Content note: psychological abuse, gaslighting
I’ve been called a lot of things over the years. Somebody recently described me as “brazen, enchanting and doting”, which I would like to formally request as my epitaph, many thanks. The year is 2017 and I don’t need to tell you that ‘crazy’ is an inherently problematic term which minimises the reality of struggling with mental illness. It’s a lazy adjective and about as good-natured as Nigel Farage and Katie Hopkins’ imaginary lovechild.
But we hear it all the time. I counted every instance of the word ‘crazy’ on Taylor Swift’s latest album, so you didn’t have to. It’s twenty-five, for those interested. When people label me as crazy it usually means they are perturbed by my honesty, puzzled by my self-awareness or just don’t understand mental illness, because maybe they don’t have Google dot com.
Calling someone crazy is a means of discrediting the person in question; it’s an attempt to dissuade your audience from believing the other person’s point of view. The people doing the labelling want to be thought of as the good guys, distancing themselves from an irrational and frightening opponent. Coincidentally, it also serves as a handy red-flag warning system. If a man ever describes his ex-girlfriend as “crazy”, run. Run out of the pub and never look back, Susan.
For starters, it means he has all the poeticism of Taylor Swift. It’s also a broad brush stroke to cover up complexity and nuance. It’s an attempt to avoid engaging in a narrative where each person has a responsibility for their own actions. He is painting a picture where he is the victim, while also making an ableist slur. In telling you this, he is hoping you will perform the necessary emotional labour to fix his pain and shortcomings with your affection. Susan, babe, you ain’t got time.
At its worst, calling someone ‘crazy’ can be part of a wider scheme of psychological abuse. Gaslighting sounds like something you do to heat up the oven in order to make a delicious pecan pie, and I wish that it were, I really do. When someone gaslights you, it means that they are deliberately manipulating you to make you doubt your own sanity. We touched on this in “My Boyfriend Messages Other Girls and It’s Making Me Feel Weird”.
Here, our imaginary fella is sending flirty messages to other girls. When you tell him this makes you feel nervous, he tells you that it’s all in your head, instead of confronting the truth and owning up to his mistake. This is gaslighting. It’s making the person doubt their own reality. If this continues in a number of different contexts with a backdrop of mistreatment, aggression and neglect, it wears the victim down and severely damages their self-esteem. They become confused and are no longer sure of what they should or shouldn’t believe.
So, you’re a little bit cray. We all are poppet. I bet you’re also brazen, enchanting and doting. Here are some ways to handle other people’s misconceptions and take ownership of yourself:
- Haters gonna hate.
I hate to reference Taylor Swift twice in one post, but sometimes you really do just have to shake it off. People say all kinds of nonsense. When I’m drunk, among other things, I like to tell people I can play chess and speak Russian. I can’t. I don’t even know that girl. Drunk or sober, there are people who just enjoy putting other people down for their own perverse enjoyment. Ask yourself whether this person’s opinion is meaningful to you. If they’re just some dude in the pub, it truly doesn’t matter if they think you’re cray. You’re never going to win everyone over with your fabled charms, so quit trying and perfect the art of making a pecan pie instead.
- The right people will always gravitate.
If you cultivate positive, caring relationships, you will find like-minded people who treat you well. Focus your energies on being the best possible friend and partner to those who deserve it and reciprocate the kindness you’re given. Feel bolstered in the knowledge that those who truly know you, value you for exactly who you are, flaws n’ all. These people don’t mind that you cried at an episode of Fraiser because it was just so moving; they forgave you for the time you tried to bring a cat into your house because it looked like it had “whimsical powers”. These nurturing relationships act as a counterpoint to unfounded negativity. If you surround yourself with a circle of gems, it means that one toxic relationship is less likely to be the sole metric by which you measure your own worth.
- The clean-hearted always win in the end.
As we’ve discussed, this world is garbage. Donald Trump continues to exist despite our best efforts to stop this. But you don’t have to be garbage too, my son. Be bold, be open and be outlandish, but always strive towards kindness too. That doesn’t mean being a push-over and you certainly don’t have to give your precious time and energy to people who continue to hurt you. Keep your intentions pure and aim to treat people well. If people put you down, it won’t be on the basis that you were a real James Blunt and deserved it, but will just be because of their own misconceptions and lack of understanding.
- “When you look at someone through rose-coloured glasses, all the red flags just look like flags”.
This is a quote from BoJack Horseman, an excellent Netflix television show which I recommend you all watch (not sponsored). It’s about a cartoon horse/man and is more wise and witty than I could ever aspire to be. It’s really important to judge people based on their concrete actions. Try not to create a fantasy of what you wish they would be. Pay close to attention to anything which makes you feel small and vulnerable. Withdraw your time and energies from this negativity and run back to your people instead.
G4RL will be back on 1 January 2018 with a new post, a revamped site and a sexy Facebook page! Festive greetings my precious gems.
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