Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Matresses

I've been thinking a lot about enabling behaviors lately. I could kick myself for all of the times I've rescued my husband.

We had a conversation last night about how the rich people in charge of this country and the laws could never get what it's like to be the lowest quarter of the population and how life is so different for them. Even I, who have been solidly knocked down the rungs in the middle class thanks to my husbands stupidity and choices don't think I could really know what it's like to live in fear of being homeless, or having empty cupboards and not being able to care for my kids... though we are only one lost job or one major health incident away from that reality. Any more than I can fathom the homeless lifestyle, I don't know how our rich leaders can have a clue what it's like to be the majority of the people they preside over. I don't know how they can be effective, or even fair at that rate.

I know people who are living in their cars and begging to live on people's couches. I have visited people to help arrange groceries and found kitchens with nothing more than a box of noodles and 1 can of tuna in their cupboards. I cringe when I have to enter some of the neighborhoods where others live. My neighborhood is bad... but I accept it could be much worse.

Still I wonder how in the hell I've arrived in this place in my life.

When I met my husband he was living in a mouse infested double wide trailer with his dad in the early stages of dimensia in a large field in an obsure and out of the way corner of the county we lived in. I don't fear farm life or the critters that come with it, but the 4 hours I spent washing dishes there one night getting ready for them to move off the farm which had been sold and the additional 4 hours I spent dumping boxes of mouse poop as I repacked memorabilia made me seriously wonder what the deal was with this man. I was never raised that way, and I certainly was never raised to accept less than what I could fix or create with my own two hands and some sweat equity.

After the farm he moved into a temporary apartment for a while where he was sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor while he purchased a house. He had a couple of pots and pans, a chair and rikety table and that sleeping bag... and a rusty old truck to get around in.

He got into a house he liked in a quiet and run-down neighborhood. The house itself wasn't bad, nor was the location for a single guy anyway, but the neighborhood let a lot to be desired especially for a wife and kids. Again moving in he had nothing. I let him have my entertainment center, a giant bean bag, a kitchen table and chairs...

...and I found him a mattress to sleep on so he wouldn't be on the floor.

Later on I gave him an old computer which he promptly used for porn and I saved his house 6 months in arreers because all of his money was going to prostitutes which I had no idea of at the time. I also lent him my car to drive as needed because his truck caught on fire coming back from a work site one weekend. Then I signed the damned student loans.

Time after time in our marriage I let him get away with stupidity, letting him back in, giving him chance after chance. Prostitutes in my home, in my bed, around my kids. Prostitutes over and over and over  -- even when he knows I'm done... and yet I'm still here aren't I.

Growing up I believed I had a really bright future. I had good credit, savings, a good job, drive, and a plan for my life. I had goals and dreams... and I handed all of that to him to try to pull him up to the light with me.

Instead I found I got pulled down.

The neighborhood we're in now is worse than the last, my anxiety for my safety when I'm outside especially at night is through the roof. our finances are worse, my credit is shot, we have zero savings and the hole is getting deeper -- to a point that getting out is looking almost impossible. Worse, talking to him last night he doesn't seem to care that we are on the ledge and the rocks are slipping. All he's doing is him - just like it's been the whole time I've known him and I've been too stupid to see. Decades of bad choices and not caring to change on his part. With this addiction really all he can do is him.

When the hell am I going to learn I can't rescue this man and putting my life on hold is not doing me any favors? It smacked me like a ton of bricks last night as I climbed into my bed - a too short mattress on the floor of my kid's room where I have been sleeping, trading off and on with the couch for the last 4+ years and even frequently before that. Seems we've come full circle.  It's now me on the damned mattress on the floor with little to nothing to my name.

I am such an idiot.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Double Think

I remember reading the book 1984 when I was in middle school. Back then I understood the idea of Big Brother. -- the all seeing government eye that extended an iron hand to control it's subjects movements and physical surroundings to maintain and obedient 'peace' -- but was too young to really grasp the full meaning of the orwellian line of thought that reality is rarely ever truth. That there wasn't just physical control over the people, that society was under full on mental reprogramming. That it wasn't just their bodies being controlled it was their minds that were chained. The very essence of humanity - free will - was being removed.

