“Pity those who don’t feel anything at all.” ― Sarah J. Maas

So, in my sociology classes I lecture a lot about socialization and how men have such a small ’emotional’ box in terms of what feelings they’re allowed to show as opposed to women. For example, we talk about how women can show vulnerability, sadness, humility, nurturance, etc. in a way that men really can’t. When men feel these things, they often have pressure to suppress them…and that suppression can shift these normal human feelings into what men are allowed to show which is anger. There are countless resources about this and my male students talk about how they have been ‘forced’ in their lives to wear that ‘Mad Mask’ as well. In their papers, they write about fathers telling them to ‘toughen up’ and ‘don’t be so girly’ while validating the same feelings in their daughters. They talk about messages from their peer groups about ‘growing a set’ and ‘not being a pussy’ (no ma, I’m not talking about a cat 🙄). I’ve even had some come to my office and cry about how hard it is to maintain this tough exterior and it breaks my heart how they are deprived by society in expressing what they truly feel.

But, I’ve been thinking about this lately in regard to women and after doing some reading and contemplating my own behavior, I’m now convinced that women are in an emotional ‘cage’ too…however, it has to do with not showing negative emotions instead.

For some reason (perhaps having always wanting to be an FBI agent 😎), I love true crime shows and watched a great documentary on the JonBenet Ramsey case this past weekend. JonBenet was the 6 year old little girl who was murdered on Christmas night, 1996 in her home in Boulder, Colorado. When she was first reported missing, and then later found in the basement of the huge family home by her dad, the police immediately started to suspect her parents were guilty of the crime. They were very rich…she was a pageant girl (which apparently means her mom was a horrible person which she wasn’t from all accounts)…they called friends over for support after the discovery…etc. And because the police had this suspicion so early in the game, nothing could sway them until a man named Lou Smit worked day and night proving that an intruder was actually responsible for her murder and was able to prove it to a grand jury. Anyhoot, as the investigation was in it’s early stages, police officers talked about how ‘weird’ the parents were acting…how out of control Patsy seemed…how angry both parents were.

Heh? Are you fucking (sorry, ma 😳) kidding me? Tell me…how the hell are you supposed to ‘act’ after you find your murdered daughter and the police are focusing on the 2 people, for YEARS, who had nothing to do with it? Hmmm. When you figure out that nugget my sweetie peeps, let me know. In one interview, Patsy yells to the detectives questioning her: “I DIDN’T DO IT…FIND THE DAMN PEOPLE WHO DID!” Guess what, grasshoppers? I would have yelled a lot worse.

Anyhoot, why is it that when women talk about their anger, hate, jealousy, being offended, being distrustful etc. they are demeaned? Seen as being ‘bad’? Seen as being ‘wrong’? Even in the above, where Patsy had every single right in the world to act out, she was still seen as ‘guilty’ simply because of these normal reactions. If a man says he wants to kill whoever hurt his family…OK…damn straight. If a women does? Hey! Hold on there!

And then in everyday situations? I don’t know how many times I’ve repressed my anger at something said or done…just so I wouldn’t look ‘ugly’. You know, like a party pooper. Like a trouble-maker. I’ve had things said to me that I had every right to be offended by…but I have ‘gone along’ to get along. How sad is that?

Some studies show women are even hesitant to say NO in situations that are potentially dangerous so they won’t be seen as troublesome. I’ve seen that myself! I teach about sexual assault in some of my classes and talk about steps women (and men who get raped as well…we can never forget that 😥) can take to possibly lessen the chance of being raped. For example, I tell my students that if someone is following them while out walking, face them and say: “Hey! What are you doing?” in a loud, strong voice. A lot of my sweetie peeps titter…some even saying how embarrassed they would be doing that. When I ask why, they say it would make them look paranoid. My response: So?

As much as many men want to fit into the ‘manly man’ stereotype, women want to fit into the ‘nice gal’ one: Don’t rock the boat…Don’t show anger…Don’t yell…Don’t confront.

A few years ago, a man stalked me and then threatened to rape and kill me in a series of drunken texts. I went for an emergency order of protection which is, in the state of IL, supposed to run like this: The judge will hear the case for the Emergency Order without the abuser present. If an Emergency Order is necessary, a temporary one will be enacted while a date is set in which both the victim and abuser can be present, with legal representation, to then state their cases to see if a long term order can be obtained. (Illinois Department of Legal Aid).

