Scars

You are not your trauma.
You are not the pain you’re in.
You are not your torture.
You are not your sin.

You are not the nightmares,
That wake you up at night
You are not the wounds
which you keep hidden out of sight.

You are the pen upon the page,
You are not the ink.
You are not the poison,
They’ve been forcing you to drink.

You are not your hurt.
You are not your tearful moans.
You are not your tragedies
You are not your broken bones.

Your soul’s an engine made of stardust,
Turning darkness into love.
Your heart beats with the drum
of endless turning skies above.

You are not the chains that bind you.
You are not your prison bars.
You are not your persecutors.
You are not your scars.

Society is Broken and No One is Coming to Fix it

Society presents itself as this perfectly flawless construct and if something is wrong, the problem is you, not it. But it’s not you, the world is broken and made of pain and abuse which you are indoctrinated to believe you have no choice but to endure, because “that’s just the way the world is, everyone has to deal with it,” and if that’s not good enough for you, the only other choice you as an individual have according to society is to be sad, attend protest, shitpost on facebook, vote for corporate democrat who lies and promises change that will never come, or wait for a revolution that will never happen.

2012 has come and gone, the indigo children are all grown up, the Age of Aquarius didn’t magically make everyone more woke, the Occupy movement sputtered out into nothingness and the BLM movement seems poised to go the same way. There is no great awakening coming. There will not be a communist revolution to sweep us all to salvation. No one, no force, is going to come along and save you from your life. You, personally, need to stand up to the abuse and advocate for yourself. The system is designed to keep you trapped and hurting, but only if you agree to participate. Only if you let them abuse and terrify you into thinking there is no other choice.

Stepping away is seen as suicidal, impossible, and anyone who tries to stop away is attacked by society, presented as broken, lazy, or even an outright villain in an attempt to purge the infection in the narrative. The narrative is that there is no way out, we’re all trapped in this society together and this world is nothing but this society and will never be anything else. But this narrative is a lie, one crafted to prevent the sociological version of a run on the bank. If everyone stood up at once, the whole system would catch fire and fall over.

Everyone standing up at once is probably not going to happen, but the idea that it would take everyone to make a change is part of the lie. You don’t need everyone to reject society, you just need enough people that together we can build new systems that exist beyond the control and abuse. Instead of trying to set fire to the tree of society, we can choke it out with our own new kudzu society. We can create networks of cooperation to replace abuse based control. Come away with me into the empty and liminal, and lets build a new world together in the spaces between.

Trauma isn’t a Competition

A very common response to trauma, both in individuals and in society, is to try and create objective measures of the pain inflicted and to downplay or disregard trauma whose sources aren’t severe enough to count as traumatizing in the eyes of the person doing the counting. This is then used to gaslight the trauma victim either by calling them weak and pathetic, saying that no one with any sort of strength would be hurt by what happened so you must just be a really useless and pathetic person, or by pointing out that so many other people have it way worse and they aren’t traumatized so you can’t be either.

It should go without saying that these are shitty things to do to someone else, but less obviously, they’re also shitty to do to yourself. Lots of trauma victims internalize the ideas society puts out and convince themselves that because they’re not a malnurished child soldier slowly dying of AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, the pain they felt is either not real or not important enough to bother with.

This is a great way to make your trauma worse and further ruin your mental health. If you break a finger, you don’t ignore it because it’s not a broken femur and you don’t have internal bleeding, you go to the doctor. Mental health is no different, just because the pain you feel isn’t the worst pain that a human can possibly feel doesn’t make it not real or not pain.

There is no objective measure of trauma. Don’t let people tell you that you’re weak for being hurt, or that “it only counts if it was bad enough.” If it effected you, it was bad enough. Not everyone is harmed by the same things. Your pain is real, don’t let people gaslight you about it.

Proof by Verbal Assault

In formal debates, a Gish Gallop is as term for when one debater attempts to overwhelm their opponent with a large number of arguments too quickly for them to respond to all of them in the time allotted. It’s what in the world of professional debaters, you call being a dick. However, outside of formal debates, something like the Gish Gallop also appears all over society as a form of social violence which is, while not entirely ubiquitous, common enough to see in most places you look for it.

