There are few terms that I loathe. That make my stomach turn sour, and my face twist into a scowl.
One of these terms is “drama.”
The other is “crazy.”
I have been called both.
And yes, I have displayed behaviors indicative of both, from time to time.
But here is why these terms are so damaging. There are few other words in the English language that are used to delegitimize and devalue another person’s feelings and experience.
Historically, we have called women “crazy” or “hysterical” as means to take away their power, to control them. To silence their voices.
How often have we heard this? “Oh, that girl is just crazy,” or, “She’s a lot of drama,” or, “Hysterical female.”
Wow. Way to completely devalue whatever situation that person is experiencing at the moment, and turn it into something small, and petty, and insignificant, based on the sum of your own experiences.
I am not saying that there are not situations where something is complete drama, or can be actually considered crazy. Of course. That is not the point.
The point is that we often look at situations, behavior or concerns that we cannot relate to and merely dismiss them as “drama” or “crazy,” thereby dismissing not only the thing that a person cared enough about to worry about and bring to our attention, but actually dismissing that person themselves.
This is called “gaslighting”—it is a term used in psychology that describes a type of behavior where someone is made to feel that their thoughts, emotions or feelings are crazy or not validated by another person. By minimizing someone’s feelings, calling them “drama” or “crazy,” we dismiss their experience. We make them feel less comfortable with themselves, doubtful of what they have felt, and what they have witnessed.
That doesn’t seem very nice, or mindful, or authentic.
Gaslighting is abusive behavior. Calling someone crazy, or accusing them of being dramatic is mean, and dismissive. Telling someone that they don’t have the right to feel a certain way because their feelings are not the same as yours is wrong.
But, then again, once we can tell people enough that they are crazy, or drama, or we make them question themselves enough, it becomes that much easier to make them question everything, and manipulate them to our own beliefs, our own ways we want them to behave.
It becomes easier to control them.
To shut them down, and up.
It is bullying, plain and simple.
Our feelings are not always rational. But our experiences are authentic—I own every bit of my experience, and of my crazy, and of my sane. I will not be spoken to as if I am less than, simply because my experience differs from yours. I will not be shut up because I am a a voice of dissent in the crowd. We all have the right to be heard.
But more importantly—we all have the right to not be dismissed.
It is our mutual responsibility to respect each others’ experiences, even, and perhaps especially when, we do not agree. How else can we know each other? Appreciate different perspectives? Be mindful of other opinions, and thoughts?
When we dismiss others, we do not see them, in their entirety. In their experience, as their Self. We refuse to open our minds, our hearts, and our eyes to the possibility that they have a different experience, a different truth.
How else can we engage in the mindful life, if we are not mindful of each other?
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Editor: Travis May
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