TW/CW: Emotional Abuse Discussion
Why am I sharing this experience? Clarity. My directly addressing what happened makes it easier for me to put aside.
So I admit it, I was recently triggered by someone online. It happens, particularly to people with PTSD like myself, but what slays me is that it happened inside what’s supposed to be an online “safe” space, a private, membership-via-application community.
My biggest trigger is easily crazymaking behavior. Why? Because it creates a no-win situation for the victim. I lived with that behavior from an ex for over a decade then again with an adult child who learned the behavior from said parent, and it taught me to doubt every choice I make, to self-blame, to doubt my own sanity.
Needless to say, neither of these people are in my life anymore. (Don’t judge where the adult child is concerned. When the abusive behavior of someone you love is making you physically ill, it often becomes a save-yourself-first scenario. It wasn’t an easy choice, believe me.)
Here’s a further explanation of crazymaking behavior from Psychology Today (link at the bottom of this post).
“Crazymaking is when a person sets you up to lose… You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You’re put in lose-lose situations, but too many games are being played for you to reason yourself out of it. There is no rhyme, reason, or emotional understanding with a crazy-maker. Worse, when the behavior is stealthy and confusing, it becomes easy to feel crazy. It feels like you’re caught in a whirlwind of chaos, with the life force being sucked from you as you are manipulated with nonstop crazymaking tactics.”
“You want eggs tomorrow morning?”
“Yes. Two crambled, please.”
“I specifically said one egg over-easy.”
“No, you didn’t. You said two scrambled.”
“You never listen. You don’t love me.”
“Of course I love you. Here, let me fix this.”
Repeat this scenario with movie tickets, dinner plans, clean clothing, gifts, big and small life events.
It makes the victim feel as though they’re losing their mind.
It’s covert emotional abuse.
Yep, I was subjected to a crazymaker inside an LGBTQ Facebook community without realizing it. Here’s the order of events.
- Joined the group, replied to a few posts and watched, which I frequently do because I’m very guarded due to those past experiences that gave me PTSD. Okay, this looks acceptable.
- I begin posting simple things. Post one gets denied by the moderator (their choice, I get it) but I receive no explanation as to why. I otherwise like the community, so I stay.
- Post two gets denied, no explanation so I reread the community guidelines. Hmm. Nothing. I inquire and receive no response.
- Old doubts begin creeping in. What am I doing wrong? I start replaying my responses to other posts in my head. Nope. Nothing. I’m aligning with everyone else. If anything, I’m an echo within the community. I’m on guard.
- Post three, approved. Now we’re getting somewhere. (Note: it’s the most innocuous post ever. No comments, just a string of likes, but that’s fine.) I’m feeling better. Something’s still wrong though. Something’s not quite right. Those old feelings remain. I’m bordering on hypervigilant.
- Post four, rejected, but this time with some rather snarky “corrective” commentary from the moderator via direct message. What? I did everything right, I… wait, there was just a similar post from someone else (albeit about comic books instead of a request for reading recommendations). This isn’t right. This isn’t…. Wait a damn minute! I know this. I know exactly what’s happening. I know exactly what I’m feeling. It’s all too familiar. It’s the confusion that comes from being on the receiving end of a crazymaker’s whirlwind! Oh, hell no! Not again.
- I cry. Yeah, I actually do. They’re tears of anger mixed with tears of “how’d I let this happen again?” It’s a normal response to repeated emotional trauma that I recover from quicker than I expect. I call out the chaos-maker on their inconsistency, block them because I don’t care how they might respond, and I leave the group. Disengaging from a crazymaker is an empowering experience.
If I’d have said more, if I had fought, I would have fed the crazymaker’s ego, I would have put them in charge, and that wasn’t going to happen.
What’d I learn (or relearn in this case)? It only takes one, but when that person runs the show… (looks at the present state of her country). Crazymaking is the biggest of all narcissistic behaviors. Enough said.
This simply caught me off guard.
Self-care comes first. I owe no one an explanation.
So here’s my take away and my advice to others about handling online asshats hiding within or running “inclusive” communities.
- Trust shouldn’t come easy but especially inside what defines itself as a safe space.
- Keep up your guard (wards, whatever you call them) at all times.
- Trust that first gut instinct. It’s there for good reason.
Side note: I’m proud of myself because of my improved response time.
- My first experience with this sort of person (I married them BTW) took me thirteen years to get out of relatively intact.
- My second run-in with someone like this (adult child) took me months to sort through, but I had the whole parental angst thing to go with it. Again, self-preservation.
- This time, my third run-in with a crazymaker (aside from the current national-level scenario which is triggering in and of itself), took me two hours to sort out when it hit the fan for the first time.
How to Handle a Crazymaker by Psychology Today online.