I want to point to a pattern where, when someone has a problem, or thinks the person their talking to is in the wrong, they will just verbally bombard them with their correctness, condescendingly and aggressively talking down to them, scolding them, and refusing to stop talking long enough to let them respond. I’ve seen this in both my social and professional circles, and once I started looking I saw it lots of places. I see it with how customers treat service workers, I see it with callout dynamics in online spaces, and I see it in political arguments between family members, and I see it troublingly often with parents when they scold young children.

Another example of this is in how groups like Autism Speaks will try to abuse autistic people into masking. “I just want you to improve, which is why I’m going to abuse you into acting how I want you to act.” It’s basically an attempt to use operant conditioning on someone, treating them like an animal which you can carrot-and-stick into doing what you want. On longer timescales, this is how trauma bonding happens.

The pattern is that they just keep being angry and abusive until the person they’re attacking recants their position, lowers their head, and mumbles an apology. This is a form of social violence, it’s abusing someone into agreeing with you, it’s proof by assault. You’re right, because you won’t stop hitting them until they tell you that you’re right. Sometimes, especially with parents and children, it escalates past social violence to actual violence, making the social violence even more threatening as it encodes itself as a prelude to what might come next if you don’t submit and they keep escalating.

If you think someone is doing this to you, you should not try to argue back at them. They’re not willing to hear your side, they know they’re 100% right and nothing you could say will change their mind. The only way to get them to stop is to submit, flee, or to out-escalate them. They don’t want a discussion, there’s nothing to discuss, you’re just wrong and need to be put in your place. Someone who can’t escape from that abuse will break eventually from it. Breaking won’t make the abuse stop though.

In fact, the more you break and give in, the more you are training your abuser that abuse is a good way to get you to do what they want. If you stand up to them and ride through the extinction burst, you’ll sever the causal chain that links abusing you and getting their way. This can be hard however, as before the behavior goes extinct they will attempt to out-escalate to the maximum degree they are capable of, often including physical violence. Be very cautious of attempting to out-escalate someone who is using proof by assault on you. If someone has all the cards, you’re kinda screwed if you can’t get away from them. If you look at a situation and realize that you’re taking an intolerable amount of damage from exposure to it, consider what you’d be willing to sacrifice to break the abuser’s grip on your neck. What really matters? How much are you willing to leave behind?

Most Manipulation is Unconscious

When you make your emotional stability, mental development, psychological well-being, sexual satisfaction, or sense of identity contingent upon the acceptance, approval, affection, or support of a particular person or persons you are practicing a form of emotional blackmail. Even if you aren’t consciously trying to manipulate people, all actions have intent. Some part of you is choosing to make your stability dependent on the other person as a way to coerce intimacy out of them. This is very unhealthy behavior, everyone needs people in their lives but no one needs any specific person and requiring a specific person to meet your needs isn’t a healthy thing for either of you. The only person ultimately responsible for your mental well-being is you, and further, by making your mental well-being dependent upon someone else, you are practicing learned helplessness and failing to use your own power to improve yourself.

Your Morals Aren’t Objective

Morality always feels objective from the inside, that’s how it works, but it also always takes a value judgement by a person about how they want the world to be to determine the ethical course of action in a given situation. Utilitarianism is no more objective as a moral system than the categorical imperative, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is presupposing the value of lives or QALYs or happiness or not!misery or some other abstract number they pulled from thin air. Regardless, of how much math is attached to it, you can’t reason someone out of believing something they didn’t reason their way into in the first place. There is no objectively right thing to do, if someone doesn’t use your moral system, you’re not going to be able to convince them to start using your moral system by arguing for it using your moral system. Your ethical systems aren’t just a given and you can’t treat them as such. Importantly, it will hurt you if you try because it will skew your ability to predict how other people behave and make you miserable when you inevitably overcorrect and just see most humans as evil instead.

Rebranding Yourself isn’t Healing Trauma

If you completely rebuild your identity as a way of coping with and recovering from trauma, but you don’t change any of the fundamental assumptions, beliefs, values, goals, morals, or principles on which that identity is based, then you aren’t actually changing anything, you’re just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Be Kind to Yourself

Just because they live rent free in your head doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t abusive. If you wouldn’t tolerate something from a partner who lives outside your head, you shouldn’t tolerate it from someone who lives inside your head either, even when that someone is you.