Confessions of Relational Aggression and Aggressing

So, I’ve written before about relational aggression.  In fact, my many many absences have to do with a long dissertation that touches on the subject (despite my honorable intentions of taking a strengths-based lens).  As I research existing lit, conduct my own research, and write I’m forced to confront my own demons of being aggressed and aggressing (wordpress doesn’t think those are words, but I assure you, they are).  It sucks. No one wants to admit these things.  I hate ever admitting to being a victim, but I’m increasingly realizing that it is a universal truth of American girl culture.  Aggressing, on the other hand, gives a sense of power that not everyone gets to feel, I did and I now look back and I still don’t get it.

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Being a victim:
Throughout most of my life I’ve been a complete geek.  I like robots and space.  I read a lot of books and watch a lot of documentaries.  Since childhood I’ve had a fascination with UFO’s, conspiracy theories, dystopian novels, and futurism.  In my adulthood, I’ve been able to accept channel these things into my own personal and functional oddities and found an awesome boyfriend with similar ideas of fun.

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Unfortunately, at ages 10-15, this level of adaptation had not quite developed.  In 5th grade I remember first being hurt by jabs at reading War of the Worlds and Animal Farm.  I was poked fun at for being chubby.  At the time, I was also very tomboy-ish.  I resented femininity because I saw so few female role models.  All of this was perfect fodder for girl bullies.  By middle school I was isolated, teased, and torn apart.  I tried to change myself and my likes, not to make friends, but simply to stop the teasing.  I had a few close friends, and they were fantastic allies.  But they couldn’t stop the negative feelings or messages that were thrown at me every day.

I don’t know how I got past this, to be honest.  The best way I can describe it, is becoming so numb that I decided they couldn’t hurt me.  I developed a very hard shell.  But I also became resentful.  I had trouble separating bitterness from confidence, because only by being bitter and resentful was I able to stand tall in regards to who I was and feel confident. I was able to be me, and I thought that bitterness had to come with who I was, because they developed together.  I was a girl, who like sci-fi, punk music, and who disliked seafood and all people.  It just was what it was.

This probably fed into my victimizing others.

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In addition to feeling bitter and dislike the people around me, I was also a generally unhappy person around and after this time, for million reasons.  In reflection, I see that my hurting other people was a combination of who I thought I was, what I thought I was supposed to do, personal anger, and boredom.  When you don’t have much else going on, sometimes you just start doing things to make life exciting, or what you think will be exciting.   Yes, I took part in spreading rumors.  And what was worse, I did it to people who I said I liked.  They were never the people closest to me, my best friends were safe and I defended them like they were made of pure gold.  But I did stir the pot in regards to people around me and with no real reason or motivation behind it.  Sometimes, perhaps it was because they did something that made me feel insecure or because I had a particularly rough day in other areas of life.  So, for all of this crap I did, I feel sorry.  It made me feel stronger as a person and, apparently, was the only place I felt could do that, or the easiest place.

So, this ended, honestly, only because I stopped going to school full time.  I started taking college classes half-days, which allowed me some perspective.  I also started working, one, then two jobs during high school.  I developed some really really great friendships, including the dude who eventually became boyfriend and my few very close friends.  I was in therapy for like 3 years.  I worked on myself and developed some of those adaptive skills I talked about.  I accepted who I was, I let myself feel happy, learned to let all the other shit that other people did to me go.  And overall, I said fuck it.  I’m proud of who I am.  I said it, but it still took a few years to accept and embody it.

I don’t think relational aggression magically stops when you leave high school.  I undoubtedly have engaged in it since, maybe even without knowing.  But, at least with less malice.  I don’t want to.  As I do my research, it is so hard to acknowledge and accept what research and theory tells us: that relational aggression and relational competition is ingrained in our socialization.  We are taught that all good and bad, power and weakness, come from relationships.  That women seek out groups for protection and strength and avoidance.  All that I can really do is recognize the negatives of this and actively work to stop them.   And the worst part, is I honestly think of myself as a more direct and assertive person.  I honestly want to think of myself as confrontational and more likely to punch someone than spread rumors, but I guess I’m still trying to claw my way out of what I was socialized into.

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Explaining Why Bowie is a Personal Hero.

My last post was very rage-full.  I almost apologize.  But that shit…that shit…

Okay, moving on to lighter topics whilst I continue to procrastinate on those dissertation revisions.

January 8th was David Bowie’s birthday and he made a big announcement:  A new album!  First one in like 10 years!  YAYYYYY!

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People that don’t actually know me may not know this, but I am a HUGE Bowie fan.  I LOVE him.  I really, honestly name him as one of my heroes and a big inspiration.  I have a Bowie tattoo; he is my dog’s namesake.  He’s amazing and fantastic and perfect!  I know this sounds weird.  I know that.  I don’t really care how much people judge me for this.  It’s their fault for not understanding.

I will, however, take this time to explain his amazing perfection.

Not to mention that amazing sexiness.

Not to mention that amazing sexiness.

Everyone knows, or should know, that Bowie is a truly amazing artist, in every sense of the word.  As a musician, an actor (you will understand if you see anything other than Labyrinth, I suggest the Man Who Fell to Earth or Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence), and an all around entertainer.  His music is impossible to separate from his personas, his appearance, and his entire presence.  He has always come as a package; there is no detail about his performances that was not thought out.