I've found it funny with the recent politial turmoil over this new american presidency that the movie 1984 would resurface on the popular movie sites. The idea of Double Think and Double Speak in that work of 'fiction' outlined how people could accept two conflicting realities and still function without their brains exploding.

In the movie the main character works as a news agency censor changing facts in stories and passing them off as reality. If an article was about a man doing heroic things the man's name and photo were removed and a person 'more in favor' was replaced in the content. Instead of chocolate rations being reduced from 20 oz to 15 oz magically the government was graciously raising the chocolate ration up to 15oz from the 'current' 12oz. The reports of war not only changed fronts on a monthly basis, but allies and enemies switched places just as regularly and ally countries were passed off as having always been that way regardless of proof from the month before.

It followed the logic that “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” and I might add that individuality is bad, cultural differences are dangerous, and free thought is destruction.
Men and women were also worked to the bone on limited food rations, and programmed with loyalty to the govenment 'protectors' using mob mentality psychology. Everything beautiful and every reminder of the past was destroyed, paving the way to rewrite history. Every bit of information that reached them was manufactured to meet the government's end goal... full control.

I've watched with horror over the last couple of months as reality and truth have started to unravel for our country. Through whatever warped sense of humor being sported by questionably intelligent people a narcissistic racist bully with no filter has just been made president of the united states.

As most normal people sit back now in complete shock as to how something so ridiculously stupid could have happened, the basic human need to make sense of our surroundings has kicked in and bingo we are now mentally open to accepting whatever logical and/or BS explanations might be passed our way

A new term has been coined over the last couple of days by Donald Trumps' white house counselor Kellyann Conway:

'Alternative facts' -- sounds a hell of a lot like Double Think to me.

Alternative facts are gaslighting in its purest form. Trump didn't taunt a disabled reporter he was using him to 'illustrate a point' about others. He groped women only because they like it. Women's body functions and fluids are natural so they're fair game as a topic. His inauguration parade had more people in attendance than ever - even though pictures prove the stands were empty and there was no way to get an accurate account - but hey pictures can be doctored right? Just because they can be doesn't mean they are. Everything that comes out of his mouth is twisted to serve himself and if he can't pass it off that way then the reporters have it wrong, or they are out to get him, or they are too stupid to understand his logic. This country is in for 4+ more years of gaslighting taken to the extreme.

Basically alternative facts are untruths that attempt to pass off an alternate reality and discount what we know is true... aka... lies about lies. And there are hundreds of thousands of people out there in this country willing to believe those lies because the lies help them heal the dissonance in their own realities... I mean surely this bigot of a man never could have said what he did the way you understood it - that just doesn't make rational sense! Forget that the man may just plain not be rational... the lie is so much easier to assimilate into their own reality. The scary part is that once enough people believe the lie it becomes the new reality... just like 1984.

We aren't done with the lies from this administration... that's one thing married to an addict has taught me. Their image, their vices, their 'good boy' complex must be preserved at all costs. This is no longer politics to them it is a game of self preservation and inflation. The sad thing is if they can't stop lying about the little things that make them look good how will we ever believe them on the big things?

In thinking about my marriage it's not just about the lies coming in either... the really scary part is how easily the alternate facts sneak in and change reality permantly. Bad becomes ok, lies become acceptable, abuse becomes meerly a character flaw or worse 'your lot in life'. I was just reading Leslie Vernick's blog post to a woman in an abusive situation:
Your question clearly captures the confusion so many women experience when they are in a destructive marriage, especially when they are receiving advice from people they trust and respect, people who seem to have a hotline to God himself. These people wouldn’t outwardly say this is what they teach but the bottom line comes across like this: a man can abuse his children, his wife, commit adultery, lie, violate trust repeatedly, but if he says to his pastor or counselor, “I want to work on my marriage” somehow his wife (if she is a godly woman) is supposed to forgive him, believe him, and give him another chance. Even if this cycle is repetitive. 
And, if she refuses, she now is cast as the unrepentant one. Now she is labeled as the one who is tearing apart the family, breaking God’s covenant of marriage, violating her vows for better or worse, etc. Sheesh! What pressure you must feel. - Leslie Vernick, How to Stop Second Guessing Myself. 
Somewhere this cycle has to stop. Bad needs to stay bad, abuse needs to have consequences, lies need to be called out. Gaslighting needs to stop. Truth needs to remain pure even if it isn't pretty. We need to learn to care about others in a way that allows them to have the real facts and not selfserving versions. We need to get smart and fight the stream of conflicting reports to find the nugget of real truth at the end not just peoples versions of it.

