Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Manipulative Person: Examples of Evasion and Victimization

Diversion and evasion are two effective means of deflecting concern or confrontation about problem behaviors. It is axiomatic that the person using these tactics has no intention whatsoever of taking responsibility for a behavior or of considering changing it. Rather than be accountable and responsible, what the issue-dodger and subject-changer really wants to do is to advance their own agenda at the expense of yours while simultaneously managing your impression of them. 

All of the quotes are from this amazing article: Evasion and Diversion. 

I'm working through some of the instances of a flawed friendship using this article as a framework.
It's amazingly instructive to write down things that have happened, especially when dealing with depression or other mood disorders. A large part of therapy is introspection, checking that your perception of reality is trust worthy. Dishonest, manipulative, or cruel people may use this aspect of mental health to try and distort your perception and memory of reality. Especially in confrontations of bad behavior, they may try to evade and divert, often denying objective reality [where they purposefully hurt you] for emotional twists and turns [where you become defensive or question yourself].

I had put up with a number of backhanded compliments such as in speaking of not displaying one of the portraits I had painted: "You know you're no good at portraits. You're alright at landscapes." After my flatmate said something particularly cruel, I brought up the problem: 

'Don't insult me in my own home. It's a waste of both our time.'

Her response 'You are the most negative person I know! I feel like I don't even know you! You never take responsibility for your actions! Leave me alone! I just want to move out!'

Many times, attention is shifted toward the person trying to bring a problem behavior to light, thus effectively not only throwing that person on the defensive, but also prompting them to lose focus and become derailed in their pursuit of their own agenda.

'The negative person' comment is meant to make me feel defensive due to my depression. Of course, I'm not ashamed of my depression - I write about it and am working on it. I also know that I'm doing better. To say something like this, meant to hurt me and maybe even trigger me, didn't do anything when I knew the words were totally false. Similarly, I'm not ashamed of the fact that I'm changing. Everyone else recognizes and has encouraged my healthy growth.

When I said that was too bad that she felt that way, rather than being hurt by it, she changed tactics. She said that I didn't put any effort in our friendship, that I took things for granted. Again she was trying to change the focus to my failings when she had just insulted me at our dining room table. When I pointed out that we had just left an event about planning for graduate school in the future where I had asked her about her career goals and said that it was a good idea to work for them, she tried to turn it around again

She described my negativity as basically being PC police. That I called her out on referring to her bf's hiking trip and decision to pursue higher education as a vision quest and a revelation of a spirit animal. She said I've become a negative person and she has to watch what she says around me.

It's funny that she says she doesn't know me while also this is a change. How can you recognize a change if you knew nothing about the situation before? Also I have run a tumblr blog for years now; I have always written about not using racial slurs and concerns about appropriation. More so, she misrepresented what happened. She claimed a conversation that took place on the last 5 minutes of a walk home was a half hour of yelling. It's hilarious the lies people will tell when it is so easy to verify the truth. It's even more hilarious how a positive trait - being unwilling to tolerate harmful racism - was meant to be a negative. 

If you try to confront an issue head on, a person who wants to manipulate you will do their best to side-step the issue. Evading a matter of central concern is a great way not only to dodge responsibility, but also to keep the light of illumination from shining on the behavior needing attention.

More so, I asked 'So you don't want me to talk to you? I may mess up at first because I considered you a friend and I'm used to talking to you. I also can't only be in my room because I don't get internet there. But I will try not to speak to you' to clarify what she wanted and what I should do.

'Just leave me alone! Stop talking to me!'

She abruptly ended the conversation when I was stepping forward to solve both her and my problem. She showed her hand. She wasn't actually concerned with actions nor even acknowledging that her needs were heard.

Her goal was not to fix a problem, not of me being negative nor of her trying to repair the friendship.
The goal was to put me down and back on the defensive. 

When it was clear that I was focused on accountability and actions that would work for both of us, she wanted to exit the conversation as quickly - and dramatically - as possible.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Blog Break

Taking a small blog break to deal with the start of the semester and its unexpected disasters.


Will be back (hopefully) before October.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dealing with Drama

Something happened over the past year - fall and summer. I've changed a lot. I don't know what The Thing was that initiated this change. I don't even know if the change was a precipitate of a lot of things. But now, exiting the summer, I feel like I can describe the effects of what happened.

