I just saw on Sexual Violence Centre Cork‘s page that the term “gaslighting” is the word chosen by Merriam-Webster as the word of the year 2022 with searches on its website for the word spiking by 1,740% in 2022.
What a thing to witness! What a cultural shift! In awareness at least – the behaviour certainly hasn’t disappeared. If anything, its ‘territory’ has expanded. But it’s always good to have the language for a phenomenon. It literally makes it easier to talk about it.
It’s that time of year when the exams are suddenly here and the stress levels are on the rise
Every June my subconscious does this fabulous fun thing – the annual Leaving Cert dream. If I’m really lucky it’ll be really specific – like Irish paper 1 – or an accountancy paper full of Question 1s – either way it morphs pretty smartly into a nightmare.
This may or may not surprise you but this has come up quite a lot in therapy in recent days. This does seem odd at the face of it, doesn’t it? I mean, surely there are more pressing things to explore in sessions…but as with everything that arises in a session, there is meaning attached.
We’ve attached that meaning. Part of that meaning is attachment.
It was a Friday, and I was sitting on a desk in a school classroom, all excited. Friday had become my favourite day of the week, not because weekend, but because that was the day to deliver my personal development and sex education class to a bunch of sparkly bright teenagers. Fun guaranteed!
I usually avoid writing when I’m on leave but y’know sometimes you see something and you get the rages, and as a colleague said to me yesterday as we raged to each other – sometimes right is just right. And so you respond.
Some of you will have read a piece on sexting a while back. Here’s the ‘how-to’ follow up.
So before we start into it, I want you to know that I do understand that some parents would rather stick a needle in their ear that talk about sex or sexting, even to each other! But the somewhat annoying reality it this – we are the grown ups and it’s our job to do this.
Otherwise porn will do it for you.
‘Nudes’ and ‘three-ways’ are already part of the vernacular for the average thirteen year old.
The first social media post I saw this morning was from a colleague. She has a substantial social media following and a successful training career. Her status read “As*holes in Dublin Yesterday. WTF!”
Attached was a photograph was protestors in Dublin gathered in their thousands on the city streets protesting the abhorrent display of racial violence in the US. The world is stunned. And rightly so. Trump’s response is almost unbelievable, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about today – it’s too depressing and way beyond my control.
But were these people assholes? All 5000+ of them?? Maybe some of them were… maybe they were just looking for an excuse to get out and meet their friends in the sun and they hid behind a cause… only they know! But a lot of her page followers were not happy.
You may be tiring of me saying this – I’m not just saying it to you though, I’m saying it to myself too. We are all getting really good at being judgey these days. I’ve heard my own voice giving out about people coming to local beaches, not staying away from me, coming too close to me in shops.
Yes, we have restrictions. If I’m honest I’d feel a lot safer and warmer towards my fellow humans if we could all respect these restrictions. But I’m conscious of our individual and collective needs, like I mentioned in my last piece (yup, I’m definitely repeating myself).
People trying to meet their needs is at the root of everything we are witnessing. Everything.
We all need to feel a sense of power, freedom, fun and connection. The usual ways we meet these needs have been eroded recently. And we are undergoing a threat to our very lives – so we are scared. Which means we’re ratty, intolerant, hyper-vigilant, angry.
Then we see something happen that magnifies these feelings – like the death of George Floyd. It’s something else that really matters, and it’s an almost welcome diversion. It’s something else that’s bigger than us that we can join together and feel strongly about – except THIS time we might be able to feel we have agency. We can protest. We might even create enough momentum to cause change. It’s a feeling we need, a sense of power, autonomy, connection.
And good luck protesting a virus…
I’m not saying I agree with flouting restrictions and thereby putting peoples’ lives at risk (which is exactly what happened in my opinion) but I AM saying I understand why it happened. Sometimes we as humans feel we have to make a choice – FEEL we have to. And we might feel we need to choose one need over another. And those of us who make a different choice are frightened by that. Of course we are! And what do you do when you are threatened?
Well if you’re of the same species as I then you either go on the defense or offence. For me, that’ll be either in my judgey head where I’ll curse and silently roar at the guy who picked his nose with his gloved hand in the supermarket while veering so close to me I could smell that he had a cigarette recently – or it’ll come out of my mouth when I’m talking to friends and I’ll proclaim that EVERYONE’s coming to the beach here and NONE of them are practicing social distancing … (patently untrue).
Another piece I saw this morning was about how many people were gathered in the Lough in Cork this morning – and “why isn’t Leo doing something about that?”
What exactly is Leo supposed to do about that I wondered? Are we not capable of making our own decisions? Would those people feel contented if we invited fascism and had a police state monitoring our every movement?
Social economics research shows us that if people feel trusted we behave, on the whole, better than if we are policed heavily.
The problem is not Leo or whoever has the misfortune to be in government during these challenging times in whatever country. The problem is that people feel disempowered, isolated and scared and want to forget that for a while. Again I’m not saying it’s acceptable, just understandable.
We all feel better for a few seconds when we blame other people, or the government. But it’s fragile and temporary. We would serve ourselves better by having compassion and very importantly, by taking personal responsibility. Human rights are important and we do need to act together to promote change.
But how do we choose which is more important? Global race issues, human rights or health issues? Are they even separate things? Do we have to choose whos’ lives are more important? How on earth do we grapple with dilemmas like this?
I don’t have the answers. Maybe there are no answers. We’re all fumbling in the dark here.
That therapist called people assholes on her business Facebook Page and she was taken to task by many for doing so. I sat to write this and searched for her post to make sure I quoted her correctly. I was dismayed to find that she had taken the post down. She was silenced. I would have liked if she left it up. Not to lay herself open to attack but to show that she, like all of us, is prone to judgement, criticism and fear. It was a true teaching moment, and it’s lost. But that’s fine for me to say.
I get why she deleted it. If only we could delete everything we regretted or made us vulnerable to the judgment and wrath (ie fear) of others.
Each of us can look after our own fear, our own actions and take ownership of these things. We’ll slip, as I do, as she did, as the guy who picked his nose did. But that’s human. There aren’t as many as*holes out there as you may sometimes think. Let’s just look after ourselves and each other as best we can. This will all be over some day.