Archives for posts with tag: don’t feed the trolls

You’re not a fish, but for real; don’t “take the bait”, online or in life. Breathe through the moment. Let it go. I know, I know, easier said sometimes, and there are definitely verbs involved. It’s so hard to let go of that urge to “correct a misconception”, to push back on an obvious falsehood, to “set things straight” when we feel wronged, played, or manipulated. The reaction, though? Following through on that urge? Yeah – that’s generally the entire point of baiting someone in the first place; getting a reaction.

Doesn’t matter if that troll is a loved one, a friend, a family member, a colleague, some random stranger in some unexpected moment sliced from a generally low-drama life, or even the person in the mirror. Doesn’t matter if the moment of provocation is online or “in real life”. Do not take the bait. You’re not a fish, so don’t become a meal. lol Don’t feed the trolls in your life and you will likely find they wander off to aggravate someone else. For real.

…Besides, just letting go that whole mess, include one’s own desire to be “right” in some specific moment, is a huge quality of life improvement, generally. šŸ˜€ It does take practice. Sometimes you may need to simply walk on from that entire relationship. That’s a thing, and trust me, it’s fine. Better than fine. Personal loyalties don’t need to become a lifestyle of self-sacrifice to benefit someone else’s emotional agenda at your expense. Treat others well, and also insist on being treated well, yourself.

To be clear, none of this is about our feelings – emotions are a very personal and subjective experience. You have yours. I have mine. That person over there has their own. None of it is subject to argument; we are each having our own experience. That said, emotions and thoughts are very different things, and the common habit of beginning sentences about thoughts with words about feelings is quite misleading. It’s a poor practice.

The content of our thinking may very well be subject to scrutiny, and we may quite reasonably be asked to reconsider it. It makes sense that our thoughts, once shared, will be dissected and analyzed, and discussed in the context of whatever shared understanding of reality is possible for human primates; we learn from each other. Behavior goes even a step further; not only are our actions subject to scrutiny, there are requirements that we behave within the boundaries of implicit and explicit social contracts, and we are responsible for, andĀ accountable for, our actions. Our behavior is a willful matter. Our behavior is built on choices and verbs. We aren’t free-falling through “accidents”, “mistakes”, and “happenings” – we’re making choices, and enacting our will. If you’ve done a thing once, and others have objected to it and alerted you that your behavior is not welcome, or that it is objectionable, and you do not change it, it’s no longer appropriate to say it was any sort of mistake, or in error; you are now acting deliberating to achieve that objectionable result intentionally – because you do know. The outcome has been demonstrated to be your intention, and saying you didn’t want that? It’s a lie. Ouch.

Don’t be a troll. Treat your loves well. Hell – just treat other people well, generally. Why would you not? No, I’m seriously asking you this – what possible reason could you have to deliberately treat others poorly that you think justifies that acceptably? (If the knee-jerk reaction is “well, because they…”, I have to wonder why you give that person so much power to undermine your progress toward being the human being you most want to be…? Then I’m going to back away slowly, and walk on. I have other work to do becoming the person I most want to be, myself.)

I’m over simplifying, I know. Some of those trolls in our lives are charming as hell when they aren’t trolling us or treating us poorly. Pretty promises. Pretty lies. Just as we extricate ourselves from their bullshit, they flash us a sincere looking smile, say something kind, give us something nice, or explain how sorry they are and how they didn’t mean it at all. Yeah… doesn’t change a thing, it’s a cycle of poor behavior. We know, don’t we, that the wheel continues to turn. Let go. Walk on. Allow them to be truly accountable for their actions, even to the point of losing your affection; their promises are not worth the real-life misery. Trolls are trolls. Do not compromise your values or your boundaries. Your choice to stay and feed the troll? Also not a mistake, once you know you’re doing it. Take better care of the human in the mirror, for fuck’s sake, this is your life. Live it well. Respect your own boundaries, yourself.

I finish off my coffee with a contented smile. It’s early. I woke well-rested but feeling a nagging anxiety in the background. I poke around my conscious experience for a moment or two, just checking in with myself when I notice the “anxiety” has lingered in the background. Is it the choice of music? No… it’s just arthritis pain; the headache isn’t as bad this morning, the arthritis is worse. lol The subtle shift in sensory experience specific to my pain feels a bit different, and I feel somewhat “anxious” because of it; it’s not really anxiety. It’s just pain. Well okay, I can deal with that. I change the playlist and head for my yoga mat. There are verbs involved.

…It’s a great time to begin again.

