Creating our own dysfunctional realities again and again

Recently I stumbled across some interactions between a group of people online, in which they got into some banal disagreements that turned into all-out videos wars where the gloves came off and the situation quickly degenerated to aiming insults beneath the belt. Typical drama to be found on youtube, for sure. And not particularly interesting either, other than it got me thinking about how and why these individuals attracted toward one another in the first place and wound up playing into one another’s preconceived narratives, as is so common.

Look, there’s a good bit of truth in the notion of like attracts like. Often I hear of self-described feminists online complaining about men and their treatment of women, perceiving themselves as victims of chicanery and “attacks” from the men in their lives. What I’ve noticed though is that in order for someone to be a victim, there must be someone else to play the part of aggressor or abuser, and this can and often enough does wind up proving to be a repetitive pattern. When one’s identity is tethered to being victimized in some such way, whether that person means to or not, he or she tends to be inclined toward attracting people who fulfill that dynamic, thereby perpetuating the very drama one claims to wish to avoid. But how can you avoid such drama if you’re unaware of how you’re attracting it and exacerbating it yourself? And do these folks even truly wish to avoid such drama when it serves the identity they’ve constructed over time? I’d argue that in many cases they actually thrive on such conflicts, especially when made public, because it aids them in broadcasting the narrative and outlook that defines them.

How can one claim to be a perpetual victim if not perpetually victimized by others? Do you think it’s an accident that the perpetual victim attracts perpetual victimization, especially well into adulthood? And here I think it’s important to draw a distinction between pitfalls that youths experience out of naivety and a lack of enough life experience versus the cyclic patterns of behavior fully-grown adults allow themselves to repeatedly become enmeshed in. Unfortunate circumstances that can and often enough do impact youths will hopefully provide opportunities for personal growth and increased self-awareness, albeit learned via the hard way (as proves inescapable in this life). But what about people who don’t learn, or if they do it seems the lessons they gleaned (consciously or sub-consciously) pertain to manifesting more of the same again and again and again, ad nauseam? Should we consider this a sign of willful ignorance and/or manipulative game-playing when one will not extract oneself from such toxic dynamics or figure out a way to elevate the game?

It gets a bit depressing observing people older than myself out here continuing to engage in immature skirmishes that aren’t geared toward improving relations in any way but instead appear to be signaling the same broken message again and again without ever hoping to be satisfactorily resolved. So you wish to be viewed as a victim on an ongoing basis…how is that helpful to yourself or anybody else? It’s pure drama on a base level. Where’s the lesson to be learned from that? What’s of real interest in repeating that cycle? What’s the benefit in portraying oneself publicly in such a fashion? What does one get out of it? Because people who repeat such patterns well into adulthood are most definitely getting something out of the dynamic or they would refuse to keep playing such games with one another. When the costs sufficiently exceed the perceived benefits, one becomes compelled to make drastic changes. We don’t simply stay willingly in toxic dynamics for long if there’s no benefit to be derived for ourselves, and I’d argue that often that turns out to be an ego benefit in terms of bolstering one’s constructed identity. If the game changes, you would be forced to change too, and that requires effort and accepting discomfort as a result. And doing so might cut you off from the easily acquired sympathy and attention garnered through the game you’ve been playing up until now.

We humans are notoriously conflicted about change, commonly preferring known patterns (even if dysfunctional and toxic) to uncertain forecasts. But the only way we’re likely to grow is by being challenged and pushed outside of our comfort zones. Does it really look like people who remain bogged down in these perpetual victim cycles are growing and expanding their awareness? No, more often it looks as if they’re hiding within such patterns and dynamics specifically so as to avoid change, even if that change might eventually prove most beneficial for all involved. It’s another form of escapism of sorts, a role to hide out in that’s comfortable because it’s well-known.

But why would people wish to keep this up? Doesn’t such repetitive drama grow old and boring? One would like to think. But again, what benefit can be derived? Such an individual can utilize these dynamics to garner attention that otherwise might prove to be hard-won and actually require a great deal more effort on her/his part. So in that sense it can serve as an easy fallback routine, a norm that’s grown comfortable over time because one’s familiar with how that game is played, even though it’s also crazy-making in its own right. To expand beyond such trivialities takes effort and heightened awareness, which then tend to force us to confront uncomfortable truths about ourselves and our habits and how we’re creating the very reality we claim to wish to escape.

I get to thinking that most older folks are well aware that they’re perpetuating these ugly dynamics and yet continue to do so because they find it entertaining in an otherwise uninteresting life. Though our lives are only as uninteresting as we choose to make them. So it’s an easy avenue to “excitement” and a feeling of relevancy. While it’s common to accuse the one playing the role of victimizer as only doing so in an effort to make himself/herself relevant, the opposite also is true in that being perceived as victimized makes you appear relevant as well. And if your identity is tied up in the perpetuation of such base drama, how can it be any other way? How might you shine outside of such a tried-and-true dynamic whereby you’re rendered visible and deserving of sympathy and support? Would require a different strategy in order to do so, and some folks just aren’t that creative or ambitious to switch up the routine. Basically, if it works then why fix it? If this provides me with attention over and over again with minimal investment on my part, then why learn another trick? What’s the point in growing if I’m sufficiently satisfied with where I am currently and what this game is providing me (as evidenced by the fact that one keeps with repeating the same old song and dance)?

If it hurt badly enough, one would seek a way out. If you’re still there playing the same game decade after decade, it obviously doesn’t hurt enough. Or you’ve grown comfortable enough with that “pain” that it’s become preferable to alternatives. Otherwise you’d change it. We can and we do if and when we decide the game is no longer worth it. Happens all the time. So we can’t help but surmise over time that those who continue playing such games do so on their own volition. Many, many people have broken out of much worse conditions. People have proven time and again the willingness to try to move mountains to get what they really want (or to escape that which they really do not). We either improve the game we’re playing, discard it for another “game,” or accept it as is. Those are our options and intuitively we’re all become of aware of it eventually.

Personally, I’ve come to see such banal, directionless drama cycles as the product of lazy, unimaginative and/or manipulative people. It strikes me as rather futile to accept such outcomes as the norm continuously. Makes life bland and pointless, dedicated to creating senseless strife that aims to go nowhere other than around and around in the same circle. Crazy-making in the lamest sense. And artificial, unauthentic, and too easy. Where’s the real grit associated with playing such a game? And what’s the real prize in the end? Sympathy and attention received from other people in the same situation as yourself? How valuable is that? The growth potential is nonexistent in such scenarios. And that’s why so often we look upon such people as immature, behaving like 20-year-olds who never grow up, caught up in irrelevant high-school level drama and mayhem that serves no worthwhile purpose. Turns into little more than he said/she said conflicts of the most ridiculously trite kind. Goes nowhere, accomplishes nothing, provides little fresh insight for those involved usually (or for outside observers), and eventually proves boring and lame.

At a time when there’s so much information available to us, easily accessible from our computers, it seems a shame to waste so much time stuck in a dumb cycle to nowhere that can’t expand one’s understanding in this life and only serves to distract and detract. I don’t grasp the value in that, yet it remains popular enough. Granted, we all are intrigued by a bit of drama — such is the human condition. But at what point does engaging in the same low-level shit again and again get stale? For some, the answer appears to be never. And that bores me. Monotonous and dumb.

Life’s so much more interesting when we find a way out of framing everything as an us vs. them/ victim vs. victimizer dichotomy.