Couch Sessions #3

On Saturday 27 March we had our third “Meet and Greet”. It was the first one for 2021. There was a huge break in-between due to the pandemic and the limitations around having meetings of this nature. After our second one I had planned to have regular “Meet & Greets”, but alas – our country like with many part of the world was hit with Covid
The “Meet & Greet” took place at Flower Cafe in Woodstock. I launched My Shack there and it was almost like coming home. The “Meet & Greet” became something that I look forward to, a meeting time with like-minded people. I really enjoyed re-connecting with some of the usuals and also making some new friends. It’s a time of learning, healing and edifying ourselves. The meetings have really started to take on a life of their own. It’s a platform where we have the freedom to ask questions and where we all learn from each other.
Then there were men …. What was really great about this meeting was that for the first time we had more than two men join us. Our first meeting was basically women only with the exception of a husband or two that tagged along. The second one was one male attendee and my husband who besides being my driver for the day, had come along to assist with some of the logistics. I was encouraged by their willingness to better understand our perspective as womxn, to share their own  points of view and to try to gain an insight into how we feel about them as womxn.
There was a lady that shared her experience of being raped at the previous “Meet & Greet” and I immediately knew that I needed to invite her to share her story at this session. I had known that she was becoming braver and that her story was being shared. She showed up as her authentic self and shared from her heart. We could all empathise with her and also learn from her. She is a GBV student and so studying GBV was what she was accustomed to. Two topics specifically stood out during her sharing and this caused an opportunity for dialogue. The two topics were Gaslighting and Mansplaining. I found these really interesting and thought I would share them with you.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that’s seen in abusive relationships. It’s the act of manipulating a person by forcing them to question their thoughts, memories, and the events occurring around them. People aren’t born Gaslighters like they are born introverts or extroverts. A Gaslighter is a student of social learning. They witness it, feel the effects of it, or stumble upon it and see that it is a potent tool. It’s a cognitive strategy for self-regulation and co-regulation. To be frank, it works. – Robin Stern
How do you realise when Gaslighting is happening?
•You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” many times per day.
•You often feel confused and even crazy in the relationship.
•You’re always apologizing.
•You can’t understand why you aren’t happier.
•You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior.
•You know something is wrong but you just don’t know what.
•You start lying to avoid put-downs and reality twists.
•You have trouble making simple decisions.
•You wonder if you are good enough.
While all of these symptoms can occur with anxiety disorders, depression, or low self-esteem, the difference with Gaslighting is that there is another person or group that’s actively engaged in trying to make you second-guess what you know is true. If you don’t typically experience these feelings with other people but do with one particular individual, then you might be a victim of gaslighting.
Some common phrases you might hear from your gaslighters
  • You’re so sensitive!
  • You know that’s just because you are so insecure.
  • Stop acting crazy. Or: You sound crazy, you know that, don’t you
  • You are just paranoid.
  • You just love trying to throw me off track.
  • I was just joking!
  • You are making that up.
  • It’s no big deal.
  • You’re imagining things.
  • You’re overreacting.
  • You are always so dramatic.
  • Don’t get so worked up.
  • That never happened.
  • You know you don’t remember things clearly.
  • There’s no pattern. Or: You are seeing a pattern that is not there.
  • You’re hysterical.
  • There you go again, you are so ungrateful.
  • Nobody believes you, why should I?
Mansplaining is, at its core, a very specific thing. It’s what occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he’s talking to does. – Merriam Webster
How to Know if You’re Mansplaining (And Then Stop)
Explaining experiences that are not your own as if you are the expert: Have you ever told someone how something makes you feel only to have that person re-explain back to you how you should be feeling about it? It sucks, right? It diminishes everything you just confided in them.
Confusing differences in opinion with differences in intelligence: A key element to mansplaining is the man’s assumption that his opinions are universal truths—or, at the very least, that the person speaking to him cannot possibly be smart if they do not agree with him. If you’re not sure if you are doing this, ask yourself: Is there anything this person I am speaking with could possibly say that would change or add nuance to my opinion?
Not listening: If you are several minutes into a conversation and realize the other person has not said more than a few words (or worse, you realize they have said more than a few words, but you can’t remember any of them), then you are not speaking with them. You are speaking to them. And no one likes being spoken down to.
Interrupting and talking over women and/or non-binary people: This goes hand-in-hand with the last one, so I don’t think it needs a lot of explanation. When someone else wants to speak, let them speak. And listen.
Speaking to women/non-binary people differently than you speak to men: Close your eyes for a moment and imagine discussing a topic you have some knowledge of. First, imagine discussing it with a man like you. Then, imagine discussing it with a woman.
Was there a difference? If you imagined yourself dumbing down your language or having to explain much more to the woman than the man, there is a problem.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine discussing a topic you have some knowledge of. First, imagine discussing it with a man like you. Then, imagine discussing it with a woman.
Was there a difference? If you imagined yourself dumbing down your language or having to explain much more to the woman than the man, there is a problem.
I am always amazed at how sometimes while researching you stumble on other things and before you know it you are going down a rabbit hole. But I thought it was important to share, give the history in our country and the constant fight we have as people of colour. Hello “whitesplaining”, that occurs when white people do this to people of colour.
Finally, in closing I changed the name of the “Meet & Greet” to “Couch Sessions” because “Meet & Greet” would allude to just that, meeting and greeting. Our sessions had grown so much and so has the concept. “Couch Sessions” lends itself more to an informal sharing. This is what we do. We share, we sip coffee or enjoy a slice of cake whilst speaking about issues relating to our lives, up to and including – but not limited to just Gender Based Violence. 
So, the next “Couch Session” will be held on Saturday 29 May 2021 at the Flower Cafe. Please check the My Shack social media channels for more information.
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