Not Every Disagreement is Gaslighting

Victimhood culture precludes accountability and agency

It’s always easier to blame someone else for our own shortcomings.

When we deflect responsibility, we don’t have to question ourselves and much less go through the efforts required to learn, improve, or evolve. In a country fond of convenience, shortcuts, and quick fixes like America, finding a scapegoat is a popular way of dealing with daily life.

The emergence of the term “adulting” itself is revelatory. Although it yet has to find a place in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it’s already common parlance among those fond of shirking responsibility and blaming someone — anyone other than themselves — for their predicaments.

Ranking at the very top of the blame hit parade among many women is the patriarchy, which is the most overused excuse of all times. As a woman and a staunch advocate of equality, I refuse to dismiss what half the population has to say based on what’s in their pants.

Doing so would be simplistic, reductive, and petty.

Why co-opt the behavior we so often decry in men when dealing with them?

It makes no sense. Not every man is a misogynist or out to get women, and to assume so is as misguided as disingenuous.

While I’m aware society is still set up to favor them, I have strong reservations about how being constantly belligerent advances equality. Treating fellow humans as equals from the get go regardless of gender or genitals might be a better way to create a fairer world for all.

Respect tends to beget more of the same, and the only way to demand it is by offering it first.

A man who disagrees vocally with a woman isn’t automatically guilty of “gaslighting”.

A one-off whinge isn’t the same as systematically hounding a woman and suggesting she might be losing her grip on reality and going insane.

Alas, the term gets misused on a regular basis by those with a pathologic inability to entertain feedback from anyone other than fellow women, creating dangerous echo chambers and making equality all that much more unattainable.

If I feel strongly about language, it’s because words have been my trade for many years. As a result, I’m duty-bound to use them with precision as well as hold myself accountable for everything I commit to paper, issuing corrections when applicable.

Editing goes a long way toward ensuring copy clarity so your words won’t be misconstrued, publishing something in the heat of the moment does not.

And when it comes to vocal readers, I’m grateful for blunt, honest and constructive comments that can help me do better, teach me something new, and/or spark off ideas. If someone takes time out of their day to connect and converse, I regard it as an honor and a privilege, not something I’m entitled to.

Being accountable for your work is good insulation against susceptibility.

The moment you release your words into the world, they’re for readers to do with what they will. Unless your business is copywriting, marketing, or advertising, you don’t get to dictate how anyone is going to react. Write clickbait and self-aggrandizing prose at your own peril, readers aren’t dumb and some won’t be shy about telling you so.

As a side note, trolls happen, like the chap who once condoned marital rape in my comments but he was an outlier and a lesson in humanity. Not that his words conveyed all that much, but they made me aware views like his existed in the wild.

He was the cultural shock I never knew I needed, a harsh yet valuable teaching.

Being human is being fallible.

We all mess up with alarming regularity, there’s no use pretending otherwise. Failure is a great teacher but we only get to learn from it provided we have the humility to accept responsibility and engage in a little self-reflection.

For example, if you start seeing patterns in your life, how about not automatically dismissing the main common denominator? Because there’s always one: you.

And yet, how many of us overlook this because we think so highly of ourselves we believe we’re impervious to errors of judgment, mistakes, and mishaps?

Excuses and scapegoats are more comfortable than the realization we’re not as mighty or as perfect as we thought.

And some excuses are really convenient.

I’ve got one of those. I lost five years of my life to major depressive disorder, which is chronic with a genetic component, meaning the illness will never leave me. I could hide behind it but the appendage I never wanted and can’t shed doesn’t get to lead my life for me, not even on days when suicidal ideation rears its ugly head.

And yet, my illness could excuse any kind of behavior, granting me some sort of immunity, a free pass to do whatever I want without ever facing the consequences.

This would be particularly unpleasant for the people around me.

Instead, when sadness submerges me or exhaustion makes for frayed nerves, I flag it lest others should think they’re the reason for my mental hiccups and feel bad or guilty.

Self-awareness and mental health advocacy demand I do not blame depression for my being a difficult human when I am.

Agency isn’t being in control of everything all the time.

Instead, it means we get to choose how we interact with our fellow humans. And as full-fledged adults we have a say in what happens to us and how it happens, regardless of how much adversity we face.

We almost always have a choice about how we approach a situation. We can focus inward, we can focus outward, or we can do both for perspective.

How we feel at the time provides important clues about what course of action to take.

Is something unfair? Ask yourself why you think so and deconstruct this until you get to the bottom of it.

What if what you perceived as a mean-spirited comment online was just blunt but well-deserved, highlighting some deep-seated insecurity you refuse to acknowledge?

What if instead of “gaslighting” you, the comment author simply held up a mirror and forced you to look at it?

The willingness to question ourselves and constantly seek to upgrade how we do human is the only way we can create a more open and tolerant society, together.

Individualism only serves to close minds and alienate us from one another; victimhood culture builds walls between us when we should be building bridges.

Being an adult requires us to accept responsibility for our behavior and actions as well as owning up to our mistakes and shortcomings — “adulting” is contingent on developing a taste for shit sandwiches rather than letting our “feels” get in the way.

Or we can continue to blame others for our failure to adapt and thrive, further isolating ourselves in the process.

But then why would we so willingly squander our agency?

💛 If you enjoyed these words, please consider supporting my work with a modest cup of coffee. It’s cheaper than 🍽 and it keeps me warm. Merci! 🐱

The human condition is not a pathology・👋ASingularStory[at]gmail・ ☕️

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