The curse of seeing the other side

Content Note: brief discussion of abusive situations and “victim” mentality.

I am a wee bit short on what to write. (You get that yesterday’s post should have have been done on Monday, right? so this is the post that is scheduled for yesterday…)

You see, I planned to write about how, despite the fact that 50 Shades of Grey is a badly-written novel about abuse masquerading as BDSM, it’s not bad to want to read it or see the movie. But Girl of the net beat me to it. So then I thought about writing an opposition piece to GotN, even though I tended to agree with most of her points.

(Specifically that, when you look carefully, the same basic plot makes up a(n) (in)decent chunk of erotic fiction published by the main houses such as Chimera Publications, Silver Moon, etc; and that the fantasy is far removed from reality, and it’s okay to have those fantasies; where I disagree is that FSOG is uniquely marketed as a romantic tale, and thereby romanticises abuse in a way that books that are purely about the kinky sex and so on, don’t seem to. And, despite claims otherwise, there is ample evidence people are not acting like “adults who are capable of telling the difference between fact and fiction” but reading it as a “how to”. So in the end I have written a potted version of that piece after all!)

Back to what I really wanted to write about tonight.

What I realised is that I have within me a curious, even I might suggest, perverse, sense of the contrary about me. I’m wary of calling it “perverse”, because I think it comes from a good place. But it does sometimes seem to get me twisted all wrongly, or just screw things up.

Another example is that earlier this week I drafted a whole post about the anti-vaccination movement. I absolutely disagree with them and, a decade on from the original paper being utterly discredited and revealed to be a work of fraud, I was flabbergasted to discover this is still a thing. I guess the truth really does take it’s time checking it has its keys for the umpteenth time, choosing which shoes to wear and checking the GPS, while the lie is already doing laps of the globe. I ended up deleting it, because I don’t actually know what anti-vaxers say; but the piece was an apologia explaining a mindset that I could readily understand that would lead to anti-vaxers making very bad decisions. While not justifying their assumptions 9which are on every basis wrong) I could still understand where those assumptions came from (i.e. ignorance, and skewed experience).

I seem to have an urge, even an urgency, to try to see the other side and appreciate what might be true “for them”. Or, to take an idea or statement and turn it around to see in what conditions I would consider it false, mistaken or even immoral.

Sometimes i really can’t see why a person opposes something. I do not understand climate change denier. I think I get that they have a vested interest sometimes in not seeing it (that’s a short-term interest; we all have a long-term interest in not drowning, roasting or freezing to death as the climate goes to pot). But the urge to try is always there.

Why it’s a good thing

This, I hope, is obvious: it comes from a place of seeking compassion and empathy. If I can understand why you are acting in the way you are, then I can hope to respond to you in a way that will be respectful of your needs, even if I think you are acting wrongly or are hurting others by your wrong deeds. Instead of declaring someone evil, I hope to reveal to them the truth (as I perceive it) in a way that makes sense to them, and that enables them to change their understanding so they no longer act wrongly or harmfully.

If I don’t think you’re wrong, but just am confused by you, then I can, again, seek to find a happier interaction by appreciating the world as you see it. Lord knows, I’m not brilliant at this, and I frequently miss stuff. But the tendency has been strengthened by remembering that most people on the internet don’t mean to hurt and if there is a way to understand something as not hurtful, I should seek that first. (My experience was always that people who intend to hurt are pretty easy to spot because they always double down and leave no doubt).

I see it as a good thing that I care about other people and want to understand them, even if I disagree with them.

Why it’s a bad thing

The flipside of this is that it leaves me vulnerable to genuinely abusive types. It’s a recipe for making excuses for the person who wants to hurt me. In general, I haven’t accepted blame for anything, but by trying to understand, I let myself get hurt again and again. (Recalling that I described myself as a typical Cancerian, folks may or may not recall that:

They’ll usually suspect when someone is lying, mistrustful or has malicious intentions. At the same time, their caring nature makes them want to give people the benefit of the doubt. They’ll be willing to take emotional gambles on people, hoping they can help bring out the best in the person. These gambles don’t always pay off.

and, “Cancers never forget their exes. … The bad qualities Cancer is still trying hard to understand.”

That’s pretty much what I’m talking about with this point.

Another huge drawback is that it can make meeting new people very hard indeed, because I am automatically seeing everything I do in two or more ways, some of which make it the right move and some of which make it the wrong move. (Did I ever mention, I overthink everything?) In boardgame language, and in some social/self-help circles, this is called “analysis paralysis”.

As I wrote when discussing my self-image, I have at least two different perceptions of myself going on at once: the shy and timid little tomboy, and the hulking hillbilly “smile and laugh” appearance, from Tucker & Dale Versus Evil:

Because I can see how my big, male-coded, body could be interpreted the second way by someone who doesn’t know me.

In some ways, this comes down to needing better heuristics (I love that word, still!) and better action-on plans for where the heuristics go astray. In other ways, it’s just the price I seem to pay for not wanting to harm people. (I originally typed “hurt” there, then remembered I’m a sadist so, in the right circumstances, I totally do want to hurt people; but this post is about all the other circumstances, where it isn’t a good thing.)

Conclusions

I would like very much to have more confidence, and not trapped in analysis paralysis. I would very much to be less vulnerable to abusive situations (and thereby less wary of people who are not going to be abusive). But I’m not willing to give up being a caring person who thinks other people have their own perspectives that I can try to appreciate. If I could have the good side without the bad, I would be happy, but if it’s both or neither, I’ll stick with what I’ve got.

It’s helpful for my writing. When creating the first draft of my novel, I tried to see the world from the antagonist’s point of view (and even imagined how the story would look if I made her the protagonist instead). This helped me, I hope, create her as less of a villainous cypher and more of a person who (however wrong) sees herself as doing the right thing.

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About ValeryNorth

I overthink everything.
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