 

 

 

I look back on the weekend and find myself smiling in spite of notes of discord and discontent in life’s song. Learning to recognize the difference between emotional climate and emotional weather has been useful. šŸ™‚

I spent what felt like a deliciously long Sunday on leisurely self-care in the form of housekeeping, marveling at the quality of my time, having not spent the morning in a fury heading up the highway. The drive itself was leisurely and pleasant. I arrived home feeling more balanced and content to begin with, and I guess it makes sense that the day was therefore more easily a pleasant one.

Why do I find myself, even now, surprised when things work as intended? When a practice intended to improve emotional resilience does do that, why would I be amazed? Is it only because I fought so hard to achieve that result using means that could not be expected achieve it at all, and grew to believe it was therefore not achievable? We screw with our own thinking far too much for our general well-being, don’t we? That’s what I find myself thinking about this morning.

My thoughts began with a meme posted by a new friend. Some random obvious-seeming list of statements that bites at me and worms into my consciousness expecting my agreement – and since there is a list, it’s likely I may agree with one or more of the listed statements, but… why would I swallow a pill of unknown origins handed to me by a relative stranger, based on casual assumptions about the effects, and no real data or confirmation of what, precisely, is in that pill, and the effects will be?? I wouldn’t do that. I know not to do that. We do that with our thinking all the fucking time, though, without pausing to consider just how important our ability to reason clearly really is, and just how fragile the sanctity of our cognition and will really are. Memes that “go viral” could be understood, seriously, as “viral”, indeed. A kind of sickness. A kind of contagion. Maybe mild and mostly harmless, but some of them really dig down deep and foster a sort of cultural reprogramming – and it would be wise to really consider them in context, more fully, and insist that the content we shove into our brains to be included in our actual thinking and behavior be, at a minimum, factually accurate. Just saying; don’t take poison. Even well-meaning, or humorous, poison has consequences.

We become what we practice. We “know” what we hear repeated often (even if it is not, in fact, true). Don’t just trust me on this; do your homework. Test your assumptions regularly. Try hard to prove yourself wrong, regularly – because you are wrong, more often than you know.

Don’t share poison. Don’t take poison. Practice cognitive good hygiene and intellectual self-care with the same rigor, attention to detail, and concern for your health and well-being that you do with your physical care (do better, though).

Don’t feed the trolls.

Don’t take the bait.

Do the verbs.

Begin again.

 

This has been, so far, a very complicated weekend, emotionally. That’s neither good news, nor bad, it’s just damned peculiar and quite unexpected, although each time some challenge is met and passes by I find myself thinking “how could it not be so, all things considered?” Ā It’s quite uncomfortable nonetheless. SomeĀ of the difficulties that have come up [for me] have been catalyzed by my traveling partner’s presence, which is just… so not okay with me. Other difficult moments have been dropped on my experience by OPD (Other People’s Drama), which could be avoidable, when I see it coming. In all cases, it’s been incredibly precious to have my traveling partner here for support, encouragement, and love. Even the difficult bits that were more to do with him than not are significantly eased by his presence, although I am not easily able to appreciate it fully in some emotional moments. I’m glad he’s here.

Sharing the journey can help me navigate obstacles more easily.

Sharing the journey can help me navigate obstacles more easily.

It’s clear, after a couple days dealing with me, that I’ve “hit a bad patch of road” on this journey, and my partner is my lover, my friend, my ally, my buddy, my confidante… but one thing he is not? He’s not my therapist. He suggests, and I agree, that it’s a good time to make an appointment with my therapist to discuss some of life’s recent… “inclement weather”.

Yesterday, quite unexpectedly, a Facebook friend (and long-time historical associate, someone who once resided in my home briefly), unloaded a quantity of emotional poison in the comment(s) on a post. The post was an innocuous seeming political post – I’ve been working on taking a more positive approach, instead of locking step with alarmist negative campaigning and media frenzy – and I wasn’t actually expecting anything from it (no likes, comments, views); I seriously expected it would be disregarded in the storm of shock-value headlines being shared, and angry rants about what isn’t okay today. Instead, someone I have long considered quite dear to me – a friend – just went off on me in an angry verbal outburst that crossed over to multiple threads, took many comments to write, and was just… It was the verbal equivalent of assault, and I definitely felt attacked. Viciously. Over a positive Facebook post supporting a presidential candidate. Ugly stuff – the sort of things that end up making the news because women deal with so much of it on the internet. I haven’t had to wade through much of that kind of thing – this time it came from someone I thought a friend. I was immediately overcome with horror, sadness, panic, fear; my PTSD flared up hardcore. It happened on the way to the farmer’s market. It could have gone very badly indeed. It wasn’t pleasant as it was.

