There’s a c-word we all like to throw around, especially in conflicts. It’s most often used against women, I find, but people will label men with it as well: crazy.
It’s such an easy epithet to hurl. It doesn’t require any kind of evidence or logic. The c-word isn’t simply a rock to be slung. It’s an emotional grenade. “She’s crazy.” You’ve implied that the other person is unstable, unreliable, prone to exaggeration, irresponsible, untrustworthy, all with one little word. It’s a very effective way to diminish and undermine another human being.
The thing is, the c-word says more about the person using it than the person being insulted. It’s manipulative and passive-aggressive. It’s a sly way to paint an unfavorable picture of someone and destroy his or her credibility. It makes the intended target start to question their thoughts. Is their reaction excessive? Do their arguments make sense? Are they the only ones who feel this way?
In the 1944 movie Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, a husband attempts to make his wife believe she is crazy by lowering the gas which causes the lights in the house to flicker. Then he tries to convince her it is her imagination. This is where the term gaslight originates. According to Wikipedia:
Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory, perception and sanity.
Insidious, isn’t it?
Notice when this word is used and how it is used. It’s used in the heat of emotion and the absence of logic, generally. It’s used when all other arguments have failed, and when levels of frustration are high. It’s used when the other person wants to inflict the greatest level of damage, on as wide a scale as possible. How do you react when you hear that someone is crazy? Think about it.
As someone who has openly discussed dealing with depression and anxiety, I fall into the group of people who are an easy mark for those who like to use the c-word as a weapon. I’ve been mocked for taking “happy pills,” for being a proponent of therapy, and for talking about how fucking hard it is to deal with something that can be felt but not seen. My brain is like a faulty alarm system – always ready to go to Def Con 1 at the slightest provocation. These medicines do alleviate my body’s erratic response to certain stimuli and help me to be a happier, healthier person, so I guess the term is apt, though the contempt is unwarranted. Happy pills it is!
You don’t have to have anxiety or depression or insert-disorder-of-choice to get hit with the c-bomb, though. Anyone is vulnerable. I say we change that. How about this – let’s try not to use the c-word so lightly and so maliciously. (C’mon, you can’t think of better insults? I can. Be imaginative!) And let’s pay attention to how it belittles our fellow humans and demeans those who actually struggle with mental issues. Let’s be excellent to each other.
Now it’s time for another cup of coffee. There’s this new dark Italian roast I’m simply crazy about.