Comments to Reader's Editorial
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intended for educational purposes only, and must not be considered a substitute
for informed advice from your own health care provider.
My personal opinion is this: When you ask for someone's advise or opinion, it's always beyond one's control as to what they will say or how they will say it. And it's also cyberspace.....which leaves one wide open to anything an everything. People will say things in a post that they might not ever say to your face. And they can remain anonymous.
Cyber space is in a constant flux of growth and change...if you expect perfection from it, you'll just end up disappointed. Because it's an imperfect technology.
This is Sherri. Expecting perfection is a co-dependent behavior I have had to fight in my recovery. I was a dancer as well as a co-dependent which was a double whammy!! I no longer expect perfection from myself or others and it has been a blessing. I find I am far less critical and enjoy life a lot more!!
I love to read everyone's responses so don't get me wrong. I have to consciously not use the we/you advice giving mode - it's easy to slip back into it. I appreciate when I get called on it - reminds me I still have to work at this journey and have a lot to learn!!
Thanks again to Dr. Irene who had a huge part in my leaving the abusive relationship and facing the reality of my situation. Forever grateful,
I understand where you are coming from with regard to some of the comments on these interactive e-mails. Sometimes I get frustrated with long, wordy comments from readers and "attacks" between two people. However, I do think there is some value to advice-giving. I feel that as co-dependents, it actually helps us to look at another's situation and "see the light". For me, advice giving is part of my healing process. My first attempt (part of co-dependency), is to try to help someone who is hurting, particularly if they are experiencing similar abusive dilemmas. Also, there are times during the interactive e-mails where some people just get "out of line" and miss the original point. I can't help but point-out if I feel someone is unfair. I know we can't change everything about this site, but I hope this helps you to understand why some of us react the way we do. Best of luck to you with your continued success. All in all, don't you agree that we are very fortunate to have this site?! It has changed my life! Thanks again to Dr. Irene.
Best regards to all, LHW
Hurrah! Sherri said exactly what I have been feeling about recent posts. We all want to provide support, encouragement and empathy to each other but sometimes people get a little too rough or pushy with their advice. I believe in saying the truth but sensitivity should prevail when posting.
Thanks for commenting on this!
In my opinion, if interactive email is to be helpful it is always wise to send it in terms of I messages. Also, blaming the victim is never appropriate. Victims are in need of compassion and understanding. This will enable them to become stronger to make changes in their lives. This is what support is all about. Criticism is just another form of verbal abuse, and this is what we are trying to eliminate in our own lives as well as others. One of the things we have to offer as survivors of verbal abuse is that we have been there, we have felt the pain and we have our understanding to share with others. Mary Eileen
I have also felt uncomfortable about giving people advice: who am I to tell someone that she should get a divorce, for instance? I do not comment on everything that's posted, but on the few that I do, I try to focus on conveying my support and encouragement, and perhaps sharing what works--or doesn't work--for me in a similar situation. Also, I find that I can sometimes clarify my own situation by thinking through someone else's; I am often talking to myself more than I am to them, I think! Anyway, thanks for giving us something to think about! Becky
I think Dr. Irene's advice on dealing with it is right on. I believe one of the biggest hurdles that faces co-dependents is to try to stop making everything fit into a package that they are comfortable with. It's ok to be uncomfortable; remember, that is your inner voice telling you something is wrong. Don't ignore it, listen, and then decide if it truly right or wrong for you.
I think one of the reasons that people stay in abusive relationships is because at first everything seemed sooooooo perfect, and then when we start to discover they are not, we fight it, resist it, sweep it under the rug. Anything we can do so our perfect image of our relationship is not shattered.
But like the good Dr. says, it is not a perfect world and we have to deal with that. The other option is to sweep it under the rug, to ignore reality. What a better place to learn to deal with our own issues, than the safety of these boards. What a great place to learn that there are many people out there who will judge you and perhaps condemn you.
I think the boards and the posters are a pretty good cross-section of what people are feeling out there. And if Sherri feels the way she does about the boards, perhaps that means she is becoming more aware of what bothers her and she is changing that in her life. Good for her!
These are good issues to raise, Sherri. I agree that the best kind of post is one that reflects the seeker's experience ("something like this happened to me too")--which provides validation and empathy--and better still, can add advice and encouragement in the form "this is how I got out of it; this is what worked for me." And there are certainly better and worse ways to phrase things, especially from the viewpoint of the "I."
