We choose relational fuckery when we want to avoid feelings or responsibility, defend our certainty, or control people & outcomes.
In punitive cultures and hierarchies of worthiness and contempt, we learn to relate in ways that give us an illusion of safety and worthiness, but rarely bring us closer to the authenticity, integrity, relational joy, intimacy, and belonging we really want in our most important relationships.
Here are a few of the things we do…
…to avoid responsibility and feelings: Blame people and situations for our feelings, attitudes, beliefs, actions, and words • Pretend not to know what is true for ourselves • Withdraw physically or emotionally • Refuse to communicate, acknowledge our impact, or apologize • Distract ourselves with projects, activities, substances, or manufactured emergencies • Create drama • Shun, ridicule, shame, or diminish others • Reject our integrity and inner knowing in favor of advice, rules, and instruction from friends, family, experts, texts, or other external authorities
…to defend our certainty (the ideas we hold about ourselves, others, and the world): Lie to ourselves and others • Argue (get defensive) out of a need to prove we’re right or good • Dismiss others’ lived experiences or our own • Automatically assume others are wrong • Require evidence, proof, or credentials before we will entertain others’ perspectives • Hold binary (either/or) rules for what is possible or acceptable
…to attempt to control people or outcomes: Nag • Obstruct • Bully • Belittle, diminish, or shame ourselves or others • Manipulate • Punish and reward ourselves or others to influence behavior or performance • Abuse our own privilege or apply social pressure • Give ultimatums • Threaten • Demand • Retaliate • Behave or speak violently or cruelly (to ourselves or others) • Push past our own boundaries, or ignore or attempt to violate another’s
I don’t highlight our relational fuckery to shame us. None of us chose to be born and socialized into behaving in funky ways to feel safety and belonging. We came by it honestly. The good news is we learned it, and we can learn other ways of being in our relationships if the fuckery isn’t getting us the joyful connection we want… but to make a different decision, we have acknowledge what we’re up to now.
What are some of your go-to relational fuckery strategies when you’re feeling hurt or uncomfortable, when you’re not getting what you want, or when you’re afraid you’re needs won’t be met?
Where do your least effective relational strategies align with some of the values held by punitive cultures of supremacy, dominance, and contempt (white supremacy*, patriarchy, capitalism, etc.)?
(*Google Tema Okun’s article, “White Supremacy Culture,” for a deeper dive.)