Facebook Novels and Other Sins

One of the hardest things for me to remember is that not everyone sees the world the way I do, even when we seemingly agree about perspectives. Despite having similar views to many people, that doesn’t mean that we come to the same conclusions in the same way or for the same reasons. And even though I am constantly working hard at making sure that my moral compass points the right way, that does NOT mean that my way is The Right Way to do things.

Spinning Moral Compass

When I was a teenager, perhaps normally so, I took pride in being rebellious, different, and going against the current. Growing up and being in my 20’s, going against the current became more about feeling special, and I used everything from my one-of-a-kind name to my mixed heritage (neither things I had control over) as proof that I was special. I even wrote a book about it. Years later, when I read that book, I couldn’t believe how glaringly obvious my desire to be special was sprawled out across this book for the world to see. I had painted myself naked for everyone to read, and there was no hiding from my ultimate desire. I wanted to be seen as special by everyone who met me.

After studying psychology and understanding other people’s desire to be special as well, I learned something. My desire to be special meant I wanted to be one-of-a-kind so I would be hard to let go of. By being rare, it meant people wouldn’t just abandon me. I wanted to be worthy of love, and impossible to abandon, and I attributed that to being “special”. It all came down to being immune to being abandoned. (Spoiler alert: this is impossible.)

Curating a unique personality will not guarantee that people will not abandon you. Eventually, with a bit more understanding of this, my attempt to be special fell into the background, and it was replaced instead with the desire to be seen, heard, and understood. I was fine with not being unique if it meant I was understood. I would let go of being one-of-a-kind if it meant I was loved. So rather than be different, I chose to be Good.

However what does being Good even mean? Some people may find their answer in a bible, or a book written by a God they believe in. What happens when you follow no dogmas and your desire to be Good is mostly about being free and safe along with the community?

Every time I tried to come up with any form of “guideline” for myself I was met with discrepancies. For example, do I think killing is bad? Yes. Do I think Nazis getting killed is bad? The lines are a little foggier there.

Murder: bad, murdering Nazis: ennnh….

So to no one’s surprise, it turns out I’m not all Good, and the more dystopian sci-fi TV shows I watch, the more I think even the most righteous hero could end up making shady decisions when under pressure and trying to do “what’s best”. In other words, you will be hard pressed to find any one person be made up of pure evil or pure good. All of the best characters in books, TV, and film are layered, but that complicates things when you are faced with an actual dictator you want to hate, or when your favorite feminist ends up saying some extremely problematic things. I could perhaps say that I am “better” than a dictator in charge of murdering thousands of people, but was I “better” than a feminist activist who had done more good in her life than I ever had, who just so happened to also have a bigger platform from which to mess up?

It’s foggy.

Perhaps the most logical thing to do is to accept that we are all a little shitty sometimes. We all tend to mess up, make the wrong decision, or be a little (or very) toxic at some point. It doesn’t make us inherently Bad, it just means we are humans, hopefully evolving, and hopefully doing the best we can.

Preaching To The Choir

One of the final lessons they taught us at the University of Santa Monica when we were about to graduate was to avoid falling into Holy Man Syndrome. This meant to not go around preaching to people acting like we were somehow better than them. I tried to keep this constantly in mind, but looking back on the tone I’ve taken with loved ones, the paragraphs upon paragraphs I catch myself writing, I know I have fallen in the trap of acting holier than thou with people around me. It’s no that I think it’s better, it’s that I have spent so much time thinking about things, (what you might call over-analyzing) that I’ve ended up with a lot of next-level questions and answers and I want to be challenged and I want the conversation to move on and I’m impatient and so I want others around me to be AT LEAST on the same page as I am when it comes to topics. So I preach, and I write, and I mansplain, (men are notorious for it but everyone does it) and I write retaliate and challenge and go on and on and on trying to get people to see things from where I’m coming from. That way if they DO retaliate, they do so from a point I hadn’t thought about before, allowing me to move forward in my understanding of things instead of backwards.