When I went to my Emergency hearing, my stalker showed up…with his lawyer no less…and the judge actually allowed them to go ahead and present their side. Meanwhile, I had no one there…no representation…no idea what was going on. The lawyer (a previous student who must have hated me big time…go figure 🙄) attacked me verbally, threw papers down on the defense table where I was told to sit, and because of the breakdown I was in the middle of experiencing, I couldn’t take anymore even though I did call out 2 lies the stalker said which I proved. So bawling, I walked out and never went back.

I told others about what happened and they said it was terribly unlawful…I should get a lawyer and go after the judge who did that to me…talk to the State’s Attorney…blah blah blah. I did nothing because I didn’t want to look ‘angry’…unhinged…out of control. So, I did what countless women have done for ages…buried it and went on with my life while pushing those feelings down and taking them out on myself. Thank you legal system.

I also did this a lot with ma’s abusive ex (the fucking bastard 😠)…I learned VERY early on in their relationship that I had to be the nice, appeasing girl in order to not rock the boat. The consequence if I did? Ma could get hurt.

I experienced this with J as well: after his abuse and infidelity I was angry as hell, and justifiably so! But when I showed it, I was in the wrong. I just needed to ‘get over it’ and go back to my sweet self. 🙄 If I would have been allowed to express what I needed too and had it validated, the anger would have went away much sooner than it did. If you aren’t allowed to release something…you have to hold on to it. That, my sweetie peeps, isn’t healthy.

You know, I truly believe men and women both have emotional boxes they are forced to live in that greatly stunt them: men having to suppress the sweeter side, and women having to do the same for their tougher side. How sad is that? That both sides have to cover up these perfectly normal human emotions. That both sides have to ignore 1/2 of all they could be and then suffer the consequences: depression, anxiety, etc. Isn’t it sad how we are so freaking ‘gendered’ in our society still? How we have to follow in the footsteps of one path or the other? Yes, we’re getting better in terms of accepting those who are transgendered, but we are failing in releasing some of these gender stereotypes that guide so much of our behavior. I wonder when that will happen?

Kristi xoxo

“Perception is strong and sight weak.” ~ Miyamoto Musashi

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“Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion.  Life is like a train of moods like a string of beads, and, as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue…” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, one of my pet peeves is when people say “It is what it is.”  Because even if you’re talking about a tangible object, nothing ever is what it is (rhubarb pie to you might be a great thing…to me, it’s a trip to the toilet).  Here’s why:  every word we speak, thought that we have, suspicions that might haunt us, how we see a gift, how we react to a particular person or animal or food, etc. are filtered through our own perceptions.  Period.  Our minds are like onions with things being processed through various layers that are unique only to us (and that can also make us cry).

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Think about it.  When you were a baby, nothing ‘was what it was.’  You had to learn about everything through your own innate abilities and then from others.  If a baby pulls a dogs tail (and O did this many times with Scooter who would sigh and look at me for rescue) and the dog snaps at them, guess what?  That baby is going to perceive dogs as being mean and will most likely be afraid of them.  I remember a cat hissing and making that horrible snarling type noise at me when I was at a neighbors house in the 2nd grade…ever since then, I do not like cats, have absolutely no desire to interact with them, and avoid them like a plague.  P.S.  Please don’t try to change my mind:  me not liking cats is what it is.  🙄

I remember walking home from a friends house when I was around 10 or so, and our neighbor had a HUGE Great Dane (yes, that’s an oxymoron but I had to emphasize this beasts massiveness) who was getting old and cranky.  As I walked around the corner of our block, he came at me fast, hard, and snarling.  I peed myself covered my face and finally his owner heard me screaming and got the dog under control.  After that, I perceived all big dogs to be a threat and only lost that years later when Hubby 2 had a white German Shepherd I had to be a mama too.  She was able to change my mind, but I’ll tell you what, I was terrified of her at first but cried like a baby when she died.

everything-we-hear-is-an-opinion-not-a-fact-everything-we-see-is-a-perspective-not-the-truGet my point?  Instead of saying “It is what it is”, we need to change that to “It is what we interpret it is based on our own thoughts, viewpoints, experiences, memories, values, belief systems (including political and religious ideologies), socialization, cultural norms, verbal and non-verbal language used, etc.”  However, that just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, huh?

