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View Diary: Five things I learned about conservatives these past two weeks (220 comments)

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  •  If I may be allowed... (19+ / 0-) simplified observation about such people - without having read the book - based on twenty years with a parent who "did that," another two with a partner who did the same and 40 years of reflection on both: personal insecurity, and the illusory belief it engenders in some that they can elevate themselves by running others down.  

    There may be other means of coping in some instances, but I know of only one sure way to do so in all: get far away.


    •  You summed it up down to its basic core. (14+ / 0-)
      personal insecurity, and the illusory belief it engenders in some that they can elevate themselves by running others down.  
      That's it.  You nailed it.  The core issue of abusers ... as with so many other problems ... is self-esteem a millimeter high.  When you're a millimeter above rock bottom -- and the grandmother of all anxiety attacks that implies -- you can become desperate to shove other people below you to act as a buffer between you and rock bottom.

      Not that all people with iffy self-esteem become abusers, of course.  As you say, there are other forms it can take:  becoming a victim of abuse ... gambling ... drinking and drugging ... being a shop-a-holic ... becoming a TV or internet-a-holic ... getting involved in Republican politics :-) ... getting involved in politics in general (for the sense of POWER) ... etc.

      •  I can personally attest... (12+ / 0-) what's offered in your second paragraph. For some years, "iffy" would have been a charitable evaluation of my own self-esteem.

        I was fortunate enough to avoid all the consequences you name, except one; as I suggested above, I escaped that one after a couple years.

        On a tangential but parallel track, I wonder if you've noticed the same thing I've observed over many decades: that those most secure in themselves and their value tend to be among the most self-effacing. That's always fascinated me.

        •  You've hit on something else. (20+ / 0-)
          I wonder if you've noticed the same thing I've observed over many decades: that those most secure in themselves and their value tend to be among the most self-effacing. That's always fascinated me.
          Jeez, you strike me as REALLY insightful.

          It seems like the paradox of self-esteem that those who have it don't flaunt it, and those who don't have it can often give the illusion of having great self-esteem.  (What they really have is narcissistic conceit.)

          I used to illustrate it in my groups with what I called the "self-esteem scale".  I'd put my hand about three feet off the ground, saying that illustrates higher self-esteem:

          "Whenever anyone makes a mistake, or doesn't know something, or does something dumb, it's a bit painful and humbling and lowers you a bit.  But for this person [up there], it might lower him or her this much."  [Putting my hand an inch lower.]  "But ... they're still way up there.  They can afford to take responsibility and apologize because it doesn't completely crush them."

          Next I'd put my hand a millimeter above the floor.  

          "If admitting a mistake or apologizing lowers that other person an inch lower ... what will it do to THIS person?  They will feel lower than the scum that the bottom of the barrel sits on.  They will hit rock bottom.  They will have the grandmother of all anxiety attacks.  Thus ... this is the person who is NEVER wrong ... who NEVER makes a mistake ... who is ALWAYS right ... and who would rather hammer nails into his own head than apologize."

          [In other words ... George Bush ... but I digress.]

          The people way up there are the humblest people, and the least judgmental.  They can afford to give other people slack because they know they're not perfect either.  They can relate as equals.  At the same time, however, they know they're worth something, so they won't put up with any disrespect or abuse.  And they respect other people and don't abuse them.

          It's the people at the lowest levels who are obsessed with hierarchies ...who is above or below whom at any given time ... who is WINNING vs. who is LOSING ...  who has had the last word vs. who hasn't ...  

          •  Danged if that doesn't explain Kansas (13+ / 0-)

            All those people barely scraping by, who over and over again vote against their own economic self-interest?  You just nailed their dynamic, and why it's so easy for the GOP to manipulate them by criticizing the Blahs.

            It's a vicious cycle. Because the Goopers succeed in grinding them further and further into the dirt, their self-respect sinks lower and lower, and they become "obsessed" with being the relative winners compared to the "moochers". They also have a more and more desperate need for the certainty of being right that comes with sticking to the tribe and hewing to the party line.

            The real USA Patriot Act was written in 1789. It's called the Bill of Rights.

            by nicteis on Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 04:46:46 PM PDT

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            •  I think you're right, and I think it explains (10+ / 0-)

              a lot of the South.  

              (I'm not a South-basher, by the way, having a lot of family from there.  I actually like a lot of elements of Southern culture ... but hate the poison that has infected it.  A member of my family wrote the book Birth of a Nation was based on, which I'm not proud of.)