But outside of his amazing artistic presentation, what I have found to be the most intriguing and inspirational about Bowie has been his ability to change.  He represents, to me, fluidity of identity.  The idea that our past refines us, rather than defining us.  I’m certain that, looking back, Bowie thinks some of the shit he did was ridiculous.  I’m sure he has to be embarrassed by it, the clothing, the make up, the music (Yes, I’m talking about that awful duet with Mick Jagger), the drugs, etc.  But without all of those things, the ability to take those opportunities and chances and risks in the moment, he may not have gone on to create what he did later.  The ability to move on from the past, to change who you are, I think is very inspiring.  Bowie did this very literally.  He went from Ziggy Stardust to Halloween Jack, and again and again with different characters throughout his career.  He altered himself, his appearance, his style, even just slightly, with every album.  Sometimes it’s subtle, other times it’s a complete makeover, physically and musically.  Being a nerd and lover of Bowie, I have multiple versions of some of the same songs done at different times in his career and they can sound so different.  I think I have 3 versions of “The Supermen” and they are all unique.  I think the ability to revisit something done so long ago and derive a different meaning from it is powerful and rare in our current culture.  We try to leave things in the past and “move on” and “mature” rather than recognizing the necessity of reflection in the growth process.

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I suppose that means a lot to me, personally and professionally.  I’ve use the same principles working with people in mental health, showing them the possibility for growth, the ability to change and refine oneself.  In my head Bowie is there, by I know the looks I will get when I mention him, so I keep him out of it.  But personally, I think it is an important thing to learn.  Each person has their past, which may include a personality, an identity that they may no longer feel proud of.  The ability to recognize, “yes, that was me” but also say “this is how that person influence the current me” is the important part.  It’s liberating.  It admits to and accepts the past, including shame and embarrassment, but leaves room for pride in one’s self, one’s growth, and their accomplishments.

I love the art for his new album.  I think it represents the reflective process perfectly.

I love the art for his new album. I think it represents the reflective process perfectly.

What the Fuck, Ohio? (Continued, see previous post) This is disgusting.

http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/04/lawyer-i-dont-think-she-thinks-she-was-raped/?iref=obnetwork

I can’t even bring myself to summarize what is going on in Steubenville.  It’s too unbelievable   Let’s just say rape, victim blame, excuse making, disgusting behavior on the behalf of the students, their parents, the media, everyone.  I want to jump off the edge of the feminist world reading this shit.

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This is, by far, the worst story and coverage I have ever seen about rape.  It doesn’t seem to matter that this girl was 13 and was clearly violate, humiliated, and nearly died.  “Nothing illegal” happened.  What the fuck?  Are these pictures really that ambiguous?  And what was going through these other kids’ minds when they watch, texted, and tweeted over this girl?

The world is coming to an end.  At least any kind of world that I want to live in.

This fantastic blogger has been archiving the social media buzz about this case.  It’s an amazing case study:
http://bustedbitchesandinternetstalkers.com/steubenville-ohio/

Fucking Pundits–my reaction to the Newtown coverage.

The news is all still a flutter about the Newton tragedy.  As, I suppose, it should be.  Lucky for all of us with any intelligence level, the conversation has moved away from violence in video games and the media to something substantial, mental health.  Unfortunately, the conversation about mental health, causes of mental illness, and access to mental healthcare has been disgustingly shallow.

When I turn on the TV and find myself watching any news about this event, I begin to hear about how we need to address the “causes of mental illness” and “increase access to mental healthcare.”  My issue with this is how flippantly it is said by people with no understanding of mental illness and no understanding of how difficult it can be to get mental health care, or even what mental healthcare entails.

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What causes mental illness?  Truth is, a million things…we think.  Trauma, genetic abnormalities, poor social structure, inherited diseases, poor models of behavior, neglect, abuse, malnutrition, neural abnormalities, lack of concrete resources such as food, neighborhood violence, drugs, in utero toxins, anything…bad luck.  I’m sure every psychologist,social worker, etc. can think of more.  I would love to see how Congress and the powers that be would address each of these and more.  Short of eugenics and parenting licenses, you can truly prevent all mental illnesses.  And as a big believer in Positive Psychology, Resilience, and Prevention, that takes a lot for me to say.  There will always be mental illness, no matter how hard we work.  There are things that we can do to prevent or lessen the impact of mental illness.  We can give families, school, and communities more education and resources to understand how to respond and live with mental illness.  We can fund better research to understand the origins, process, outcomes, and interventions (community-wide) to address all different disorders.  We can make it easier for mental health professionals to practice, by which I mean lessening their load of bureaucracy so they can focus on the treatment aspect and not on checking off the right boxes.  We stop closing mental health facilities.  We can make real services available in schools, rather than the shit they get right now.  We can recognize the effect of neighborhood trauma on children and intervene.  We can build more community mental health centers to prevent 6 months wait lists.  We can do more than medicate people.  Again, I’m pretty sure everyone that reads this can think of more things.

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My point is, every time I hear pundits talking about “we need to address the causes of mental illness” “we need to address the issue of mental illness” “we need to asl;dfalkdfjla!”  I want to throw the TV across the room because they have no idea what they are talking about.  I want to strangle everyone from the NRA president to Rachel Maddow.  You can’t make mental illness a sexy issue like media violence.  So stop.  Fuck off.  Get out of my field.  Or at least talk to someone with some fucking intelligence and background in the area.

**Oh, and BTWs, lack of god in school does not cause mental illness.  Fuck yourself., Huckabee.