It’s funny…

It’s funny how seeing people publish your private communication without context or permission after a prolonged period of abuse and control makes you guard yourself so closely.  It bleeds into everything, at times.

“Will this person respect that my feelings about xyz in this moment might change?”
“Are my feelings publication-worthy, publication-safe?”
“Can I trust this person?”
“May I express something I don’t fully endorse right now?  That I might not endorse later?”
“Am I free in this relationship?”

Am I free in this relationship.  Free from?  Free to?
Is being fallible permitted? Will it be permitted after the relationship terminates?
Will words uttered in frustration now be used to alienate, control, shame me later?
It’s an excellent isolation technique.  It’s excellent blackmail.  It’s superb at silencing.

It’s extra strange because so much of my communication that was published by third parties was a product of how I was treated.   Of course I flatter you when I reject you; it’s the only way to pacify an ego that is dangerous and unrelenting.  Of course I counsel you; you’ve made it clear that’s my only use to you — you won’t engage with me outside of the context of care.  Of course I am kind; you’ve made it clear that if I direct my frustration at unapproved sources I will be stonewalled.  Of course I laugh; you’ve directly said that when my tears are caused /by you/ that they are ‘too much.’  I am only allowed to suffer at the hands of others, never you.

A lot of folks get rull pissy about lying.  My perspective on that is perhaps a bit different. Lying is a survival tactic.  Dishonesty, omission, misdirection — these things are armor.  Like all things, it’s morally neutral and its wisdom is based largely on its utility and use.  At it’s core, though, dishonesty is always about managing someone else’s experiences.  Sometimes we do that to protect ourselves or preserve relationships during periods of limbo.  Honesty — and our insistence on honesty — is the same way.  Honesty and our insistence on honesty can be used for good or for ill.  I’m now highly skeptical of too much honesty talk.  If you spend more time talking about honesty than you do actually fostering and nurturing it, you’re probably trying to control me, my speech, my experience, or all these things.

It’s not hard to keep yourself and the people around you honest and eschew it being a Thing.
Reward honesty, even when it’s hard.

If someone tells you something you don’t want to hear, chances are, they already knew that was going to be a thing and have put themselves through some emotional gymnastics to get to a place where they’ve opened their mouthtalker about it to you.  Honesty, no matter how routine, is always an act of courage, because when our truths are known, we are vulnerable to and accountable for them.  There are easy ways to do things like express disappointment or frustration while still rewarding the courage required by the mouthtalker in question.  You can say things like, “That wasn’t the answer I hoped for, but I know that must have been hard to say.  Thank you for being so honest.  I value that far more than the answer I hoped to receive.”  You could also try, “That was hard to hear, but I’m so glad you told me!  I care about you.”

There’s a difficult line to tread, especially with more difficult truths, between fostering and nurturing honesty and keeping the burden of care on the appropriate shoulders.  In cases where someone has done something genuinely hurtful/dangerous/whatever, that burden of care should still rest with them.  Confessing a difficult thing does not shift that burden on to the Confessor, no matter how hard it is to tell the truth.  And nurturing honesty goes both ways, right?  So here’s an example:

Person A: “I fully expect this truth to hurt you, and I am prepared for that.”
Person B: “You’re right that does hurt.  Thank you for including my feelings in this.”
Person A: “I know I screw up, and I feel bad about that, but I want to carve out space for both of us to field our reactions and thoughts productively.”
Person B: “Thank you.  I will do my best to do the same.  Neither one of us is perfect, and I admit I am angry/sad/disappointed/hurt.  Let’s take a break if we start to have trouble with it.  I am here with you in this, and we can always come back to it, if we need to leave things unresolved to preserve the integrity of our conversation.”

Different people in different relationships may find that their mileage varies, but I have found that leaving out punitive measures has fostered far more honesty in my interactions on both sides of that conversation than any amount of pontificating ever could.  In the example above, both speakers have positioned themselves such that they are not adversaries locked in a struggle for dominance and recognition, but rather cooperative interlocutors with a shared common goal: to heal and move forward, while moderating their own behavior in their own and in their shared interests.  Ideally, both people walk away feeling truly heard, and that despite the emotional charge of a hard situation, that their honesty was rewarded with acknowledgment and care.  That’s how one fucking nurtures a fucking thing.  Cradle gently, treat with care and respect.  It’s okay to raise your voice a little.  It’s okay to express frustration.  But don’t tell it what it wants to be when it grows up.  Don’t steamroll it.  Don’t invalidate it.  It isn’t a time to talk about intentions or motives or what’s really real in the universe.  It is time to discuss facts, reactions, and plans to move forward.  Reflection upon and skeptical engagement with intentions can occur later, and is, ideally, a cooperative project about which both parties feel enthusiasm, if not a little trepidation.

