If I’m not paying enough attention God will keep repeating the message.
Tonight’s meeting reading was on people pleasing. Yesterday I read this fabulous post on drama. A while back I was accused of being both passive aggressive and confrontational. I do try to pay attention to feedback; it’s always possible I have a blind spot and it can be useful to pay attention to what people tell me. I want to live an open-book life. Or as this informative post explains, in the arena. No facades or secrets for me.
So I paid attention to those accusations; it could be a blind spot and the only way to see it is to readjust the side-view mirror of my observer-self. My writer-self is also a most aware observer-self. She’s been looking over my shoulder keeping tabs on me for twenty years and generally does a damn good job when I listen to her. Of course, I have to let her write if she is going to be any use.
Given an hour and a notebook my response to a situation is much saner than if I just open my mouth and spout the first thing that falls off my tongue. And, honestly, my verbal abilities aren’t very strong. I will often keep quiet because my brain can’t seem to figure out how to talk to my mouth. I’ve long thought it better to keep silent than to be tricked into saying things that aren’t right. Much saner to write about it first and then speak when tempers have simmered. Emotional communication is hard for me. Especially right in the moment. I don’t like conflict. I’d rather aim for dialogue and that can’t happen in the thick of anger. I hate the violence of fighting and screaming and slinging mud and hanging up phones. It is impossible to have a heart at peace while hurting someone. But even worse than conflict is avoiding conflict because it might be called “drama.”
And then I noticed that no, I do a pretty decent job of being honest and upfront and gentle and kind. Not always but usually. While there are a lot of trivial things I take a fairly passive stance on and a few important things I will even stray towards aggressive over, most of the time I’m assertive and to the point. I’ll just say what I want and why. Trying to manipulate or pretend or indirectly hint really isn’t my style. (Upon careful observation I’m inclined to believe that this is a case where this person is trying to use me as a mirror for his own passive-aggressive behavior but that isn’t my inventory to take. I’m just being careful to not take responsibility for shit that isn’t mine.)
But women are frequently punished for being assertive. That’s where the word “drama” gets thrown in. (Go read that article! She explains this much better than I can.) It’s a word that’s used to train women to people-please.
And yes, I want to please people. I want to be liked and wanted. But pleasing people has never been a strong skill for me. I’ve been called a bitch more than once. That’s another word that gets used to try to fit women into the box we’re supposed to stay in. The last time I smiled sweetly and said “Thank you” and he said it wasn’t mean to be a compliment, that he was trying to tease me. Hahaha. I still haven’t learned to take dramatic as a compliment. Obviously I need to.
Because, sure enough, assertiveness is called drama when women do it and assertive women are bitches. We’re supposed to be quiet and submissive and passive. Unless we’re in the bedroom when we’re supposed to suddenly morph into a porn stars. But that’s not this post.
Of course I’m confrontational. I’m not aggressive or rude, I don’t yell or break stuff. But I do rather stubbornly insist that I have every right to my feelings and opinions. And yes, I can see why I would come across as confrontational to someone having to confront his male-privilege. I’m not going to shut-up just because hearing my story makes someone uncomfortable. I know how uncomfortable it is; I lived it. Trust me, it was even less comfortable to live it than it is to hear about it.
I have a right to my feelings. They don’t need reasons or explanations or justifications. Here’s an example of a simplified conflict: he yelled at me and I felt hurt and insulted and a bit scarred. Enough said. He’s responsible for yelling and I’m responsible for how I handle that fear and insult and hurt. I’m not responsible for his yelling at me. I don’t have the authority to force anybody to use their vocal cords in any specific way. I can scream back (aggressive). I can pretend it doesn’t bother me even though it does (passive-aggressive). I can just take it like I deserve it (passive). Or I can call attention do it or even just walk away (assertive). I don’t like screaming back. And I know that no one deserves to be screamed at. And it does bother me. So I call attention to it.
But of course, refusing to tolerate abuse (and yes, yelling and screaming are abuse) typically results in….accusations of drama and being too sensitive. Rather than confront the unacceptable behavior it is easier to turn around and say, “It’s your fault I yelled at you. You created a tense situation. You deserved it.”
Now, to be fair, I think every single one of us has the same dark shadow side and is capable of playing the aggressor. I know I have, at different times, played both parts in the situation I described. I have lost my shit and screamed at someone. Recently I apologized to the past person I slapped. Yes, I did. It was years ago, and, to quote him, he was a selfish asshole. But it was still wrong for me to have hit him, no amount of selfish asshole makes someone deserve to be hit or screamed at. The real question is, can we face our shadow and admit to having that within us?
To be continued. – Read Part II here.