Recently I wrote an article detailing my struggle to find an online psychologist in Zimbabwe (read that as psychologist and not just any mental health expert) and it rubbed some people the wrong way.
Ironically, it seems that these people read the caption to the article without reading the article itself. Honestly, I don’t care about people having differing opinions over issues concerning them. But in general, a person has autonomy over their own story.
People’s experiences in life vary. A good example is America; there are black people and there are white people. White people invalidating black people’s experiences in the country reveal a level of shallowness and close-mindedness that borders on self-centeredness. To assume that someone’s story is invalid because “you can’t relate” or “you don’t like it” is a refusal to help effect change in the world that benefits not only the storyteller but inevitably society as a whole.
We read not try to make sure that our own ideologies are correct but to expand our views of the world and move out of ourselves. In the acclaimed classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” there is a quote that goes, “People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for”. If you read a person’s story and immediately get defensive or offended when it is a person honestly narrating what they have gone through then perhaps it’s good to ask yourself why you feel that someone else’s narration that likely doesn’t involve you evoke such strong emotion.
Gaslighting according to Oxford languages is “to manipulate someone by psychological mean into doubting their own sanity”. Although when one reads the definition they think that they have never experienced or done that, trying to invalidate a person’s experience and rewrite it. Gaslighting can be as simple as telling a person “you’re lying” because you just can’t believe their experience. In some of its darkest forms, many rape victims have been gaslighted and made to rethink their trauma. Not trying to get unnecessarily dark about this, but it’s important to illustrate how simple ignorance can have extremely negative effects on real-world situations.
It’s just polite and good manners, in general, to read someone’s story fully and try to understand their perspective before jumping to conclusions, or worse calling them “crazy”. And to put it bluntly, no one owes anyone else a story that they like, so read it and weep.