about an hour ago.  When was the last time you sent a text like the one above to one of your female friends?  Now be honest, was it today?  A few days ago?  More likely than not, you are perpetuating the problem.  We all are.  Now that we know and knowledge is power here, of course, let's do something about it.  Let's stop the passive aggressive behavior.  Let's express ourselves clearly.  Even if it means we won't have certain people in our lives anymore.  Let's encourage our girlfriends to do the same.  Apologize when you're rude.  Apologize when you're late.  Don't use an emoticon to diffuse your anger.  Be angry.  Get pissed.  Demand respect.  Be respectful.  Be supportive.  Shut up and listen.  
Deal?  Deal.  

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