Because here’s the thing.  No one is entitled to your truthtelling.  Maybe that’s a radical thing to say, I don’t know.  People ought prove themselves worthy of your honesty.  The people who fail to do should maybe have their role in your life questioned, sure.  I try now to only keep company with people who have shown that they have earned, will respect, and ultimately cherish and nurture my honesty.  That data is far more important than their explicit views on the subject, or whether or not they even have explicit views on the subject.  I’m no Kantian when it comes to ethics — dogmatic beliefs are lame and cultish, and I’m far too pragmatic, and far too comfortable with the notion of my own limitations and flaws for that.  I neither demand nor desire any kind of moral absolutes from the people I love.  Dishonesty is not a sin — it’s a problem to solve.  What is making someone’s lie necessary?  Who and what might it serve, and what other ways to serve that purpose could we generate together?

This is especially true since it’s often the case that being truthful, even with ourselves, can be a challenge at times.   We can sometimes hide the truth even from ourselves, and that is perhaps when we need the most help of all.

It’s funny…

5 thoughts on “It’s funny…

  1. That is a powerful piece of writing there, lady. I think “At it’s core, though, dishonesty is always about managing someone else’s experiences.” needs to be printed up and hung on a wall somewhere. So much truth and also so much meaning in those words.

    There is one thing about honest/lying that you didn’t mention, but I think seems relevent both in the situation you’ve writing about and in the world in general: Sometimes when you’re honest, people refuse to believe your truth and call it a lie. Once Person B has declared Person A to be a liar, because Person B has made the decision to refuse the truth of Person A, how can those two individuals have any kind of relationship built on honesty? Why should I bother to be truthful to someone who will declare my truth a lie (and potentially seek to punish me for my “lie”)?

    And on the occasion that I’ve had relationships with people who treated me in such a way, even when it became irrefutably clear that I did NOT lie about what they thought I lied about, they both shrugged off the immense emotional damage caused to the not-lying person (me) when someone they love refuses to believe them AND they still continued to treat all my words as suspicious, as though I was already proven a liar.

    In my experience, people who are obsessed with The Truth will only agree that The Truth *is* The Truth when it is The Truth that they want to hear. All else is a lie. And lies make you a bad person. As I am now a “proven” liar, I am now a bad person. Treating me without compassion, with suspicion, with scorn is acceptable because of my status as a bad person. Also, all previous truths and disclosures are now once-again up to review, in order to ferret out which of those things were actually lies.

    It’s a really horrific emotional witchhunt and burning, theoretically done because the person who believes I’m a liar is just trying to protect themself from me. It’s the fastest way to go from abuser to victim, all in one easy step.

    I’ve learned my lesson and do my best to stay far far far away from people with that mentality, because I know that eventually something that is true about me is going to be called into question, and the relationship is going to end when I walk away because I will not be treated like that anymore.

      1. I hestate to say “it’s because what you write is so inspiring!” because I try to save the word “inspiring” for happy things. But it does inspire me to remember, and I really WANT to remember, not to be bitter, but because I can be really bad at remembering hard, awful things. I don’t *like* remembering hard, awful things, and I’d say that generally makes me a happy person, except when continuing to forget those things means that I allow someone who I’m close to to continue to do those hard, awful things to me.

        I think the saddest thing about the people in my past that acted this way is that they did genuinely believe that they were good people who were doing the right thing. And I really hesitate to ever say to someone “your version of reality is *wrong*”. Not “different than mine” or “so different than mine that I think we live on different planes of existance, which may or may not intersect enough for meaningful communication”, but flat out WRONG – but at the same time, not saying “no, this is WRONG” was also harmful. Harmful to me, harmful to them when they were with me, and also harmful to them long-term, because that kind of thought path is the kind that will play out in the same kind of interpersonal problems over and over and over and HAD repeated itself over and over and over by the time that I met those people. So these people (who were generally trying to be good people), ended up being really harmful to all the people around them, and really harmful to themselves.

        The thing that drives me the most crazy is that I still haven’t figured out a way to talk to someone who has that type of mentality. And that’s another reason why I stay away from them; it’s too easy for me to want to beat my own head in trying to get through to them, in hopes of helping.

        All that misery aside, yay for all the good things going on in your life! It sounds like you have a lot of great stuff brewing, and that is very exciting to know. 🙂

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