My path is mine to choose.

My path is mine to choose.

I did my best not to panic. I read enough to recognize, appreciate, and deal with the practical matters; I deleted the comments, first (don’t leave spoiled poison on food prep surfaces). Threats, crazed hateful accusations, intimidation… this is not the sort of stuff that ought be left lying around Facebook where people could be hurt by it. I blocked this person who had once been dear to me; it isn’t in my best interests to excuse, tolerate, or justify someone’s ill treatment of me, or to permit it to continue. I was still in shock, shaken and frightened. PTSD is a bad-ass, and doesn’t back down easily. I finished my shopping with little enthusiasm, and headed for the safety of home. On the way, I logged into each social media account I have, of all types, and blocked the person who attacked me. Mistreatment is a very good reason to end a friendship.

I got home and sought space and isolation, seeking emotional safety. My traveling partner and another friend were hanging out, and when I attempted to excuse myself, asked me gently to share, instead, and be supported. I did. I didn’t expect much; men don’t deal with some of this sort of thing as much, or in the same way, or as often on the internet – their haters use different language, or maybe it reaches them differently, or… no, hell, that just sounds sexist. The simplest truth, I felt wounded and alone, and I didn’t expect anyone would really understand, and that I’d be told to ‘get over it’ and ‘move on’, and told to minimize the impact, or calm myself without regard to my actual experience. I was so wrong! My partner and my friend listened, looking angry and appalled, using words asĀ first aid to help me past the worst of it. I cried. I let my hurts be soothed. It was very human, humane, kind, compassionate, loving – the sort of thing one expects from friends.

My traveling partner is right, though; in the space of such a short time, to hear from exes, to deal with internet haters and trolls, to ride out life’s storms in a dingy is a lot of work, and I could likely use a bit more help. I “need an oar” with which to row; it’s time to make an appointment with my therapist. My emotional experience, at least lately, is sufficiently volatile to evoke a question about hormones from my partner at one point; it’s an easy answer to “what the fuck?”, before menopause. There’s no shame in needing medical help, and having both a TBI and PTSD I am well aware that mental health care is “medical” in nature… so it’s off to the appropriate doctor I go. šŸ™‚

It’sĀ been quite wonderful to share the weekend with my traveling partner. To need him emotionally in some dark moment and actually have him right here is powerful. To want his company, and enjoy it without crossing town, is a treat. The pleasant moments have been by far the most plentiful.Ā I try not to deal with myself overly harshly that I am so human, havingĀ made that remarkably clear this weekend with my difficulty managing my emotional life skillfully. I pause to really appreciate my traveling partner’s insight, and new awareness that I’ve been treating myself poorly on a couple points – it isn’t necessary, nor an accurate reflection of “what it is”. Attachment issues again? Oh yeah. So human. šŸ™‚

Today starts well – most days do, actually, regardless what direction they go from there. I haven’t had enough sleep, and the sleep I got was restless and disturbed. I’ll probably crash early tonight, sometime after my traveling partner departs. Maybe not. I thought I was both tired and sleepy last night when I went to bed; I laid awake well past midnight, and woke at 4 am. I managed a nap until not-quite-six. The morning is cool and overcast. My head aches. I’ve no idea where the day will take me…but I know I am my own cartographer, having my own experience. I know I am not alone. šŸ™‚

On the internet, and in life, there are trolls waiting for us all. Sometimes their attacks feel very personal. Experience suggests these attacks areĀ rarely truly personal – how could they be without connection, and shared knowledge, and mutual understanding? Sometimes they definitely feel personal, though, and that’s where I get tripped up, myself.

I watched a couple of videos recently that areĀ on point with the direction I am headed on this topic, this morning. One, from the vlogbrothers on YouTube. The other from School of Life, also on YouTube. Both have some relevant observations regarding that experience of succumbing to troll attacks – whether online, or in life. The mechanism is so simple: we are presented with information to which we object, or take exception to, or find offending in some way – and we react to it. It might be a comment on Facebook (as happened this morning, in my own experience) – someone reads the comment, objects to the comment in some way; it becomes an exchange. I enjoy such exchanges when they are reasoned, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and add to the dialogue of the world on important topics. That’s far more rare than it could be, and often it turns out to be comment > offense taken > bait offered > bait taken > loss of adherence to rules of logical discourse and finally the whole thing is wrapped up with an exchange of hostilities and elevated negative emotions. How suck is that? In my own experience this morning, some faceless unknown other citizen of the world took an observation about a system as a direct personal attack on her own actions, being, and place in the world, and returned those feelings as a very specific personal attack on me. Not necessary, and foolishly I responded – which wasn’tĀ necessary, either.