I think perception really comes into play with communication and can cause a lot of conflict when the perceptions differ and effort isn’t made to understand what thought processes are being used.  Take flirting.  I’m an extrovert.  A HUGE extrovert who loves loves loves to chitchat and interact with people anywhere and everywhere.  Besides my lucky family, I talk to my neighbors, postman, garbage men, random people in stores or when I’m out walking, on airplanes, on social media…pretty much where ever someone happens to be.  When I write anywhere but here (I’m trying very hard to make sure this blog is taken seriously), I use a ton of exclamation points!  In fact, I feel guilty when I don’t because to me, periods look like you are ending a sentence with kind of a ‘meh’, instead of with excitement! 😄

So anyhoot, when I talk to people on social media, I use exclamation points, lots of emojis, etc. and a friend of mine said I was much too flirty.  Heh?  I’m not talking to men any differently than I talk to women.  I see (perceive) my interactions to be funny or sweet or jokey.  But, my friends perception is different.  I think a lot of it is because he’s far more quiet and introverted, and as a guy he just doesn’t use emojis and exclamation points quite as much as women might.  I also wonder if he’s had issues where flirting led to much more, so he perceives any ‘excited and fun’  communication as the start of something more serious.

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I can understand this, but my perception doesn’t agree with it.  Should I change my perception and start to see that I’m ‘flirty’ when I feel I’m just being fun and nice?  Should I change myself to fit his perceptions?  Should I stop using emojis when I respond to men’s comments?  Would it be disrespectful if I didn’t?  If we were in a relationship, would it be ‘fair’ for him to expect me too?  Why does my perception have to be his…and vice versa?

However, I know my perceptions have colored so much of how I see things in my life.  After being sexually abused by my psychologist for 2 years, I am very leary when a new man comes into my life because a part of me still assumes they only want me for their own satisfaction.  Rationally, I know that’s probably not true, but my perception stands.

When I start getting close to someone, I want to know who they are messaging or texting regularly since this is how J communicated with the woman he was planning a rendezvous with.  Because of my experiences, it makes me nervous that any texts to another woman could be fodder for an affair.  So, should a man have to hand his phone over to me based on MY perceptions?  No.  But should he try to understand why I have that perception?  Yes.

Early on when I was growing up, I always felt I wasn’t enough. Obviously, so many of these sensitive, self-critical feelings/perceptions were stemming from early indications of mental illness, but even now, I still have the same perceptions.  Regardless of how much I try to give or do, in my eyes it’s never enough.  So, when someone says “This is your fault, you didn’t do enough”, it doesn’t matter if it’s objectively true or not.  My perception is that of having failed them…and myself.

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I learned in my family that work is very important (which isn’t a bad thing) and being idle can be seen as laziness.  To this day, I try to ‘keep busy’ and if I watch a movie in the middle of the day or take a nap, I still feel a sense of guilt and make up for the lost time when I get up.

When I was suffering that fucking breakdown, so many things had piled up on me:  the senseless death of my nephew, the passing of my mentor, finalizing the divorce with Hubby 3, the crash of my relationship with J, a troubled student who threatened me at school, as well as surgery I was scared to have.  And here’s the thing (which actually breaks my heart), I used to see the world as sunshine and rainbows…or at least I tried too.  I really did.  I was a modern day Pollyanna who had a tough time seeing bad in things.  But now I do…and I hate it.  These things that happened changed my half-glass full perception to seeing a half-empty one instead.  I understood that the world can change in a heartbeat and there’s a lot of bad out there that can hurt you anytime it wants (I’m trying to mitigate this view and understand there’s both good and bad…).

Once I ‘came out’ as being bipolar, so many people rallied around and supported me.  But so many also faded away…their perception of me and mental illness was one they just couldn’t ‘see’ in their minds.  I was no longer Kristi.  I was mentally ill Kristi that made them uncomfortable and unsure how to act around me.

I think it’s a good idea to examine our perceptions to get a better understanding of where they came from and how they are affecting our lives…our relationships…our communication.  If we don’t understand what lenses we’re using to see the world, how can we pass those glasses to anyone else?  And, if can’t explore the basis for our own feelings and behavior, how can we begin to work on what we want or need too?

You know, my perceptions aren’t right or wrong, and neither are yours.  Our perceptions are ‘ours’ and need to be respected.  Obviously, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be open to other viewpoints and change, but by the same token, it’s not fair that others demand you to see things through only their eyes.  It’s not right to HAVE to change who you are and what you believe to be accepted.  What’s right is to explain WHY you hold these perceptions to be true, because that’s the only way understanding will take place.

Kristi xoxo