In the moment something upsetting is happening, I can be really affected by it. Cruel words rile me up and cut me down all at once. But give me 7 minutes to calm myself back down and I'll be over the negative emotions. That internal reaction, scary as it is, is no longer the center of my universe. I'll ask myself if there's validity to the comment and moved on to the validity of motivation in bringing it up at that moment in that way. And most often, I'll be laughing. Who says that? Like, who even comes up with such a combination of words? Who is so obsessed with someone to say something like that? Being able to laugh at someone trying to hurt me is an amazing feeling. Laughter is perhaps the greatest defense against someone trying to hurt you. If you want a good offense, just be kind to them. My grandmother used to talk about kindness heaping coals upon your enemies; I've finally experienced someone so caught up in their own hate that kindness and concern was seen as an attack.

I think a major effect of this internal change is that external drama is not my concern. For a few years now, I've disengaged with the dorm during finals week, accepting that natural cycle of insanity, anger, and accusation that pops up during finals and mysterious peters out once grades are posted. So I knew then that a lot of living drama is just silliness. But because I had never allowed myself to become to wrapped up that drama, my eyes were blind to the both the warnings and the fallacies of it. Now, I don't know if everyone has to go through dorm/apartment drama at least once; after all, I'd heard a million times 'don't live with your friends!' and knew the other person's pattern as a roommate. I'd warned others against living with the best friend or SO. I still went in to the situation, aware of the other person's record of strife. I was fully immersed in the drama. Like a frog in a slow to boil pot, I didn't realize how hot the water really was!  Fortunately, I did open my eyes to the fact that I didn't want to continue to engage.
I saw the cost and consequences of making the poor choice to involve myself in someone's personal drama.I also saw the cost and benefits of extricating yourself once you've invested. You CANNOT solve someone's drama. In fact, they may enjoy the highs and lows, the attention, that comes from creating, engaging, and regurgitating drama.


Internal drama is very much my concern. Anyone who knows my past would understand that I've dealt with difficult things at an early age. As proud as I am of how I dealt with things in my past, those means of dealing are no longer suited to my life. The way I dealt with a crisis as a 16 year old in foster care is no longer how I can deal with a crisis as a 21 MIT student, both internally and externally. The primary concern is riding internal drama out. I mean primary both in that it is the first thing that must be done and also primary as in the indivisible root of unpacking and dealing with internal feelings. I seem to have cycles in my mood. Each time I go through the cycle, the highs and lows get a little less intense. Finals are no longer as scary as they were freshman year. At first they felt impossible and unsurvivable. I cried after taking my first exam. Not so much from fear or sadness, but simply from the removal of so much stress from an unknown experience. Now I've learned what I need to do to make it through successfully (and without crying). Also, the panic related to the lows becomes less intense because I am learning that I will survive and recuperate from the lows. I am learning that I can ride out internal panic, fear, and anger to come back to an equilibrium to approach whatever is upsetting me.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Spending Urges: How to Deal

I get these weird urges to spend money sometimes. Like, if I go too long without buying anything, I feel the need to buy a thing, anything, just to prove I can. Often it can just be a small purchase to make the urge subside, but it can also lead to larger splurges. There's also the 'deprivation' or 'being a bore' feeling that can come if I go a while without going out to spend money. It's very strange. When I think about it rationally, I know that I don't actually enjoy going out to Forever 21 to buy clothes more than I enjoy sitting at home on a weeknight. I do also know that it's pretty easy to redirect friends away from hanging out at a cafe (where we each spend $15) to hanging out at a dorm (where we spend maybe $20 total on pizza). So it's not actually an enjoyment or companionship deprivation. But I get a weird restless feeling that really does relate to purchasing. I wonder if this is like the urge to jump people get when standing on the edge of a precipice? Or to scratch a mosquito bite even though you know it'll itch more? Just the general desire to do something unwise just because you can.

Whatever the cause, I've been trying a few things to make that feeling subside.

1) Making 'purchases' in cellphone games.

Even friends poke fun at me for my love of cellphone games. I have a total weakness for them. I especially love cafe style games. Basically any game where you earn money by waiting on production and then use the profits to decorate. I've played cafe games, farm games, dress up games. There are tons of free cellphones games like this. Making a small purchase with fake money feels the same as spending actual US dollars. I really enjoy leveling up, gaining approval for decorating, and the satisfaction of completing a set. The only negative is that a lot of these free games have in app purchases. So while I enjoy completing a set, often the last piece will be a pay-access only item.

2) Opening a 'new' product

I often purchase and then hoard beauty products. Instead of going out to the store to get my new product fix, I go to my hoard and try out a new one. So I don't actually have to buy anything to open up, say, a new bottle of conditioner. Related to this, I usually time my orders to get free samples with my large purchases at drugstore.com. So I have a system where I don't have to go out of my way to try something new (breaking the boring routine) and get the feeling of tearing brand new plastic open. It often works out that I don't prefer the new sample and return happily to my usual routine.