When people use old arguments that have already been discussed over and over again, (for example why saying “men are trash” is actually not a double standard, and why saying “all lives matter” is actually racist) then I get impatient with the point being given. My hope is not to be “right”, and prove the person “wrong”, what I am hoping for is actually for us both to agree for the bigger picture. That moral compass I was talking about? I want it to be pointing the same direction for us both.

Logical Fallacies
That being said, I tend to get in my feelings when people push back in ways that trigger my defense mechanism if they disagree and word things to make me feel stupid, invalidated, or attacked. It becomes more about proving the person wrong than it does sticking to the facts and the point at hand. After “refusing” to get into discussions on Facebook with people voicing their opinion on a matter that is super delicate, I find myself writing novels upon novels trying to explain to people why they’re wrong instead of asking myself, “Do I want to be right or do I want to move the conversation forward?” And try to keep it civil while I follow my intention forward. I don’t always achieve this, however. In fact, most of the time, I tend to have a knee-jerk reaction. There’s a number of ways I stray away from the topic using logical fallacies and a few cognitive biases that put a blindfold over my eyes.

Some examples of the logical fallacies I commit are:

  1. Personal Incredulity – I try very hard to be aware of this one, and I consider myself to be better at catching myself, but it’s still one of the quickest fallacies to show up for me.
  2. Appeal to Nature – I have absolutely used this as a way to turn my nose towards certain things that didn’t “sound” natural to me. Everything has a chemical compound, however, and refusing to acknowledge technological advances is refusing to accept human evolution as nature.
  3. The Texas Sharpshooter – Woof. This one is a popular one not only for myself, but for others trying to make their point. In the internet era and age of misinformation, you can find a website that supports absolutely any view you have; from vaccines being horrible to vaccines being the best thing. I have absolutely been known to cherry pick information and it serves no one. I want to be knowledgeable, not right. Cherry Picking does not help me move the conversation forward, only my ego.
  4. Appeal to Emotion – Honestly probably one of the most manipulative tactics I have used in discussions. But again, this only helps me look good instead of holding space for a conversation that helps the community.

While I have definitely applied some of the other ones, I think these tend to be the ones I do the most, but I try to repeatedly go back to the fallacies to remind myself of what the goalpost always is: spread knowledge, not ego.

The harder ones to catch are cognitive biases.

As I scrolled through the different biases I felt like every single one applied to all humans, or at the very least to me. It made me question how we theorize, judge, and/or conclude. How can we come to terms with something if we have so many ways to be biased?

The biggest one for me? I would have to say is the curse of knowledge. This is what I wrote at the very beginning of the blog. We tend to assume others are as we are and to assume others know what we know. I am absolutely guilty of this, and have made a huge point to try to remember how different reference points can be a privilege. For example, growing up Latinx and as a woman, I have specific knowledge and reference points of what prejudice and sexism can look like in my culture. While it isn’t a privilege to be preyed on for your assumed gender, the understanding, awareness, and ability to conceptualize that awareness is a privilege. To get upset with, say, a Chinese cis-man for not understanding the sexism I’ve undergone isn’t exactly fair. Even more removed, most of the things I know aren’t based on my own experience but from what I’ve heard, read, seen, and understood as truth from others. Like the saying goes, “no one was born woke”. If I have the emotional bandwidth to give people a benefit of a doubt, and the mental capacity to explain rather than judge, it is more helpful and compassionate to remember that I too needed things explained to me and that I too have been (and will probably continue to be) problematic at one moment or another.

If I do not have the ability to stay in a tense discussion, then I can kindly set up boundaries, as it is not my inherent responsibility to exhaust myself past capacity for the sake of others. Rest is power.

So there it is, a prime example of the ways in which I screw up constantly and stray away from my main goal by getting in my feels and let my defense mechanism speak for me. But you know what? That’s ok. I’m human, and so long as I get to be aware of this I also get to do differently next time. There are so many other conversations to be had, and so many moments that I’ve nailed the discussion. I encourage you to share with me your “favorite” biases and fallacies. Let us celebrate our imperfections and the ability and desire to do better. Let us show ourselves compassion and rejoice in our growth. Shame won’t end the patriarchy, self-accountability will.

