Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"Alternative Facts": When We're Told We're Crazy for Seeing What's in Front of Us

As I write this, there's yet another political scandal, this time involving a nominee for a lifetime Supreme Court appointment.
The Internet is practically on fire with people on both sides but along with my outrage I'm struck by how familiar this all feels. Familiar too, I suspect, for you.
We live in a culture in which women's reality is constantly challenged. Not just women, of course. People who are poor. People who are ethnic minorities. People of color. But living in this culture, in which we are constantly questioning and being questioned about our objective reality is crazy-making.
And it grooms us, to some extent for what is pejoratively (and unironically) called "alternative facts":
"She's just a friend."
"We haven't even met in person."
"Why were you even looking at my phone?"
"What...are you following me now?"
"You're acting crazy."
"I can't talk to you when you're so hysterical."
We will find ourselves on the defensive. Forget that you've just presented credible evidence that he's cheating on you, YOU will be the one being challenged.
"Your phone was right there. The message flashed."
"I'm not hysterical. I'm just upset."
"I didn't follow you! I saw your car in a strange driveway."
Our culture grooms us for this from childhood. We're too sensitive (for pointing out that people say and do incredibly insensitive things.) We have such an imagination (when we point out something that people would prefer remained hidden).
We're hysterical.
We're crazy.
We're emotional.
We're hormonal.
We're jealous.
But the danger of our culture dismissing us grows more dangerous when we begin gaslighting ourselves. When we agree that we're not credible witnesses.
Consider the ways in which your reality has been challenged throughout your life. Those of us who grew up with addiction or neglect or abuse will have a long list of ways in which we denied reality to not rock the boat.
But even those of you in relatively healthy homes can likely recall incidents in which you were subtly or not-so-subtley told to keep quiet because you won't be believed. It's what our culture does to women. Be quiet about the teacher putting his hand on your knee. You don't want to be responsible for him losing his job, after all, he has a wife and kids. Don't make a fuss about the date who was convinced you wanted it. Instead, question your own conduct – after all, what were you wearing? Why out so late? And you were drinking?
My 15-year-old was waiting on a busy street Friday night to be picked up from a theatre program she's involved in. She mentioned yesterday that some guys were hollering at her from across the street. As she told me this, it was as though she was running it through some cultural brain filter in order to make sense of it. It seemed that she was talking less to me than herself. "I was wearing a long t-shirt over a pair of shorts," she mused, wondering aloud that cultural question: What did I do to invite this unwanted attention?
My heart sank. This is a girl who has been told her entire life that her story matters. That her truth matters. That she's believable.
And she's doubting herself.
For all of you out there being told that your suspicions are somehow "crazy", that what you know in your gut is happening isn't happening, that you're just "jealous", I'm with you.
You're not crazy. You're not a hysterical wife.
Far more likely, you are picking up a zillion tiny clues indicating that something's not right here. As best you can, be still. Pay attention to those clues. Collect evidence, if only to remind yourself that your reality is, in fact, reality.
And brace yourself for the gaslighting. For the pushback. For the minimizing.
There's an army of us behind you who believe every word you're saying. Because it's true.


  1. I have a friend/co worker that is now going through her own betrayal. Long story short, their marriage of 14 yrs and 3 kids, was having issues. Nothing too major. Until my friend found out he was spending a lot of time conversing with a "friend" he met at a class. At this point her husband had basically told her how "checked" out he was of being a husband and father. Que finding phone records and a boob picture on their computer/phones. She filed for divorce. The day after he received the papers, he slept with said friend. This friend winds up pregnant, due in december. TO THIS DAY (8 mo of agonizing separation, getting back together etc) he claims he only did this because she filed for divorce. Maintains that he WAS just friends but then he got the papers and the rest was history. the OW doesn't want anything to do with him, he should've seen THAT coming, and he was separated from my friend. He came crawling back begging to be in their lives again etc. NOW he is exhibiting the same attitude he had about how she won't let it go, he only did it because she filed for divorce etc. He is always on his phone, still has FB where other girls like his posts that make my friend uneasy and paranoid etc. Is only sweet when he wants some etc. Has anyone ever been in this situation before? Its hard for me to do offer anything besides an ear to listen and advising her that her setting him boundaries may help.

    1. Boundaries and changed behavior or no behavior with any social media acct is what she needs to demand. I question why after an affair the person that betrayed would need these tools to socialize. The only socialist they need is face to face with the one they betrayed. If that contributes to her anxiety then it be gone or he gone.
      Point her here to vent, get advice etc. She’s in a world of hurt now if a baby is on the way. Hugs to her and you for lending an ear. Such a hard situation.

    2. I completely agree. Social Media accounts were closed asap in my situation. Her husband just seems completely narcissistic and plays everything like HE was the victim in all of this. From her side of things, he really doesn't seem sorry and doesn't seem like he wants to truly change (because again, why should he? She is the one that filed for divorce) He still sees nothing wrong with talking to a friend and studying for classes. He absolutely refuses to see that even if they hadn't slept together, what he did was STILL CHEATING. I told her he has to make himself believe that or he wouldn't be able to sleep at night. What a tool.

  2. I can certainly relate to the current situation! I was once told by my h supervisor that he could certainly move up the corporate ladder with a ‘sexy wife’ like me. Yes alcohol was involved but I sobered very quickly as did my h and we left the party and never did we attend another party that included him. This was long before sexual harassment was even a term! Men in general are rather disgusting!

    1. Geez Theresa. How sickening your h supervisor.
      It seems to be one big ego tripping for these "men". I agree. Men in general are rather disgusting....and it's all about them getting sex. There's more to life than sex guys!!!
      Gabby xo

    2. We were so young at the time. Barely married a year or two. Yes he very much was a scum bag and I believe he got transferred not long after that happened! Hugs back at you!

  3. This is so true. From my husband it was "why are you so negative about everything and everyone." That was his go to line. I was the one with the problem. This stretches to all aspects of our lives. It is not even about the betrayal anymore. Overall I am a positive person. Recenlty a friend cancelled plans with me for the 3rd or 4th time. I voice frustration, sadness and irritation. I also said I was not going to be the one to plan anything again. Instead of my husband empathizing with me at all he said I should really think about what could be going on in my friends life and that everyone does not have what I have. All true and normally I am understanding. And I am not being mean or taking it out on this person at all. I just said I am not going to be the one to make plans. It always feels like he sees the other side of things yet does not see my side or support me.

    Also you mention your kids. This is really hard for me too. I feel like issues come up all the time. Nothing as major as the examples you gave however many times nothing is said due to the power and fear of retaliation. It is known at school if you complain about a teacher all the teachers talk. Very complex and I find this a very hard aspect of parenting.

  4. Important work to do:
    Step 1) Recognize all the modes of push back behavior: gaslighting, blame shifting, stonewalling, self-victimizing, "forgetting," self pity, love bombing, obfuscating....... the list is endless
    Step 2) Learn how I ignore my inner voice and why the pushback works/has worked on me.

    This is the work for all of us.



Related Posts with Thumbnails