By "we," I'm guessing you mean the engulfing "we" (a cousin of the royal "We"), as in "We don't want to take any risks, do we?" The tag question, if present, may pretend to offer an opening for disagreement while in fact serving to manipulate another into agreeing so as to avoid isolation. Possible response in either case: "Maybe you don't, but I do!" ;)
Looking through some of the comments pages, I see plenty of "you-statements," plus a lot of advice couched in imperative voice: "Do this; do that"; not to mention general assertions as opposed to personal experiences.
There are some outright personal attacks as well, which are usually regrettable; as opposed to differences of opinion, which are another matter. Still, I tell myself it is a verbal abuse site, after all; wouldn't I expect some verbal abuse on it? :)
Yet it doesn't always boil down to the structure of language. We--or "I," since you prefer, :) though it's still true for everyone--can speak honestly and only of myself; or I can disguise criticism as an "I-statement," such as "I've always found that when people do things like this to me"--as someone else has just said they're doing--"they're only trying to control me." I can make "you-statements" that are supportive ("You must be having a difficult time right now") or accusing ("You must be doing something to make her so angry"). In the imperative as well, I don't have to sound dictatorial or rude ("Get lost, Buster!"); I can sound encouraging ("Do go after that job") or caring ("Look after yourself"). I can do the same within any kind of statement, or question.
What about the wisdom of the advice, a crucial issue? Are "we"--and I do mean most if not all of us who have posted here as guests--trained in this field? Surely not. If we make an assertion, is it true? If we draw an inference, is it probable? Above all, are we genuinely being helpful? The best I can say is "I hope so."
Yet it's not just the difficulty of preventing a few hurtful, or misleading, or for that matter off-topic posts on an open board. The way I see it, it's Hobson's choice. Many people come here seeking support; I dare say that in any one instance, most of the others haven't been in exactly the same place, and often nowhere like it at all. What can one say without a similar personal experience? "I'm so sorry to hear that; it must be awful for you." "Good luck!" All right, there's no harm in that; any voice of friendship is better than none. But this doesn't mean others haven't known someone else who's been in that same place--or maybe they can add something from the possible perspective of the seeker's wife or husband--or they've heard or thought of something that might be helpful--or maybe the very reason they've never been in that place is that they learned how to avoid it beforehand. So they--and you--may have something else to offer.
Is what is offered "correct," or more to the point, helpful? Not always, I know. Yet even if posts were limited to what I've called "the best kind," there's still no guarantee that some of those wouldn't be discouraging, or misleading, or unhelpful in some other way--if only because what works for one person or situation may not work for another. And if others just shut up in most instances, there might hardly be a board at all! That's the dilemma.
Still, I'd venture to say that most of the "advice," wrongheaded as it may be on occasion, does in the aggregate veer closer toward Wisdom, :) on the general grounds that a dozen heads are usually better than two or three. The bottom line I see is that in spite of all the "you-" and "we-statements," directiveness, amateur and armchair psychology, accusations and judgments, hostile posts and all, most of the seekers have said they found it all truly helpful.
So I'm sorry if you've felt this was counterproductive for you at times, Sherri. In the end, we--and I do mean all of us--can only do our best to follow reasonable guidelines. Now I've noticed a few people identifying as abusers, or only suspected of it, being set upon by a miniature lynch mob--part of the judgmentalism you mean, I expect--which is to say, a problem for some is opposition. In contrast, a problem I understand you to be describing from the other, "codependent" end of the spectrum is being "seduced" into behaving *too* similarly to others when among them. Unlike opposition, that's not so obvious. There's always another side! :) So thanks for the opportunity to learn that.
If you feel that advice-giving, or "telling people what to do," is a problem, as one form of "controlling behavior," I can only say that I see the issue of "controlling behaviors" a little differently. That's to say, while some behaviors are clearly worse than others, I don't see a real dichotomy between behaviors that are "controlling" or "not controlling"--only more or less influential in various ways. And we influence people all the time; we can't avoid it. So to me, what makes a behavior "controlling" or otherwise is not so much its nature seen in isolation, but whether it's justified in context, or more generally, whether it's part of a fair exchange. It's all a matter of balance. And what's wrong with "controlling behaviors" from the controller's perspective is not that they're "powerful": quite the reverse. They're self-defeating, whether now or later, by inciting backlash against the controller from the victim who has lost out.
Every time we do something, we--and I do mean "we," not the royal "we," but the human "we," all of us--get something out of it, however obscure that may be to us at times. For instance, if I do something solely "for" another person, entirely at my expense, that could be because *I* would otherwise feel bad *about* them--or "guilty"--or for many other reasons, including pleasure in expressing what Evans called "Personal Power." Our identities are still separate. So whatever we do, we can only ask ourselves "Will the other person get something out of it too?" If they don't, and they end up the loser, that destroys the balance, and we become "controlling"--more so when there's a pattern of it. One good reason to say something is that we genuinely believe it will help someone. A worse reason (usually) to say something is simply to vent anger *at* someone at their expense.
