the chicken or the egg
i attended my first Al-Anon meeting today. Well, technically, it was the second meeting in my life, but for simplicity we’ll just say this is the first. i’ll be getting into more detail about that experience later, but at some point in the meeting i had an epiphany. i think it might have been somewhere around reading the Bill of Rights (which i will repost later also) and it occurred to me:
if i have fundamental beliefs about myself that i do not have value, worth, rights, and so on, is it possible that i am actually creating the demand characteristics in my romantic relationships that facilitate unhealthy dynamics, such as emotional manipulation and coercion?
so let me back up a bit. a la Wikipedia:
“demand characteristics refers to an experimental artifact where participants form an interpretation of the experiment’s purpose and unconsciously change their behavior to fit that interpretation”
many times, researchers refer to demand characteristics in terms of their influence on socially desirable behavior. so, a participant in a psychology experiment suspects what the experimenter wants, and acts accordingly.
there is another example of demand characteristics that is a little more serious and macabre. in the early 1970s, a researcher named Zimbardo conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment. I found a pretty good 5 min video that sums it up here.
one major finding from this study was that situational factors can facilitate undesirable behaviors, such as learned helplessness and mental instability (such as in the prisoners in the experiment) or aggression and hostility (such as in the guards in the experiment).
so the question is, is this dynamic contributing to my repeat offenses (ha) to date coercive or emotionally manipulative people?
i’ve been mulling over some permutation of this question for a while now, because i wondered if things with XBF would have gone downhill as they did if i hadn’t been facing so much stress, trauma, depression, and emotional fragility. i would have been able to stand up for myself more, but instead i just caved in so many times. and eventually i started getting better, and his perceptions were so distorted already (i believe, anyway) that it honestly just felt hopeless to fix. so finally, i didn’t cave, and it ended.
but i’m wondering if maybe… it ended before it ever began.