              From when I've been in the South, you can just feel the oppressive air of depression and low-self-esteem that hangs over much of it -- which I'm guessing must go back all the way to losing the Civil War.  

              I think it explains a lot of the racism there ... the "f-u" defensiveness ... the super-rigid religious fundamentalism, Jesus-clinging, certainty and judgmentalism ... and all the manipulation by the GOP that you mention.

          •  You're very kind. (7+ / 0-)

            And - hoo boy! - that last paragraph really describes those two people to whom I alluded in my first comment. And I hate to say it, but it also applies to similar tendencies of my own against which I often have to be vigilant (oh, that self-esteem monster!).

            I love that illustration you described, as well as what you say about "the people way up there." I've often mused that the smartest and ablest people I've known have been those who readily acknowledge that there are always others smarter and abler (as opposed to those eager to convince everyone of their own intelligence and abilities).

            Reminds me of two coworkers 40-odd years ago who were polar opposites on the self-esteem scale, with attendant behavioral patterns.

            Maxine, who'd been with the company since 1932, knew everything there was to know about everything and was a model of energetic efficiency, would characteristically - but good-naturedly - berate herself with exclamations of, "Oh, I'm such a dunce," "I fouled up again" and "What a goof I am!" Everyone loved - and depended upon - her.

            Noel, who I came to learn was a personal and professional mess, would regale anyone with his list of claimed personal accomplishments - spoke six languages, played a dozen musical instruments, had been an operative for the CIA, was once offered a contract at MGM, you name it - but was disliked by everyone for his constant efforts to sell them on how wonderful he was.

            Watching those two and their respective interactions with others offered lots to learn.

            Apologies if I went on too long; observing human behavior just intrigues the hell out of me.    

            •  I love Maxine too, and I don't even know her! (4+ / 0-)
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              StevenWells, BMScott, foresterbob, Yonit
              Maxine, who'd been with the company since 1932, knew everything there was to know about everything and was a model of energetic efficiency, would characteristically - but good-naturedly - berate herself with exclamations of, "Oh, I'm such a dunce," "I fouled up again" and "What a goof I am!"
              This reminded me of something I'd have to explain at the DV shelter sometimes.  Sometimes the women in the groups would hear me say things like that about myself -- "I'm such a pinhead" etc. -- and they'd be bothered and say, "Don't say that.  You tell us not to put ourselves down."

              And then I would say, "Well, here's the difference.  See, I can say that about myself ... because I don't really believe it."  

              And often I'd see little light-bulbs going off as a new idea clicked into place.

              •  Bingo! Wonderful. (8+ / 0-)

                Tell you an endearing story about Maxine - apropos of absolutely nothing, but I always remember it when I think of her - and her best friend in the office, Marilyn (my boss; a wisecracking dame originally from Brooklyn).

                Just to give you a picture, Maxine was sort of a Zasu Pitts type, but with a sense of style, and had a tremendously loud voice. Our office was very much like that depicted in "The Apartment:" a vast sea of desks with no cubicles or physical divisions, and when she called anyone at their desk, they'd hold the receiver in such a way that only the mouthpiece was near the head, because the earpiece wasn't needed to hear her end of the conversation.

                One day, she was in a harried state - and in especially good voice - when she suddenly wailed, "Oh, I forgot I've got to call New York." Marilyn happened to be standing nearby and helpfully offered, "Shall I open the door?"

                Maxine's piercing laugh brought 200 heads snapping to attention.

      •  Or becoming a soft abuser (1+ / 0-)
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        This is what happened to me.

        This isn't freedom. This is fear - Captain America

        by Ellid on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 08:45:49 AM PDT

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        •  I haven't heard that term before. (0+ / 0-)

          Would you explain it a bit more?

          •  I'm not sure it's a real term (5+ / 0-)

            But it applied to what happened to me over the 18 years that I was involved with the man I loved and married.  Everything was great at first, but over the years he slowly, gradually, oh so gently chipped away at everything I had been when we married:  my belief in my talent as a writer, my belief that I was sexually desirable and physically attractive, my confidence in my own intelligence and knowledge, my sense that I had a right to my own opinions, my desire to educate myself and improve my lot in life.  I got no encouragement for any project that wasn't a handicraft, was told that the graduate course I was taking was "meaningless bibble," caught him cheating repeatedly, had to suppress my talent for performance and teaching because he was a failed teacher and I didn't want to show him up, forced into sexual activities I'd never even heard of and had no chance to decide whether I'd consent or not -

            It went on.  And on.  And on.  By the time he finally dumped me for a woman half his age, I was convinced that I was ugly, talentless, not overly bright, and mean.  It took me years to realize that he had ever so subtly dismantled my psyche as a way to build up his own ego and compensate for his failures.  I was abused, emotionally, spiritually, and sexually, and fourteen years later I'm still terrified of running into him into the grocery store, and I am incapable of flirting or dating.  