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It’s Not Me, It’s You

Throughout the infinite process of holding myself accountable, I have come across separate instances where “de-centering one’s self” is crucial.

You’ve heard the old adage, “the world doesn’t revolve around you”. Except when we are doing inner work, it’s hard to keep this in mind since it feels like it does. How do we not make things about us when we are doing inner work?

Karen is a Four Letter Word

Lately we’ve been seeing a lot of the Karen memes going around, which are essentially white women being held accountable for violent acts of entitlement. Whether it’s refusing to wear a mask in the middle of a pandemic, purposefully coughing on someone, pulling a gun on a mother and her teen daughter, harassing people in their own lawn, or lying to the police, these acts all essentially stem from a deep sense of entitlement and white women making themselves the victims of situations they are causing.

Decentering ourselves takes emotional intelligence that understands that the world does not function within the narrative we tell ourselves.

In the instance of the White woman breaking down crying telling a cop that a calm Black man was harassing her (when the video clearly showed him kindly telling her to put a leash on her dog), she was using her place in society to have cops come and potentially kill this man who was thinking of everyone’s safety in the park. She had centered her comfort above the park rules, and the safety of other dogs and human beings. Not only that, but she placed this Black man in immediate danger given the history of police brutality in the United States.

Oppression Olympics

Recently I was watching Grown*ish with my partner and it was an episode about the creation of safe spaces. There was a scene where the college kids got into a decent match of Oppression Olympics.

Oppression Olympics” refers to arguments in which inequalities faced by a group are dismissed for being considered less important than those faced by another group. While it was originally used inside feminist circles to address race-related grievances within the feminist movement, the term has been used online to mock those who seek approval or praise for being more disadvantaged than others.” – From website Knowyourmeme.com

It started with a young Black man talking to a young White Latina who wanted a safe space for being conservative. Eventually, the Jewish White young woman stepped in to talk about how bad the Jews had it during the Holocaust, to which the Black twins replied with “slavery.”

Trying to center ourselves as a victim when being held accountable for an act against another person, is furthering the damage we initially caused. It’s sprinkling salt on the wound.

When someone is held accountable for their action, it essentially is about curating a space where people feel heard. If we continue to make everything about us, however, believing that we are the victims, then we will ignore the many ways in which we are actually being the oppressor.

In my own community of Latinx people, White Latinxs many times want to talk about how we are all mixed, and how we “can’t be white” because we’re all mixed with Brown, while simultaneously ignoring our Afro-Latinx siblings. White Latinxs are known to deny we have White Privilege, culturally appropriating Afro-Latinx culture, and often shy away from conversations regarding the classism and colorism that it rampant in our culture. Latinxs have a lot to deal with as a culture, but denying our White privilege helps no one.

I follow Jewish pages to further expand my perspective, and the comment section is often filled with White passing Jewish folk engaging in oppression Olympics. Sometimes there will be the White Jews who gets it and steps in to explain how recognizing White Privilege doesn’t somehow eradicate the fact that Jews still have to deal with antisemitism. Of course Jewish people experience a disgusting form of oppression, but trying to constantly be placed in a role of “I, too, am a victim” rejects the fact that there is a way that “White-Passing” Jews are still benefiting from a system that oppresses Black folk which includes Black and Brown Jews.

Poor or disabled White people often want to say “I haven’t experienced White privilege” because they do not understand what White Privilege actually means, and believe it means hand outs for simply being White. (Which, let’s be real, sometimes it does.)

People with mental illnesses or trauma often blame their toxic form of being on their mental illness. They blame hurtful behavior on their trauma expecting this to excuse them from having to do any of the work, ignoring the fact that having trauma doesn’t automatically erase accountability. By constantly looking to place ourselves as the victim, we allow ourselves to inevitably also oppress others by taking up space that we don’t actually need.

Other religions and other classes and other people of all types all have their form of wanting to push away from privilege, replacing the blame with victimhood in a manipulative tactic to avoid accountability.

