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Postcard 5

meerajay's picture

Reading All About Love by bell hooks has gotten me thinking so much about the ways in which lies and deception playing into our daily relationships, have sullied the love that we are supposed to be feeling. There was so much there about how we have been schooled on lying as children, have learned to lie in order to escape punishment (34). Telling the truth causes pain, so we learn to lie for others. We believe, wrongly, that love is about lying to protect those we love, and this is something that is especially ingrained in us, as women, since we are socialized to be caring toward others, to put others' feelings over our own survival and healing. This has applied so much to my own life; so many times, I have created a new framework of myself, a new person entirely, to be a kind of person supposedly worthy of love. Meanwhile, men use lying to justify violence:

"Estrangement from feelings makes it easier for men to lie because they are often in a trance state, utilizing survival strategies of asserting manhood that they learned as boys. This inability to connect with others carries with it an inability to assume responsibility for causing pain. This denial is most evident in cases where men seek to justify extreme violence toward those less powerful, usually women, by suggesting they are the ones who are really victimized by females" (39)

This is reminding me of the UC Santa Barbara shooting by Elliot Rodger, who justified the killings by saying that he had been victimized by women in the past. Rodger used violence as a way to reaffirm his manhood. Though he killed more men than women, it was still driven entirely by misogyny because he was killing men who "took" the women that he felt entitled to. Essentially, this was caused by lying, which allowed him to take a victim's role.

And it can go even further than that - I am thinking about victims of emotional abuse, people who go into relationships where their pain is devalued and their abuser is allowed to play the emotional victim in a situation. What does it mean when someone has to lie, daily, about their pain and create a new personain order to free themselves from the guilt of hurting someone? How does that lie seep into your bones, make you ito a shadow of someone else? There are many different kinds, many different levels of emotional abuse, and the inability to assume responsibility for causing another person pain is a kind of emotional abuse, especially when the abused is highly sensitive, empathetic of their abuser's feelings. I'm thinking about how this might play out in the many different kind of love roles and relationships that we assume - romantic, familial, friendly. How do you build love while still retaining your personhood in a relationship?


alesnick's picture

while still retaining your personhood in a relationship?" I appreciate this question very much.  It makes me want to think about how this happens in different contexts ranging from intimate to "professional" to relationships with people one doesn't even know. Also reminded of Adrienne Rich's "Women and Honor, Some Notes on Lying" (which I haven't read in a while) and also of lines from LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness: "But it was from the differences between us, not from the affinities and likenesses, that the love came; and it was itself the bridge, the only bridge, across what divided us."