The Cruel and Covert Warfare of “Crazy”

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Close your eyes. No, don’t. That’s a ridiculous idea. But mentally close your eyes and imagine with me that your friend is describing their ex. Your friend is telling you all the gritty details of how their ex was “overemotional,” “irrational,” “too sensitive,” and “crazy.” Are you picturing the ex as a man or a woman? I’m not going to make assumptions about how you think, but personally, I’ve never heard those descriptors used for a man.

There is a subtle and absolutely vicious finesse to employing the word “crazy” when describing another person. It’s a powerful word, because so much is implied in that one simple idea. With the one little label, doubt is cast on every future interaction. I’ve seen it happen over and over – a person (usually a woman) is cast as crazy, and suddenly nothing they say or do looks rational anymore.

“Crazy” people are probably exaggerating their claims of abuse. “Crazy” people are too quick to hyperbolize an event. “Crazy” people just want to see their exes suffer. “Crazy” people are probably liars, manipulators, chronic victims, and – in extreme situations – dangerous. We’d probably never think these things intentionally, but the idea creeps into our subconscious minds like a venom. Suddenly every interaction with the “crazy” person is colored by this idea that they are unstable and their viewpoint unreliable.

And the sickest part is that “crazy” people can’t even defend themselves. There is almost nothing that looks crazier than a person trying to convince others of their own sanity.

So how can you communicate to your friends how psychotic your ex is? It’s simple. Don’t.

The line between sharing your own experiences and brazenly discrediting someone who is not there to defend themselves is a fine one, but it exists. You can say “I experienced a lot of anger/overwhelm/hurt/confusion/abandonment/abuse in our relationship” without making a call on the other person’s mental state. You can say “these are the facts of my experience” without playing psychologist. You can even use clinical terms in sentences like “a lot of what they did to me feels like the definition of narcissism/sociopathic abuse/pathological dishonesty” without tainting people’s future interactions with that person.

Calling someone “crazy” in an attempt to discredit their point of view is flat-out abusive. It’s controlling and manipulative. It reinforces the idea that emotional expression in the face of trauma is a negative trait. It is a tool used to steamroll women. It’s wrong.

So let’s just not, shall we?

 

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