Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Types of Apologies (Part 2)

In this post, I'm going to continue with manipulative-type apologies.  I think this will be the last very-negative post.  The future apologies will be more benign, and in some cases, even kind.

So...here we go.

Note: In order to avoid having to keep saying he or she, I'm just going to switch back and forth. Sometimes the man will the bad guy and sometimes women will take the role.  

3. THE HERO APOLOGY-This is where the apologizer will admit (often reluctantly) to a wrongdoing, but he works hard to make sure his self-esteem and reputation remain in good standing.  

Yes. I did punch you that one time.  You know how ashamed I am about that. I feel terrible. But can we ONCE dwell on the positive rather than the negative. Can you not admit that usually I'm incredibly gentle? Why can't you ever remember the good things I've done for you?  When your brother died?  Was I not there for you? Did I not stay home from work to comfort you?  There is no one who loves you more than me, and there never will be. I wish you'd understand that.

And in my scenario, the receiver of the apology is NOT negative all the time. She has thanked her partner numerous times for being there for her. She usually does remember to show appreciation.  He simply can't handle the opposite of compliments and appreciation.  

What if this was not the case?  What if we have someone who is always negative and critical. Then I wouldn't blame the apologizer for having grievances about never being appreciated.  But he should bring this up at another time, NOT when they're discussing the fact that he once punched her.  For example, he could bring it up when he buys her a box of her favorite chocolates and she rolls her eyes instead of saying thank you.  

There are other ways the hero apology might play out. The apologizer might actually take actions that she hopes will give her some brownie points. She might be a bit nicer. She might do a bit more work around the house. She might spend more time with the person she hurt.  The receiver of the apology might also be a receiver of some gifts. 

This is not the same as when someone gives a genuine (non-manipulative) apology and then grovels by doing extra nice things.  I'm so so so so so so sorry.  I don't know how to make it up.  But how about this for now?  The next five movies we see?  YOU pick them out.  I'll see whatever you want to see. No complaints!  And I won't hog all the popcorn.  

With the hero apology, there's no sense of groveling or trying to make things right again.  It's more like the apologizer is trying to warp the memory of the victim by trying to create an improved persona.  But the victim is not supposed to realize the persona has been improved. The trick is to get them to believe that this has been the true persona all along.  I've ALWAYS been the wife who cooks homemade gourmet meals every night.  I'm ALWAYS super generous and buy you awesome gifts.  I'm ALWAYS the type of wife who comes home straight from work and spends time with my family.

Another tactic in the hero apology is for the apologizer to be good to other people and/or the community.  The mother apologizes to her daughter for being bitchy and unsupportive of her artwork.  Then a week later the artist's brother gets a spectacular birthday gift.  The idea here is, Hey, you might think I'm an awful person.  But other people are going to appreciate me!

Sometimes the apologizer might prove his worth by passing on compliments from others or bragging about good deeds they've performed. A man kicks his daughter's cat.  Then a few weeks later, the dad forwards the daughter an email from her cousin in which the cousin thanks Uncle Awesome for all the times he's been there for her.  

While the apologizer might believe that he is improving his reputation, I think it ends up making the victim furious.  I think this is why people have recently lashed out when seeing celebrities virtue signaling about sexual assault and misogyny.  

In my own personal experience, this totally makes me lose my shit.  Or it makes me want to lose my shit.  I don't think I've actually lost my shit yet.  

It hasn't been about sexual assault or misogyny.  But....yeah. The person who had me watch a very inappropriate movie when I was young later spoke out, in front of me, about a parent doing a similar thing...to a MUCH lesser degree.  A person who has gaslighted me criticized Donald Trump for gaslighting.  One of the people who was very unsupportive of me during my eating disorder later bragged about a huge honor that partly involved helping people with eating disorders.

All this stuff makes me want to...SCREAM!!!!!!!

Here's the thing.  It is totally okay and wonderful to realize we've made mistakes and then work to make amends.  You used to say really homophobic things to your teenage son, and now you feel bad about it?  It's fine to donate to gay right causes and write blog posts about all the good you do for the gay community.  But if you haven't given your son a genuine apology for how you treated him, it really just looks like you're trying to hide your past.  To your son, it's probably going to feel like an elaborate form of gaslighting.  

I would have felt much better about the person, in my life, being honored if the email was less braggy and more apologetic.  I now realize how I failed you when you were struggling with an eating disorder.  I wish I could turn back time to make things right.  I can't. So I want to do this work so I can help other families who have been through similar things.  I want to take my mistake and use it to help others.  

When someone does a good thing to mask the bad they've done in the past, are they in denial about their past?  Is it all done on some subconscious level?  Or is it all more calculated?  Also, are there times where a person believes their action actually equals amends?  If I donate money to this gay politician, my son will know it's because I'm truly sorry for the way I used to treat him. I think the latter is rarely the case.  I think usually it's less about righting wrongs and more about righting self-esteem and reputation.  

4. THE SAVIOR APOLOGY-With this apology, the apologizer will reluctantly admit to wrongdoing, but push the message that the real harm to the victim is being done by the victim.

I'm sorry slept with your boyfriend.  I REALLY am.  But I hate what this is doing to you.  I hate seeing you depressed like this.  I don't think this anger is healthy for you.  I care about you.

A savior apologist might send you email forwards about the power of forgiving.

He might say things like:

 It's important to let go.  

It's not helpful to dwell so much on the past. 

How can we help you move on from this?

Let Bygones be Bygones

She might make hints or suggestions that the problem is more about you than it is about what she's done.  She might suggest you suffer from a mental illness. She might suggest that you need medication. She might push you to see a psychologist.  

He might also push the idea that his wrongdoing might actually help you in the long run.  His teasing might have hurt, but he was trying to make you less sensitive.  He was trying to improve your sense of humor.  He's trying to teach you how to be strong so you can later deal with much worse bullies in life.  

Okay. Well, I think I'm done with the manipulative apologies.  

I'm guessing many of us, at some time, in our lives have used some of these wicked tactics.  It doesn't necessarily mean we're wicked.  We could have just been desperate to avoid shame, rejection, and anger. We might not have understood that we were causing our victim even more pain. That's understandable...and probably forgivable, if one tries to do better in the future.  For those who do it with conscious manipulative intent, and/or refuse to acknowledge the harm in what they're doing, that's...

Well, they might THINK that they are winning...their wicked game.  But if their victim is wise about manipulation techniques, the win is probably a mere delusion.