So it could pay to ask ourselves questions like "What is the other person really getting out of what I'm saying?" and separately, "Why am I saying it, and what am I really getting out of doing so?" And maybe other questions like "How would I feel if my advice were useless, or even harmful--or if it were good and the other person rejected it anyway--or for that matter if I never offered it at all?"
The issue of balance crops up in other contexts as well, not just between two people. If we give advice, do we also listen, acknowledge, and accept influence in return? If we have to criticize, do we mainly praise and encourage? But a relevant example here is "If we validate and support, do we also question and challenge?" Now challenge can be harmful rather than helpful to someone who's already beaten down or in a low state of awareness. If somebody arrives here as a victim, say, I'd think the last thing they need is to be insulted or accused outright of causing all their own misery, which only victimizes them all over again. That's the bad side.
At some stage though, challenge must be helpful; it gives practice and confidence at learning to deal with it. This is why I describe an angry or hostile post as "usually" worse or regrettable; but not necessarily so in its effect. An example comes to mind: "The sociopath is starting to bore me." The "sociopath" in question not only took this in stride, but took pride in his own ability to do so. To him it was a measure of his progress in handling anger, even if "the anonymous angry person didn't intend to contribute." And that's the good side.
I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Irene's comment on that: "P.S. You have no way of knowing whether or not they intended to contribute." No, and I don't either. How we interpret people's intentions is all a matter of probabilities; though the likelihood in my mind is that the angry person didn't intend to contribute in the way they did! But that doesn't matter; though we can't control what others do, we can choose how we process it. It's what (if anything) we get out of it that counts to us, and we do have control over that.
So I will say, Sherri, that if some of the posts have been pushing you (and others) in the wrong direction, I'd prefer that not to happen. At the same time, congratulations on being *aware* of the effect they're having, and pointing it out to others. As long as you know that, it's easier to assert your identity by resisting doing the same.
I believe these posts come from people who are begging to be noticed. We all want attention. Maybe this is their way of trying to get attention.
Maybe these people think they don't count, so they say "we" and "you", because they are afraid of being ignored if they just say I.
By the way, if Sis happens to read this, thanks for all your nice words! It really helped!
Hi Sherri, This is the person who posted to Steve asking that he consider whether the abuse was as one sided as it sounded in his letter. I don;t know if you have a problem with that post - it seemed to cause some discussion/dissent. The one thing I can say is that I was posting from My Experience and tried to present the suggestion in a kind way (I think). In fact, reflections on my own experience are all I have to offer, and they may or or may not apply to or be helpful to anyone else. What I am imagining some may suggest is "Keep your mouth shut if you can't be positive." ? OK
Well, at times it seems even *I* posts are determined to be annoying by some. One person on a list asked me how I left my abuser. I explained that after four years of abuse, I decided I would bring to his attention his abusive behavior, invite him to go to counseling, and if nothing altered I was out of there within one year. I set a time frame and was sticking to it, even though it meant I would be homeless.
To which I received a response akin to, "Well, good for YOU, but it's not that easy for the rest of us," lol. Oh, well.
Then someone asked for advice on something so I responded, "Well, if I was in that situation I think I would try..."
To which yet another person replied, "You know, just because someone asks for advice doesn't mean they necessarily want it. You have to know when to not give it anyway." Oh, dear.
I finally concluded that it can depend on the list you are on, but in general no matter who you are or how you say something there will ALWAYS be someone who does not like it.
There was a clique on one list in which all they wanted to hear was that they were right no matter what. If someone said, "I threw a book at my abuser and called him an a******!" And I responded, "Well, I did that, too, once but in hindsight I feel it is wrong." They would fly off on it.
They only wanted people to say, "Good for you!" Kind of thing. I can't participate like that, I feel like a hypocrite if I do. So, I realized basically I can say nothing at all in those type of discussions. When I did speak up there was a lynch mob effect as someone else here mentioned.
My personal opinion overall is that if people come to a place and ask for input they should be prepared for honesty and be prepared that they might not like some of the things they hear.
Of course, some advice is really unsound, some is overtly critical or hostile, some is so-so, and some is really inspirational and beneficial. The more a person is exposed to feedback from others I would assume the more options they have to choose from. At the least, it can broaden their perception.