No one even listens to me anymore. Not anyone in my day-to-day life, anyway. Not my partner. Not my dog. Not my family. Not the people I work for. Not “my community.” Do you ever feel that way?
Why are we so fucking insecure? All of us? Why do we all build walls around ourselves? Why do we all attack each other? Why do we feel the need to dominate? To get our way? To control the behavior of others?
Or maybe the better question is “Why did we build, or buy into, a system that at least encourages, if not requires, us to be that way?”
Why did we build a system dependent upon “competition?” (Yes, Capitalism. Yes, Patriarchy. I’m talking about you.) Is that really necessary? Is it really healthy? Does it really “make us better?” Is it really “human nature?” I mean, I have no problem with little kids winning soccer championships, but doesn’t it seem like we carry this “competition good” mentality a little too far? “Competition is what makes us strive for greatness,” or so we’re told. But, is that really true? Think about it. And if it is – if – does that mean that we should make the competition as difficult as humanly possible? Isn’t it hard enough already? Shouldn’t we be trying to create a less competitive environment so that more people’s needs are met and more can survive?
Do any of these stories we tell ourselves, do any of these American myths, hold any truth? Or, did we set it up this way because we convinced ourselves it would be more fun and exciting? Is that it? Are we just addicted to drama?
Or, did some people see this as an easy way to cynically take advantage of the good will, generosity, and honesty of others? An easy way to gain power? An easy way to “win?”
If this is so, and I think it may be, then that’s fucked-up.
If you’ve ever been in a dysfunctional relationship, you know that a big part of the dysfunction is that one or both partners feel threatened somehow, like they have to compete to get their needs met. Like, if your needs are met, then mine are not going to be met, and then I will surely shrivel up and die. And, I can’t meet any of my own needs, of course, so you have to meet all of them for me. This also means that I cannot meet any of your needs for you, nor can you meet your own, because your needs don’t matter. It’s all about mine, so both of us need to focus on mine. Because it’s a competition. If my needs compete with yours, and mine get met and yours don’t, then I win. I win. I WIN! And you lose.
What neither partner often realizes is that it is possible for everyone’s needs to be met, and that it’s actually not a competition. My needs and your needs can be met at the same time. It is possible for both of us to “win.” If we cooperate instead of compete, we can learn what needs we are able to meet for each other, what needs we can support each other in meeting, and what needs we just have to suck it up and meet on our own. This requires open, honest, non-cynical, non-insecure, non-advantage-taking, non-fucked-up communication, though. So, good luck!
But this, I contend, is why so many of us feel like we need to hide who we truly are, and what we truly need. It’s a survival skill. It’s like we “can’t” show people our authentic selves, like we’re not allowed to say what we think and believe, or to do what we need to do. Like if we were to truly be ourselves, that would not be okay with our family, or friends, or our employers, or our society. People would feel threatened. Our very expression of who we are would make people feel insecure. People would feel like we somehow threaten their survival, even when we totally do not. People would attack us. Just for being ourselves.
And a lot of the time, people do. They do attack us.
So, we hide. Out of fear. Often very justified fear.
But, that fear teaches us to hide who we truly are, what our true feelings are, what our true opinions are, all the time. Even when maybe that fear isn’t entirely justified.
And it also teaches us to be intolerant of who other people truly and authentically are. It teaches us that we have to be “right.” Remember, if it’s a competition, then someone must be “right,” and the other person must be “wrong.” To be “wrong” is to lose. So, we must never admit that we may be wrong. We must never admit that the other person might have a valid point. That they might actually be “right” about something. And if they are “right” about something, that means we lose, so we must not even listen. No sooner can a dissenting opinion be expressed than we need to attack the opinion’s proponent as “wrong,” “bad, ” “a loser.” Because it’s a competition, and we must “win.” If we tolerate other opinions, other beliefs, other ways of being, then that means those other people’s opinions, beliefs, and ways of being might be, if not “right,” then at least “not wrong.” And we cannot allow that. No, no. Someone must be “right,” and someone must be “wrong.” Someone must “win,” and someone must “lose.” That’s it. So, we must never listen, never concede, never consider, and certainly never respect. Because it’s a competition.
If I only ever listen to my own opinions, my own beliefs, my own feelings, my own thoughts, and dismiss everyone else’s, then I will always be “right.” I will always “win.”
But, it’s not a competition. Not really. I can be who I am, think what I think, believe what I believe, and have it cause you no harm whatsoever. It’s okay for us to disagree on somethings. Not all of them will be deal-breakers. We can both survive, both get our needs met. It doesn’t have to always be a big, dramatic competition. We can both “win.” And that’s okay.
But, how will you ever know that, my dear dysfunctional, gas-lighting darling, if you won’t even shut your mouth for a second and listen?