            I would love to have a boyfriend, a partner, a lover - I'd love to be loved, to have someone touch me and support me and be my companion.  But thanks to this soft, gentle, quiet, pervasive abuse, it's not going to happen.  I've reclaimed a lot of what he took, but the scars to my mind and my heart are so thick and so deep that it's not happening.

            It's awful.

            This isn't freedom. This is fear - Captain America

            by Ellid on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 11:54:51 AM PDT

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            •  Thanks (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Yonit, StevenWells, raspberryberet

              That answer was a lot more personal than it needed to be, so I'm grateful and honored that you shared it.

              One thing it made me think of was the best definition I've ever heard of abuse:  "Soul murder".  (Maybe "Soul attempted murder" is more like it.  I don't know if a soul can be murdered, but there are people who sure try.)

              Pretty much everyone I ever worked with said that emotional abuse is worse than physical abuse.  (The one woman I remember who disagreed with that was regularly pushed out of moving vehicles, I think.)  When I mentioned that in a group, one woman gave the best explanation I had ever heard for why that's so:

              "Well, yeah.  Here's the fist, here's your face, it hurts, there's broken blood vessels ...  You know what you're dealing with.  But with emotional abuse it is so subtle you don't even know it's abuse, or if you're really being abused."  

              Someone else said it's like being enveloped in a cloud of confusion and doubt, sometimes for decades, and you can't think straight because it warps reality around you and creates illusions that seem completely real, like being in The Matrix.  

              I used to point out the techniques of brainwashing used in authoritarian countries are exactly -- exactly -- the same as those used in emotionally abusive relationships.  Somehow abusers just instinctively know those techniques:  You're isolated from other people who might provide some other baseline to judge reality from.  You're kept constantly off-guard and off-balance by the brainwasher sometimes being nice, sometimes mean.  Often you're deprived of regular, healthy sleep or relaxation.  In this off-balance state you're hit with repetitive messages, over and over again ...

              I used to tell the people in my groups that if I was evil enough, I could -- no joke -- do all those things and have them actually start doubting reality enough to wonder if we really were all giant celery creatures on Mars.

              The hopeful part I would point out, is: everyone still has what I call your reality-knowing "Inner Smart Healthy Person".  That's what abusers can't touch -- and it really, really pisses them off that they can't.  Their greatest fear is that you will listen to it, and that other people will encourage you to listen to it.  That's why they have to create so much confusion in your mind, and cut you off from other people.  (It's the same thing that's in the grass, that no matter how much it's mowed down to nothing, it doesn't give up and say, "Oh, what's the bloody point?"  It keeps reasserting itself.  If grass has it, I have to assume people do too.)

              Anyway, just a bunch of thoughts that came back to me after reading your thoughtful reply.  Thanks again for it.

              •  That is exactly it (4+ / 0-)

                I'd gradually started withdrawing from friends and family in an attempt to keep things together; I'd somehow gotten it into my head that divorce was so shameful, and such evidence of personal failure, that I even tried some of the "surrendered wife" nonsense to keep him happy.  Looking back I can't believe I went along with his nonsense, but by then he had me pretty much believing that what he said was true.

                Of course it wasn't - but after years of abuse I'd forgotten there was any other way to live.  I still remember nearly breaking down in tears when I finally bought myself a CD of Beethoven piano sonatas and sat listening to it.  It was the first thing I'd bought for me without consulting him in a very long time, and I was worried that it would overdraw the checking account because he never gave me the bank balance or let me near the checkbook.  All I could think was, "Why have I denied myself this?" and I had no answer.

                Eventually I couldn't do it any longer - it was killing me by inches, to the point where I couldn't keep my distress bottled up any longer - and I started fighting back.  He walked out one day while I was at work, taking with him the living room furniture, a dresser that had been mine as a child's, his books, his clothes, his computer, and his cat.

                He left me a two page bullet point memo about how much I sucked, and how I was completely at fault in our breakup.  The house looked like a cyclone had gone through it, it took me several years to straighten out the financial mess he left, and there was a two foot high stack of porn in his closet -

                But I was free, and alive, and I could begin to rebuild my life and my self-confidence.

                I am so lucky.

                This isn't freedom. This is fear - Captain America

                by Ellid on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 01:21:48 PM PDT

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