The only context in which this is awesome is Jennifer Saunders is just the shiiiit.
Two similar concepts, vastly different implications.
The other day as I was scrolling through an emotional abuse survivor’s subreddit, there seems to be a lot of confusion around two things: learned helplessness and acting helpless.
Let me clarify this, in case you’re confused: learned helplessness tends to be in response to trauma and abuse. While it can be used as a manipulation, in the context of abuse it tends to be more in line with a maladaptive method for coping. Granted, when you’re dealing with generational emotional abuse- learned helplessness can be a way that one parent who has endured emotional or physical abuse manipulates a child into an unhealthy codependent dynamic.
That said, if someone’s feigning helplessness in order to manipulate- it probably isn’t learned helplessness and it is a fairly common one. Unfortunately, it’s also one of those weird socially accepted emotional abuse tactics people often write off. Cherilynn Veland has, I think, one of the best takes on this- and why it’s so easy for what she calls the Detrimental Caregiver to fall for this.
I can’t be your therapist, I can’t be anybody’s therapist…yet!
This is a massive issue I have been dealing with lately. Of course, I’ve pretty much always been The One To Talk To. The One To Help. Part of why I was so conflicted about the whole Screw Age vs Actual Counseling was- I kept noticing a trend towards nearly fostering codependence when I always felt like the goal ought to be, you know, people not needing my help anymore. I thought I had a much better handle on this than most I saw around me- because I was not a Guru. (Well, also the glibness about very real issues, the cult of positive thinking utterly shitting on mental illness, and a whooole list. We don’t need to be here all day.)
Except: checking myself before I was wrecking myself, to a certain extent, I was falling into that Detrimental Caregiver role more often than I would like to admit. The thing is, when you start to make the shit about you, it’s…time to look at why it is about you.
“BUT I AM NOT A DOORMAT OR A PEOPLE PLEASER!”
Yeah…but…oh honey…how many emotional burning buildings do you run into every damn day?
And how often are you ignoring the fact that you’re rescuing the fuckin’ arsonist?
Recently, I had someone come unglued and my compassion bat signal starts WHANG WHANG WHANG- but, I stopped. My partner was completely scared and he wasn’t the one doing it- but, he was falling for it, too.
I kind of thought, Wait, wait, the educational material on this one. That’s…normal. It sucks but it’s normal.
It wasn’t the fear but the language being deployed- which had been escalating the past few weeks. I pointed it out on occasion, then kicked the crap out of myself for having done it. Ever throw somebody a rope and they tie that into a noose? Yeah.
Get this person into counseling and support groups, stop enabling this, you know it’s not right, you KNOW IT IS NOT RIGHT is something I perhaps could have recorded to just hit play on more than once but the fact is:
In this, I am DOING IT AGAIN.
Babe’s a bit Hercules himself and like the story of Hercules- this shit does not end well for me, the partner in that. (Rimshot? I feel like maybe a rimshot is needed here. Oh come on, that was a GOOD myth joke.)
The thing is, the fact that the above recording becomes a desperate whine as weeks go by is a pretty good reason why it isn’t my place. I caught myself at one point wailing, No no no no no, I can’t do that, I’m undergrad and anyway even if I wasn’t, that’s not, you don’t, I can’t do that! You shouldn’t be doing that! I shouldn’t even be the one you talk to about this like this, counseling…and…support….I’m not..you…
Balancing the issues we are, with the other issues we were already dealing with- ah, you ever engage with someone who, erm, had some unhealthy control mechanisms in play and then- hit the ultimate in loss of control?
There’s no tactful way to talk about that, so I am not. I am just going to rock fetal in a corner, muttering about …counseling…group…support…
…I gotta go clean something, now.