Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Upside-Down Narrative of "Power Under Abuse"

This is one of the worst The Discourse 👌 I've ever seen.  The list of "abusive toward people with power over you" traits are basically identical to a list of behaviors commonly displayed by victims of CPTSD.

– telling someone that their basic needs or boundaries are not valid because of their privilege or power.
– using shame inducing social justice language to pressure people to do things they don’t want to do.
– pressuring someone to have sex they don’t want to have, by telling them they are harming you if they say no. ie. “if you don’t have sex with me, you are ___phobic.”
– accusing someone of harming you because they are requesting conflict resolution with you.
– accusing someone of harming you in ways that did not actually happen, or exaggerating harm that did happen. sometimes these accusations are made public through call-outs.
– calling for ostracization or punishment that is not proportionate to the harm done.
– refusing to absorb feedback offered by friends and loved ones who witness you causing harm.
– refusing to accept support from anyone other than the person you are being abusive towards.
– refusing to acknowledge care given to you by the person you are in conflict with and instead characterizing them as only ever having had harmed you.
– leveraging shame or guilt to pressure someone not to set boundaries.
– accusing someone of abandoning you when they set boundaries.
– refusing to set your own boundaries and then making statements like “you made me do this”.
– constantly accusing other people of being oppressive, harmful, abusive, toxic etc, while simultaneously being unwilling to unpack the way you embody these things.
– not acknowledging the struggle, victimization or oppression experienced by the person you are abusing.
– convincing the person you are abusing that they have more power (in general and specifically over you) than they actually do.
– refusing to address conflict in a way that honours the integrity and humanity of everyone involved. ie: not using someone’s current gender pronoun when you call them out.
– stealing from the person you are being abusive towards and either denying you stole, or claiming you have a right to the thing you stole because you have less than the person you stole from (which may or may not actually be true).
– accusing someone of triangulating or breaking confidentiality when they seek support to navigate the abusive dynamic they are in with you
– claiming to be ‘getting support’ and ‘calling in witnesses’ when you are spreading rumours for your benefit.
– weaponizing pop psychology terms like “toxic”, “narcissist” and “empath”, often with little understand of what these words were originally meant to describe. Ie: narcissism is a mental illness which requires diagnosis based on a set of criteria. it’s not meant to be used to describe someone who thinks about themselves more than you would like them to think about you.
– labelling confusion, miscommunication or difference of opinion as gaslighting. 

Yes, it can be difficult for CPTSD victims to realize that the same habits they relied upon to survive ongoing trauma are the very sorts of habits that will destroy healthy relationships.  Yes, CPTSD victims can still be (for example) racist and transphobic, despite otherwise not holding power over.  But that doesn't translate to "this person I hold power over is gaslighting and abusing me".

If you find yourself struggling to cope with the emotional turmoil that can often come with relationships with CPTSD victims you hold power over, maybe exercise that power you hold to take a break to take care of yourself.  Then revisit the issue at a time you both agree on; you setting this boundary might trigger their abandonment issues, but state firmly and compassionately that you want to be able to be emotionally centered and present to provide them the best support you are able, and that requires self-care first.  Remember that no matter how much this might feel like gaslighting, this person is struggling with dark thoughts that make it all feel so very real to them, and that you turning the tables on them to paint them as "the real abuser" will only perpetuate the emotional nightmare they wish they could escape.

Lastly, take a good hard look at yourself.  Are you in denial about leveraging the power you hold over this person?  Are you possibly over-extending yourself and your capacity to provide competent emotional care for another person?  You might actually need to get help to figure out the answers to these questions.