Seriously. Just don't. :-)

Seriously. Just don’t. šŸ™‚

We are each so very human. Taking something as a personal attack happens – I find myself mired in that bullshit too easily, too often, relative to the enjoyment in life I am seeking. (To be fair, ‘at all‘ isĀ ‘too often’.) Once I recognize the pattern, I set clear boundaries and halt to the exchange and move on. It’s not personal – it’s can’t actually be personal between strangers, unless we choose to buy in, and accept that ourselves; we each have absolute control over whether we take something as a personal attack. I don’t have the time in this limited mortal life to feed trolls. (Are you nodding along?)

What if I am the troll? What if you are? If the dialogue is allowed to continue, it quickly becomes less clear who was the chicken, and who was the egg. With this in mind, I work to ensure I’m not out there baiting others on issues that are close to home, emotionally relevant, and potentially… personal. Ā As an individual, I tend to look at things – often – from the perspective of systems, rules, trends, and generalizations; this is one way I maintain perspective (not everything is actually about me). I sometimes forget that many people around me read every word from the perspective of “I, me, mine”. I am at risk of not recognizing that some small point I am making may feel very personal to someone else, perhaps because their perspective differs – or simply because they, themselves, as a practice take things very personallyĀ [by choice – because yeah, even here, there are verbs involved]. There is OPD around every corner – and some people dive into that pile with real enthusiasm; it is a choice. I can choose differently.

I am reminded this morning that there’s no need to feed the trolls. It is enough to be kind, to be clear about my thoughts and ideas, to be very specific and reasoned in presenting them, and to refrain from taking someone else’s words personally, or attacking their perspective (they are on their own journey). Listening deeply requires practice, and verbs, and a commitment to consideration and respect – if consideration and respect are not reciprocated, there is no need for further communication beyond a pleasant and polite word or two by way of departure. Argument achieves little, beyond stoking negative emotion. Civility is a lovely thing, and it goes beyond ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and carries the potential to allow us to be clearly heard – and to clearly hear others.

Realistically, being civil offers no assuranceĀ others will be civil in return, and that can feel scary sometimes; in a world that values and fosters violence over reason, being civil can feel a little bit like laying down one’s arms. That’s actually part of the point; it is necessary to choose whether we are building a culture of civility, or a culture of violence. Still more questions than answers here, but I definitely prefer a culture of civility, myself, wherein human beings are valued, treated with kindness, compassion and respect, and one in which individuals think critically, andĀ behave encouragingly – one in which growth is favored, nurtured, invested in – and appreciated. A culture of authenticity, comfortable personal accountability, and good-natured vulnerability. Am I dreaming? I don’t think so, myself – there are verbs involved, sure, and clear expectation-setting, and open communication is necessaryĀ – and practice. I practice every day. We become what we practice. The world we create is based on our choices, our actions – and our practices. If ‘practice makes perfect’, what are you choosing to perfect?

Today is a good day to choose civility. Today is a good day to walk away from hostility. Today is a good day to avoid taking things personally. Today is a good day to hear the hurt in another person’s anger, and to recognize how human they also are. Today is a good day for being and becoming, and offering an encouraging word to someone struggling. We’ve only got this one world to share, today is a good day to be civil about it.

I feel sure of quiet mornings. I don’t know why. I do know that serious disruption of a morning that starts well puts me at high risk of a crappy day; I don’t recover easily from having a quiet morning blown with OPD, emotional baggage, residual angst from unremembered nightmares, or anger. It has been awhile since I missed out on the simple joy of a quiet morning – and quiet mornings may be reason enough [for me] to live alone.

What is more representative of a quiet morning than my cup of coffee?

What is more representative of a quiet morning than my cup of coffee?

I’m not “a morning person”. I say that because it is true. It doesn’t show at all, here, alone on a quiet morning. I am content, and enjoying my coffee. A soft smile lingers on my face; it arrived while I showered, resulting from the innocent sensuous pleasure of water over skin. I feel good, and calm, and generally wrapped in a sense of well-being. How did I get here? Is that a question that needs an answer? There are choices and verbs involved. Some of them matter more than others. Emotional self-sufficiency – building it, and enjoying it – is an important piece of my puzzle, and I continue to work on it with the attention of a craftsman, and the commitment that results fromĀ aĀ passion for living well. I am not yet sufficiently skilled, or strong enough, to be so sure of myself and my choices when I live with someone I care for deeply, and reaching that place is one of my challenges – not necessarily to then live in shared domesticity, but rather simply because it is a healthyĀ goal that gives me more options.

