Triggering a Truth Bomb
Last week I was triggered by a NY Times profile about Ben Affleck, of all people. I’m using the word trigger in the lightest sense possible. The article didn’t trigger a traumatic episode — it was a light trigger, but it was strong enough that it set into motion a tweet to the author. These kinds of knee jerk reactions are something I’m watching closely these days, because underneath them is a layer of information that is useful to know. Triggers are common and we all have them. They are essentially things that bring immediate and mechanical reactions we have to situations in the present; and are themselves rooted in past or present events, associations, or projections. There is rampant evidence of these triggers on the internet and some people are more controlled by them than others. Observing triggers in oneself is paramount if you seek to have some modicum of control over them.
The article captured my attention as it made its way around Twitter because it claimed to be a story about addiction and honesty, two areas I’ve began taking a hard look at in my own life. I’m going to focus this article on the honesty, truth-telling aspect, but it’s also an article about triggers, projection, and association.
When I read the opening paragraph to this article, it evoked a mean-spiritedness: “There is no paragraph where the star and the writer pretend to be pals — gag — while doing an everyday-person activity. What was everyone eating? Who cares. No, you will not get served the obligatory canned quote from Matt Damon.” The paragraph juxtaposes the article’s honest narrative by dissing other profiles that masquerade as truth but are merely fake. I got put-off and angry and justified my anger by clinging to this distaste of its mean-spiritedness. I tweeted at the author, righteously asking why this kind of diss was necessary. He claimed innocence, saying he had been said author at one time. Then I started to examine what had made me react so fervently in the first place. A big indicator that there is something more layered and nuanced driving your reaction to a situation is the level of emotional energy or urgency you feel toward that reaction. Mine had been high.
While there was some validity to the response being about my distaste for mean-spiritedness, when I really dug into why I had been triggered, I found that it was that my ego was hurt by what I thought was a subtle dig against another recent NY Times profile, which I’d happened to really like. The profile I liked probably had little to do with what this journalist was referencing in his Affleck article, but I associated that article to his comment because that profile had an intimacy to it that felt real even though its writer may not have known the author she was profiling all that well. I have no idea whether that’s true and it’s unlikely that the reference was even tangentially related. The point is, that I wasn’t in fact responding so much to an indignation of mean-spiritedness on behalf of whomever the journalist was referencing, I was really responding to my own hurt ego. Because when he mocked this other type of profile, he was in essence mocking me. That was the projection, anyway.
But digging more into the nuance of the reaction is the fact that I come from a strong line of truth-tellers. I’ve always liked frank talk. “Don’t sugar coat it” and “tell it like it is” are familiar mottos. This world is all about tough love and taking responsibility where whining and PC talk is a sign of weakness. Faking anything is a scourge and fake people are to be avoided at all costs. Truth bombs, as I like to call them, are held up as a badge of honor, no matter how mean-spirited or spiteful. In fact, the meanness doesn’t even register to truth-tellers. It’s just the truth and if you don’t like it, well then you are just too scared to face reality. Anything else is simply coddling.
However, I’ve started to examine my own belief and attachment to this identity of truth-telling. That examination has in part been spurred by the President’s reputation as a truth-teller. In fact, I think that reputation is based in masquerade, and I find it rather convenient that the President who masks as truth-teller in chief calls anything from the liberal media fake news. It fits into the truth-telling narrative quite well since liberals are also known as the PC police in the minds of some conservatives. But this is not to say that conservatives are all “truth-tellers” and liberals are all “fake”. Not at all. Truth-tellers do not fit into neat political boxes.
You could say that the President’s truth-telling is just bullying masked in truth-telling garb. But many people seem to think that the President is just telling it like it is and that he’s speaking truth out loud what most people think in private. So does that mean that everyone else is just a bully in their minds and truth-tellers are just bullies out loud? Really? If that’s true, then we are living in a sad sad world. As a truth-teller, you have to ask yourself, which is it and which am I? Am I too just being mean-spirited when I profess my truth about other people? Who am I to say what is true about another person anyway? These are the questions I have begun to ask myself.
And I recognized myself in the author’s opening paragraph. In my mind, that “dig” was similar to a truth bomb I might have dropped in the not too distant past. It’s a compulsive desire to point out something that is obvious to you about another person or situation. It’s a temporary salve, it makes you feel superior for one glorious second. Not that this is obvious at all while you are doing it. It plays out subconsciously and your mind will wrap layers and layers of justification around, so you don’t see the real truth behind it. Almost always, it masks some kind of vulnerability or insecurity inside yourself. In fact, I just did it by sending that tweet.