We need to keep our own heads straight and preserve the past so that we don't come unanchored in this hurricane of stupid that is headed our way.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Cognitive Dissonance

The term Cognitive dissonance has come up a couple of times this week in my wanderings and so I thought I'd read up on it a little. It's kind of a fascinating concept.

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time; performs an action that is contradictory to their beliefs, ideas, or values; or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas or values. 
Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. An individual who experiences inconsistency tends to become psychologically uncomfortable, and is motivated to try to reduce this dissonance, as well as actively avoid situations and information likely to increase it. 
-Wikipedia
It's a tenant of human nature to find justification in our circumstance and to avoid discomfort and ignorance. We also build a moral code through years of our childhood and study - and yet how fragile that is when we are confronted with amoral actions in need of closure. How easy it is through pain and discomfort for us to modify our belief system and acceptance of actions that we would never even consider before.

It's so amazing that addicts are even able to function on a reasonable level given this concept. They are at constant disharmony with themselves - their moral values fighting with their immoral actions and choices. Crazier yet they continue to create the discomfort the next time around and the next and the next! That dissonance is the discomfort they are trying to medicate away - and it is the medicating it that continues the cycle. It's insanity at it's most animal level. No wonder so many shut down emotionally.

According to Festinger's theory dissonance reduction is achieved in four ways.
  • Change behavior or cognition ("I will stop looking at porn and masterbating")
  • Justify behavior or cognition by changing the conflicting cognition ("I deserve this release,  it's not so bad compared to other stuff I could be doing, I'm allowed to have fun once in a while")
  • Justify behavior or cognition by adding new cognitions ("Nobody will know, I'm not hurting anyone, it's just this once, I need this to function properly. Satan made me do it. As of the last time I don't do that anymore that isn't who I am.")
  • Ignore or deny any information that conflicts with existing beliefs ("Porn isn't so bad, everybody is doing it, all of this morality stuff is crap anyway! There is nothing wrong with this. I'm no worse than the next guy, the girls there want this.")
What is interesting is that those that start to modify a prior belief or moral system start to expend more and more effort in defending their position and rationalizing their actions as reality/truth. As addictive behaviors continue the addict goes farther and farther down the rabbit hole of lies, justification, and brain rewiring their whole moral code. 

I see partners of addicts having to deal with this same problem all the time. Think about it. Most are normal, sane, moral individuals who would never dream of cheating on or lying to their spouse. They see the consequences as being worse than any possible reward. Their moral code is intact and they are strong. Then they are faced with being married to or raising someone choosing to do such hurtful and disgusting things... and they have to find a way to rationalize that fact that they are there. That they stuck around after the initial discovery. That they still feel love for this person they found out is a monster. 

They struggle to try to figure out how they can stay with someone doing such awful immoral things. So they try to rewrite their spouses actions to not look so bad. They justify their decisions to stay with various rationalizations about marriage vows, the kids, love in there 'somewhere', believing they can fix or save the other person. 

They start to minimize the spouses actions and eventually enter a reality where immorality, adultry, sex abuse, lying, cheating, etc looses much of it's moral punch. These rationalizations calm their fears and anxieties - but in many cases it also puts them in danger of being victimized, re-traumatized, or seen as too lax or crazy by others who haven't had their moral code damaged or reworked through the  justification process.

I have done the same so often that I'm beginning to wonder if I'm not crazy. How many times have I said "It is so hard for me to reconcile these two parts of him. " while I list my reasons to justify staying with a man who had done so many horrible things over and over with seeming little regret. And then the dissonance goes away and my perceptions of acceptance of right and wrong change and there is relative harmony until the next time and the next. 

It's kind of scary to see how our brains working to make sense of things and remove anxiety and pain from situations we find ourselves can in the long run warp our entire moral code, self worth, dignity, and safety as well.