Being A White Savior

On the other side of the spectrum, sometimes we want to over-correct this form of self-accountability, and instead strive to become a savior. This is my own personal weak spot in how I center myself in other peoples’ lives.

One way this has shown up is that I have centered myself in the lives of people of color as someone who somehow needs to (and can) “save” them. It’s very hard to see this within ourselves especially when it’s combined with genuinely wanting to do good. Just like humans are (most of the time) not simply bad or good but rather nuanced layers of problematic behaviors and successfully helpful attitudes, I have gotten into moments in relationships with friends or strangers where I’m bordering on savior mentality while trying to be genuinely helpful. Just because we know the lesson, doesn’t mean we are always applying it. It takes actively checking in and unlearning. Unfortunately, I still slip up and center myself as the savior of other people which is grounds for codependency but when done in a relationship with a person of color, is also a form of racism.

On the flipside of the same coin, I also can come off being Saviory with my white friends and family, wanting to correct their own problematic behavior and sometimes coming off as arrogant. This results in the person feeling like I am virtue signaling, or putting them in some kind of purity test situation where I get to sit on a soap box looking down at them. Due to my own flawed behavior, I am continuously training myself to identify logical fallacies and cognitive biases while maintaining the message and who my audience is. It is not about me, it is not about them, it is about the greater good and both of us being catalysts to each other for greater good. This does not make me a better person.

Despite my best intentions, however, I sometimes still slip up. And even if I don’t, people are still prone to getting defensive. This is when it is especially important to understand when it is about me, and when it is not. I must learn to humbly accept when I have interfered with the message, and when I am not transmitting the message despite every curated attempt.

The Heart Of The Matter

What it comes down to is our purpose and if we intend on actively being compassionate and unlearning hurtful behavior. If our truest intention is to allow ourselves the room for error out of self-love and compassion, then we should keep ourselves surrounded by people who take the time and mental energy to call us in. We should realize that while the change is about us, the bigger picture isn’t. It’s about what role we personally play in a society, and how it all engages together. We can’t just say we’re willing to do it, we have to actively see ourselves being held accountable, either by a trusted professional, by our friends and chosen family, or by the media of our choice. There’s many ways in which to see how we are proven wrong and how even though our choices are about us, thinking of others creates an abundance of space and safety for everyone. It’s all about all of us together.

Read more about decentering yourself here.
A meditation to help you decenter the “Self”.
Read more about what Oppression Olympics are here and here.
Check out Rachel Cargle and Layla Saad to learn more on racism and being a good human being.

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Knee-Jerk Reactions Keep Us Kicking Each Other In The Face

I grew up being told I was dramatic, sensitive, emotional, and a plethora of other words meant to gaslight me into feeling like my emotions weren’t valid. Add an “over-” in front of any those words for extra flare, and that was one of the number one descriptors that I saw myself as. Too “emotional” to be seen as logical. Too “emotional” to be seen as strong. Due to being told that I was too emotional, I took it upon myself to learn all the ways in which this might be true so that I could stop being “wrong.” What I learned, instead, is that being incredibly data-driven with your logic isn’t helpful, and letting your emotions completely command your reactions is also not helpful. In both ways, we tend to miss one thing or another.

Emotional Intelligence and Rationale

The popular notion that emotional = illogical is a harmful rhetoric that gaslights everyone. It keeps people from taking women seriously, and bullies men into not showing their emotions. I have strongly fought against the notion that emotions are not to be taken seriously. On the same side of that coin are the people who believe that the colder and more data-driven you are, the smarter and more logical you are. I am strongly opposed to this perspective since most humans are complete individuals with many sides where emotions must be taken into account when collecting data. The classic example of our fear-based response to be able to lift a car off of a child despite it not being something we could “normally” do is my quick case in point. We do not know what we are capable of until we are put in said situation. We have our own blind spots, conditioning, self-denial and other aspects that make it so that we can’t realistically make the argument that emotions are an invalid form of intelligence. Thus, being sensitive to these emotions and that of others is a form of awareness that any human being considering themselves to be intelligent should take pride in developing, rather than scoffing, ignoring, or rolling their eyes at it.