3) Checking out a from an already owned library

Some of my shopping urges are 'I want it now!' urges. I bought several seasons of Lost Girl because it was right there on amazon prime and I wanted to watch it right then. I've picked up so so so many books because they were there and I wanted them. We have access to so many libraries. There are public and university libraries to go to for the yearning for a new book. There are the libraries of hulu and youtube for entertainment. There are also libraries we actively buy into like a subscription to amazon prime or crunchyroll. Often just trying out a new series will distract me from buying the price locked season. "For just $15 I can watch 20 episodes! For just $15 I can find out what's going to happen next!" But I can also probably wait for it to be free on amazon prime. After all, there are so many other shows I can watch in the mean time! Or I can watch the most recent episodes on hulu or the site's page.

4) Volunteer

Is there some secret I'm missing? Are experiences not valuable if you didn't spend money in order to have them? My unconscious (and some friends) certainly seems to think so. If the spending urge is for a yearning for an experience or guilt over the boring routine, then I'll sign up to do some volunteering. The good thing is that it gets me up and out, doing something that really feels good because I'm giving value to someone rather than spending my own. As an introvert, a little socializing goes a long way.

If I do crack, here's how I minimize tha damge:

Gift Cards - If you get gift cards as gifts, then going out to spend a gift card can satisfy the spending feeling without actually spending any money. Alternatively, you can buy yourself gift cards while budgeting to cap how much you can spend when you finally get an urge.

Couponing - Diverts energy and can sometimes wear me out before I actually make the purchase, lowers the cost if I end up still buying.

Wait 24 hours to purchase - Another preventative, I have lots of things on my amazon wishlist from these urges, but I do sometimes go ahead with the purchase.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Moving into the Fall

For me, the year waxes and wanes with the school year. Fall term begins as we enter into September. Classes begin tomorrow. So the year is just starting for me. Being on campus the past few days, I've seen the strange influx of students and enthusiasm. I've also just finished moving into a new apartment!

I know a lot of people find packing and unpacking to be stressful. My friends never seemed to stop complaining about it this summer. Most of them never really finished unpacking by the time they needed to prep for the fall move in. Frazzled, they live out of suitcases even as the unpacking is put off for another weekend. Then as the fall term approaches, the half opened boxes are rushed back to the new dorm room. Students have so much packing and unpacking to do each year! Yet each time is a struggle!

Personally, I find packing to be kind of refreshing. Packing is the only time we really engage with everything we own. It's when I'm packing that I recognize how much I hoard. I'm amazed by what I have squirreled away, not just physically but also the memories associated with bundled up scarves and the tactile experience of laying my hands through every book I own. Packing is when my body of possessions is fully in my body of knowledge. There's something very particular about the smell of packing; the old smell of forgotten belongings mixed with the clean smell of just having tidied up. Usually, it's an emotional feeling - of fullness, of being provided for, of remembering - that is reassuring. I am the whole house, floor to ceiling, as I fold myself up into boxes.

Packing is funny too because it changes the character of the space you live in. With all my things in boxes, the old apartment seemed bigger. Echoes bounced around the apartment without furniture or rugs. My cat started to sprint back and forth between the open rooms, her path unobstructed. Desolate rooms dedicated to stacks of boxes are abandoned. I bustle into my bedroom, the last bastion of unpacked comfort, to eat and relax.

During the process of packing, I started to think of the new place as home. After all, it was the focus of my thoughts so much of the time! Where will this go in the new place, I'd ask myself as I wrapped things in newspaper. What color bookshelves would open up the main room, I'd ponder over Ikea catalogues. I have so many plans and dreams for the new place: the dinner parties I'd host, the evenings curled in my new sofa, even the commute back was ruminated on.

Now that I have the key to the new place and have turned in the key for the old, I'm feeling all sorts of strange emotions. I'm excited and exhilarated. The weight of the old place is removed. I feel doubt, worrying whether I chose the right place (and price) to move into. I'm buoyed by the thought of decorating absolutely to my taste, of the new plush sofa and convenience of a dishwasher. This new move doesn't quite feel like home, even though I think of it that way. Lying out with my cat on the carpet, it still smells like the cleaning service and not like me. Not everything has settled into nooks and crannies of routine. I fiddle around with things, bustling the new fruit bowl from one side of the kitchen to the other, to see where it really fits. I've invested a lot in this move, not just financially but emotionally as well. I want this year to begin with momentum to keep going. Having a home to return to is really the key to that, I hope.

The year is beginning. It's a time for starting over, creating something new.