One very important choice I have made along the way is to refuse to wallow in regret over small things. There are a lot of little things I enjoy greatly that I am choosing to do without day-to-day, in order to take care of me with greater skill over a longer time. I miss morning coffee with my traveling partner…I don’t miss arguments over small things, or emotional storms, that sometimes resulted because I just wasn’t yet quite awake enough to make sense, or to communicate easily, or needed a few more minutes for me. I could allow myself to focus on the regret and the loss, and sit idly by while resentment and hurt builds over time…I could take it very personally and blame him, her, them, the world, circumstances… oh the sorrow and the tears! It wouldĀ get ugly fast, and then… where would my quiet mornings be? I might wake every day feeling only the losses. That sounds like a very poor quality experience. I didn’t understand, years ago, how much of my experience – and my emotions themselves – is chosen by me. Ā It isn’t forced on me. There are verbs involved. It matters not one bit if I refuse to recognize my choices, or the power of my will (or my won’t) – they remain steadfastly what they are. The outcome is generally quite predictable if I allow myself a moment of clarity to consider circumstances calmly, with awareness, compassion, and non-judgement. Meditation has been a tool with great value for me where perspective, awareness, compassion, and non-judgement are concerned; just ‘thinking about’ things takes me very different places than meditation does.

Begin at the beginning, it's a very good starting point.

Begin at the beginning, it’s a very good starting point.

I’m not saying that I ignore things that hurt me – emotional or physical – doing soĀ tends to cause damage, and the wounds fester over time. Still, considering quiet mornings, why does acknowledging an experience I miss require me to raise hell with my traveling partner over it? What does my sense of loss actually Ā have to do with him, at all? My emotions are my own. Considering how much of my experience – and my emotions – are chosen, how does the hurt-angry-blame game even factor into it? Where is the utility? If drama and emotional weapons of mass distraction seem appropriate (or irresistible) in some moment, I will find that I have failed in some obvious and elementary way to clearly and effectively communicate some element of my values, my needs, or failed to share my expectations explicitly – or have callously forgotten that he has his own. That’s some bullshit right there, and it can be relatively easily managed, in the sense that there are choices to be made, that can be made – and it’s not that damned difficult from the practical perspective of making one better choice after another. (It does require practice, and your results may vary.) One of those choices [for me] is investing in the small victories, versus wallowing in the small losses; I enjoy quiet solitary mornings, smiling over my coffee, without regret, doubt, or insecurity – because quiet mornings please me so much, and nurture the best bits of who I am so well.

It's hard to go wrong with good basics...

It’s hard to go wrong with good basics…

This morning, I quickly backed out of Facebook after briefly checking it… my feed is filled with fear, hate, intolerance, doubt – did I mention fear and hate? Oh, and the anger. I don’t need it. Change is scary for people, and between marriage being legal, people who don’t want to see an antique flag with racist overtones flying over centers of government, and people in Oregon being allowed to smoke pot, there is a portion of the world just freaking right the fuck out over the terrible decline in society – I’d like to laugh, but frightened, cornered animals act aggressively, and there are few things more dangerous than feral humans acting out their aggressive impulses righteously in the name of their god, or ideology. That shit is damned scary. They are, however, human – we can’t just put them down, forcibly medicate them for their own good, or exile them for the good of society. When I have the energy for it, I do make a point of blocking all such relayed hate in my feed – regardless why it was shared, regardless which friend of mine that I know and care for may have shared it, I block the source (it’s easy to click ‘don’t show me stuff from ___’). Doing so certainly improves my feed over time, and I can’t be stopped from making the choice not to participate in hate. I even hope, in some small way, that perhaps I am ‘breaking the chain’ just by stopping more of it from reaching me; people who post hate often post hate regularly, people who post intolerance often post intolerance regularly, people who engage in trolling are often… trolls. Block. Experience improved.

A helpful practice, indeed.

A helpful practice, indeed.

Choice is a powerful tool. Making choices deliberately, with thought, with strategy, with commitment to my own values, unapologetically, frees my choices from the web of coincidence and happenstance; then the outcome is mine to enjoy, to be accountable for, to celebrate – and to change. I like that kind of power…the power to be. In circumstances where events are inflicted on me by others, I still have that power to choose, that power to be – because I can choose my reaction and choose to continue to live my own values. Viktor Frankl wrote a very important, rather depressing although enlightening book on the subject.

It’s a lovely quiet morning. Today is a good day to enjoy being and becoming, and to enjoy my power to choose – how vast and unlimited is that power?! Today is a good day to change the world.