Mental Illness as a Scapegoat
Before I was ever diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or ADHD, I was resistant to a formal analysis because part of me was afraid I’d use it as an excuse to under-achieve. Honestly, the complete opposite happened. Once I was examined and my mental state was discussed by a professional, I felt validated more than anything else. I remember him saying, “I’m surprised it’s taken this long for you to be diagnosed, but I believe your ability to adapt has made it possible for you to hide a lot of these things from yourself.” It was reassuring, and I felt like I didn’t have to feel guilty for the episodes of deep sorrow and hopelessness that I’d get while feeling like “I had no reason to feel sad”. Instead of my mental illnesses becoming an excuse for me to under-achieve, they had given me a reason to become more aware. I wanted to have as much understanding of my mind as possible, and in any way that I could, hack it for my own benefit. Because of this, I have developed a keen sense of awareness, which combined with academic studies and personal experience, have allowed me to embrace emotional intelligence through radical compassion and the courage of vulnerability.

Knee-Jerk Reactions and Tone Policing
Knee-Jerk reactions usually stem from wanting to defend ourselves. I became someone that had a lot of knee-jerk reactions due to the constant need for people to tone-police me. There’s a phenomenal comic about tone-policing that can be found here, but the key factor that I learned about it was that while I was being told to “calm down” one way or another, my emotion behind the argument was actually central to the issue being discussed. Once I understood this, I decided I was allowed to be emotional about topics, and therefore allowed to be defensive.

And sure, I am absolutely allowed to be defensive and emotional. But did I also want to be to be heard? Unfortunately, no matter how valid, valuable, justified, or righteous my emotion, many times a defensive reaction will come off to sensitive people as an attack, causing them to also be defensive. If I wanted to use my privilege to have discussions with people, understand their perspective, or share knowledge and education, then I was going to have to learn to not go on the defensive right away.

That doesn’t mean not protecting myself, which is imperative. It just meant changing my tactic into one that would get me heard. Sometimes, we just don’t have the means or the space to be able to pull away and not get defensive because other people are attacking us and hurting us with their words and actions. But if I could emotionally afford to, I wanted to learn to listen to people and create a space for them, if I felt like they showed willingness and open-mindedness. This isn’t to say that it is the responsibility of those being oppressed to create a space for those doing the oppressing. This is to say that those of us that have the privilege and opportunity, have the responsibility to learn to gather our feelings the best that we can and occupy the spaces that we are afforded with firm compassion and never-ending evolving tactics so as to make it safer for our POC, queer, disabled and other marginalized comrades. As the comic explains, the need for emotion is necessary, and a discussion devoid or emotional intelligence is lacking realistic layers to what the human condition needs and is capable of.

Emotional Logic As Strategy

There are those of us who would pretend that remaining stoic, uncaring, or to borrow a Mexican saying, “vale-madrista” (unphased by anything) is somehow “cool” or more valuable than caring and including emotion in their perspective, are actually following an obsolete and chauvinist mentality that is one of the most harmful aspects of limited and toxic masculinity today. Telling men to remain “cool and collected” at all times and that not showing emotion is being “strong” is going against our very human nature and lacking an open and evolving mind. In other words, it’s lacking emotional maturity.

And on the other hand, acting with pure, raw, unfiltered emotion may also result in bringing about a similar reaction. If we can learn to combine emotional logic to discussions, that’s where we can truly shine as whole, creative, perceptive, and resourceful individuals.

So while I am an incredibly emotional individual that lives with depression and anxiety, have overwhelming awareness of the state of the world, cares enormously for humans and their troubles, and wears their heart on their sleeve, that has also led me to being a logical, astute, and perceptive human that should and wants to be capable of always being better about bringing in my emotions to better serve not only myself, but my community.

And if I ever let my emotions get the best of me, I can strive to be aware of it, call myself in with love and compassion, and reevaluate a strategy to get my message across.

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