There are so many ways to erase someone. So many people talk about how wretched minimising someone is, how cruel it can be to blithely tell someone they don’t understand their own experience(s), and it is pretty fucking awful.
Solidarity is worse in some ways though. Maybe not the “real thing” but who can even tell what that is? What makes it so? It’s like the debate about sympathy vs empathy … but it’s not.
My mom is an expert at the one upmanship game. Whatever story you tell her, she’s got an anecdote from her life that can top it. Hers is worse, better, in all ways MORE. It’s like she’s trying to out-you you. Unfortunately she honestly, truly, thinks she’s being good to you and helpful. It isn’t sympathy. She’s not denigrating you, she doesn’t pity you – to show support she has to reframe what happened so that she is in the starring role. Her worldview simply doesn’t allow for anyone else’s reality.
Funny concept, reality. We imbue it with this sense of singularity and finiteness – there can be only one. It’s got to be the most subjective concept out there. What is this ridiculous insistence we have about fact vs fantasy, where we’ve placed fact on this sky-high pedestal. Everything needs to be proven, backed up with solid evidentiary support, or it should be chucked out like so much rubbish. Only certain types of proof are acceptable, of course, as we can’t allow just anything (anyone) to be raised to that hallowed ground. The more tangible the better, though pure logic is also revered.
As such, we throw our baby feelings out right along with that fantasy bathwater. Feelings aren’t a legitimate reason for decision making, unless you’re a fictional mystery solver with a reliable gut. For all that we counsel people to trust themselves and their guts, we belittle anyone that takes us up on it.
It’s all about us, really. Each one of us is the center of our own universe and we each have a separate reality that is true only for us.
In that sense, solidarity and gaslighting can be two sides of the same coin. They both assert someone else’s reality as the one, true version. That’s not what happened, don’t make up stories. I know just what you mean, let me show you how my story trumps yours.
I’m just as guilty as anyone else, for all that I try to be more conscious of it. When I was a little kid, no matter what you told me – how you tried to wow me – my response was “I know!” It was so important to know, to be right. It was critical to my survival, or so it felt. I’ve grown out of that particular habit but am still plagued by that deep-seated need to be right, to prove myself. When we argue, expect me to provide a collated packet of evidence wth all my exhibits neatly labeled and ordered to make my case. I never went to law school because it isn’t a tendency I want to encourage.
I don’t know if my survivial instincts are in line with the norm or odd. I know they feel odd but don’t we all want to be unique? We’re all so desperate for community and sameness and yet we all want to stand out in our own ways, to carve our own paths. Ostracism is terrible, a gut-wrenching invalidation, and yet – solidarity can be just as effective a tool to erase a person.