Musings over Online Encounters: Part I
This diatribe is an attempt to organize thought in the aftermath of experience dissonance in online encounters. This dissonance involves witnessing conflict even more than participating in it. The dissonance is steeped in the sense that online manipulation abounds more than any individual who takes their reasoning for granted would like to think. It is more than just a conspiracy effect.
It is that people have been conditioned to deny in certain instances- and idolize in other ones- qualities that spread suffering. In this way, without directly intending the aforementioned pseudo-discernment can sabotage inspired motivation that might lead to a better tomorrow. As such the rant is my desire to depressurize the force of dissonance without pushing it further under the rug.
To begin, I realize online interactions can sap our energies, especially when dealing with people who may not even realize they are projecting what they don’t want to face in themselves. I am not referring to the proverbial “troll”. The very extremity of that scenario is usually so blatant that guiltless and effective action, as simple as blocking them, is a mouse-click away. There are, however, fine lines and gray areas in the multifaceted topography of online human interaction. This is the arena of subtle manipulation, be it conscious or not, where the receiver is not even sure they are being psychologically played.
It isn’t as rare as one might think, or hope to experience discomfort, stress or even trauma when confronted with projected emotional states. The more repressed the hurtful issue underlying the state of projection the more extreme the discomfort can get. Even so, unless the receiver is also already traumatized and holding it in, it is most likely that their suffering is far less than that of the one doing the repressing.
To clarify a bit; my understanding of “projected states” involves not just how people feel, but also what they are denying in themselves in favor of a more sustainable to them self-image. That denial tends to spawn dramatic pressure, a subconscious desire to act out the issue in some way without being hurt by it. The internal pressure is itself a form of suffering and it does not go away with time, although it may appear to go dormant.
I would not call this a guilty conscience. It happens to be more prevalent in a victim than someone who has victimized after all. In extreme cases, victimizing itself is a form of projecting one’s repressed victim state. Hence the more members of a group or society are made to suffer the more suffering prevails overall.
Some appear more sensitive to emotional energy than others, their own as well as what permeates their environment. That does not guarantee that reason can make sense of an encounter with projection. Being sensitive, in other words, doesn’t mean we can easily understand what is going on. Are we somehow forced into being recipients of projection, just minding our own business when the bird poop spatters, or are we participants and perhaps even main protagonists in a drama with many screen-writers? Should we even consider that we are the prime creator of this drama?
In my experience when engaged in online discourse where fingers are being pointed, all participants fall into a state beyond default reasoning. The reasoning from the side-lines and that of hind sight is what I would call closer to our default or normal reasoning state. When engaged in finger pointing we at the very least fall into crisis reasoning mode. This is more like warfare than discourse. When sustaining the upper hand especially psychopaths love this frame of engagement.
Therein, anything said can be turned back to the one saying it as their issue or fault. At a deeper level of perception, the issue isn’t one of me vs. another, but of individuals finding themselves in a ‘vibration’ or felt sense that triggers trauma echoes in both of them. This is true even when one group or person engages in gas-lighting or demonizing another as a means of defeating them. In less consciously deliberate scenarios, however, battlefront polarization occurs because the discomfort demands reparation, and that leads to projecting blame and/or guilt on top of the most convenient scape-goat.
Usually options of avoiding blame and guilt are offered that involve some form of manipulation, by one or both parties. Because the field of experience is temporarily mutual, any guilt or blame can be turned back on the other party with tension and denial escalating as a result. In merely complaining about being a victim of projection one can have all one’s arguments flipped on their ears and end up looking or even being convinced it is all one’s own fault.
I have seen ‘self-help’ presentations that trigger rage in me. The speaker (or writer) will turn it all back on their audience. They will even speak of themselves claiming they “used to be in that position”. It’s only right to state that the aforementioned speaker often could have- and more times than I would want to admit- has been me. Notice how I too am turning it back on myself, but past tense so I don’t piss myself off as I’m writing these words. Being tripped with guilt hurts. When tribulation you want to share or communicate is rejected, the result is also hurt.
On the flipside being tripped with guilt does not imply we have done wrong and must atone, at least not in the immediate or moral sense. We have, on the other hand, experienced the wrong of being unable to prevent our own verbal abuse, and demonization, which in any online community often results in being ostracized. There are often frighteningly primitive elements at work in online communities. Judging from the twists and turns of global events and the trends of western civilization, it is not farfetched to say that innocents may suffer from demonization in more ways than just having a tarnished reputation.
To avoid the end of addictive drama we can vacillate back and forth between extreme views, being doormats of tolerance in one instance and shifting to howling mobs of righteous indignation the next. All to avoid that disturbing zone in the middle where all bets are off and we are left with the tribulation of facing our existential desperation.
It helps in my opinion to admit our own perspective as a starting point and consciously stand as a self-centered being. This cuts the moral confusion down, something that guilt trippers may find discomforting. The fact remains, however, that when you are on a plane and the cabin depressurizes, you would be prudent to pick up your oxygen mask first and put it on.
By the same logic, when confronting a field of trauma, or post-traumatic reverb (acute or chronic), you would be wise to direct compassion to yourself first. It is only selfish when you shut the other out after you are cleansed of guilt and/or blame imprinting and other judgments. Yet that is a contradiction because selfishness in the derogatory sense does not occur when imprinting is not operant. Therefore, allow me to rephrase what I consider to be a cliché type phrase that is easily open to misunderstanding: It is only selfish when you neglect your deeper needs in the process and focus on the surface state of self.