Friday, January 16, 2009

Another facet of Users, Usees, and the Truth

I was looking over the comments that people made on my recent carpool posts. I had to smile at the 'emperor's-new-clothes' congruency: as I tiptoed cautiously around the term, hesitated to apply it, and even blamed myself for it, the commenters pointed out the obvious: "Users!" I was busy examining the DNA of the feathers (so there'd be no mistake) to confirm that it was, indeed, a duck while you were all calling it what it was: "Duck!"

This realization was further confirmed when I was talking with a social worker friend of mine. Here I thought I'd been having this private experience of angst, and it turns out that it's so widespread there's a name for it. Well, I don't remember the name for it, but it falls into a classification of 'personality disorder'; and, one of the signs that I'm dealing with someone with a personality disorder is that very feeling of revulsion (ick) I was feeling.

It's curious to consider that an internal experience I have in response to another person might be a clue about them.

I suppose what felt icky was the fundamental untruth in regards to the nature of the thing. They were treating their request(s) as if it(they) came from a context of us being equal participants in a reciprocal relationship. For me to accede to their expanding requests meant to lie about what was really going on. To be in alignment with Truth, there would have had to have been a mutual acknowledgment, initiated by them, that they were asking me to put my needs and priorities behind theirs. In the absence of such candor I was being asked in effect to lie.

Now what's interesting to me is the anguish this caused me, faced with the prospect of telling the truth and setting the record straight, or going along with the fiction. What on earth was generating that electrical shock feeling that deterred me from seeing the situation as it was--and in fact feeling as if it was a flaw in me that I would have feelings that were telling me I was being used?

Apparently it's been very important to allow myself to be used, and to suppress any contrary feelings that surfaced as a result. It's actually been nearly second nature, as I look back over my life (through my written record of diaries) and find that I was ashamed when I had feelings objecting to contributing to the smooth running of somebody else's world. I truly thought the feelings meant something unworthy about me. Something would have to be wrong with me for accusing a family of using me when the 'evidence' seemed flimsy. I must be imagining it, or projecting something small in myself onto them. Or I must have invited it, somehow--maybe led them to believe that it was ok to ask...Why was it so much easier to blame myself than assign responsibility to the Other?

At any rate, naming reality was as painful, or maybe even a little more painful, than just doing as I was "asked" (in quotes because the implication was that 'No' was not an acceptable answer). It was excruciating to me to be in a situation where lying feels fundamentally wrong , but telling the truth was in effect an accusation. And one of the ways I coped was to be 'confused' about the truth--how can I say for sure that someone is seeing me only as a means to take care of their needs? How can I know that's true about them? And since chances are if it was true they'd never admit it, I never can know. And if I can't know, shouldn't I give them the benefit of the doubt? Maybe it's my feelings that are wrong.

The other day I came around to a way of looking at it that made confronting the truth less frightening for me--if I need to set boundaries it doesn't have to be a reflection of the other person's worth. And this is why it felt so uncomfortable, 'icky' to me to say no to Benjamin and have him protest that he wasn't 'trying to impose.' It was uncomfortable for me because it seemed like it was unacceptable for me to be seen as a person who was accusing him of imposing. It seemed I was impugning his worth.

Now I see that refusing to go along with a loaded situation that threatens feeling bad/icky as a consequence (punishment, deterrent) of refusal is reality clarification. It is saying, excuse me, but I am not an extension of your will. Furthermore it says, You are behaving as if I am an extension of your will and I beg to differ. I guess there's no other conclusion the 'User' can come to than that he/she has imposed.

And, I. Don't. Care.



Martha said...

What an incredible post, Holy Cow! Wheeeeeeeeeee, Right Along With YOU!!! That is great. You are not the one with the problem. The term I have been thinking of regarding this situation is Quid Pro Quo. There was no quid pro quo, no reciprocity of any kind, nada. I hope you can extricate from this situation completely.

excavator said...

Thank you, Martha! I felt really exhilarated as I wrote this.

And, I guess the issue about quid pro quo that I have finally clarified to myself is this: there are some circumstances where I may do something with no expectation of something in return. But it will not be under the pretense that there is a quid pro quo, and there will be no coercive element: that is, a threat that I will feel badly if I don't.

Thank you for writing!