Besides being allergic to cats and shellfish, I am allergic to bullshit. Cats give me hives and cause my eyes to turn red and burn and itch. Bullshit causes me to go insane. So, naturally, I avoid cats and I avoid bullshit, whenever possible.
Bullshit can be defined as “anything which impedes clarity.”
Perhaps someday I will be strong and solid enough so that bullshit will just roll off me like water off a duck’s back. But I hope I don’t become too desensitized. Even though I’ve been in recovery from codependency for many years, I’m still vulnerable to its seductive lure. I guess you could say that I am a recovering bullshitter myself.
My friends call me a bullshit-buster. That’s because I will expose bullshit when I encounter it (and my bullshit sensor is keen). I will invite it to either transform or leave. Or I will leave.
I’ve found that when you are dealing with other bullshit addicts (i.e., codependents) – especially if they are still in denial – to expose their bullshit is to invite intense defensiveness. It will undoubtedly cause tension and sometimes an emotional reaction. This intimidates a lot of people and so they allow themselves to be manipulated into going along with the bullshit. Or they go away without at least trying to smooth the tension.
But I’m not easily intimidated. I stand up to it and call it what it is. Because I know that bullshit is only that… bullshit. Pshaw!
Bullshit takes many forms.
A few years back, a couple of girlfriends and I were planning a garage sale. Peggy, Maryann, and I decided on a date and a time for the event and then we went back to our busy daily lives. When Peggy called me to see if we could move the date back a couple of weeks, I agreed. I just assumed that Peggy would also call Maryann and check with her, too.
When I spoke with Maryann the following week, I discovered that she had not yet found out about the date change. “Oh… Didn’t Peggy call you about the date change?” No, she hadn’t. It was an unfortunate – though innocent – oversight, I thought.
Maryann did not think this was so innocent. She reacted in anger, insisting that she had been intentionally left out of the loop. I apologized for the oversight, but that did not satisfy Maryann. I asked Maryanne what I could do to help make amends for this mistake. She said, “I want you to admit that you didn’t call me because you have little regard for me as a person.” I thought to myself, “That’s bullshit.” And I answered, “No, Maryann, that’s not why I didn’t call you. I mistakenly assumed that Peggy was going to call you.” This only aggravated Maryann, who replied, “This conversation is going no place!” and she hung up the phone.
Maryann was determined to create a drama that would support her self-image as a victim. When I refused to participate in her drama, she left the friendship. (There was no garage sale.)
2. IMAGE CONTROL
A person will modify or cover up the facts in order to engineer a desired image – either for themselves or for someone they are protecting (for whatever reason).
To quote Anne Wilson Schaaf from her book When Society Becomes an Addict:
Codependents refuse to see people or things as they really are. In doing so, we are fundamentally disrespectful of them. It is only when people are seen as they really are that they can accept and honor and take responsibility for themselves. It is only when they own who they are that they have the option to become something else.
3. OVERLY GULLIBLE
Codependents tend to trust people who are untrustworthy. This only contributes to perpetuating more bullshit in the world.
Bailing someone out is often a kind, compassionate thing to do. To bail out the same adult person over and over again is not helping them, it is hindering them… and it’s participating in the person’s bullshit that they are not capable of taking care of themselves. It is hindering them from learning to take responsibility and become self-sustaining.
When I first met Connie, she confided that she struggles with a compulsion to rescue people. She liked to feel needed, especially by her children. She continued to send her grown son – an intelligent, capable, resourceful adult – money whenever he asked for it. “I believe in him,” she would say. But she really didn’t. Because if she truly believed in him, she would have allowed him to learn to live within his means. By continuing to bail him out, she was helping to perpetuate his bullshit – his lie about himself that he was not capable of taking care of himself. She robbed him of an opportunity to grow.
Another way to describe people who are overly gullible is to say they believe what they want to believe. “The polls are wrong,” for example.
5. IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION
And then there is the bullshit of expecting instant gratification or quick-fix enlightenment. I know this one well. How many of us have gone from workshop to workshop, read book after book, tried one method after another… only to be disappointed that instant transformation or instant salvation did not magically occur?
So many seekers think that enlightenment is like instant mashed potatoes… no peeling, no boiling, no mashing… just add hot water and you’re done. Many are even reluctant to add the hot water! There are no shortcuts to an authentic and lasting bullshit detox. It’s an ongoing process and requires practice, like any life skill.
Step One = Stop bullshitting yourself. Take an honest moral inventory and start cleaning up your act. Simple… but not easy.
It’s seems so ironic that a person like me — who is allergic to bullshit – wound up in Reno, Nevada for 17 years… home of instant weddings, quickie divorces, neighborhood pawn shops, billboards promising the biggest gambling pay-outs and the prettiest girls. This city depends on bullshit to sustain its very existence! The bullshit habit had become so ingrained in that city’s culture that lying (bullshitting) is not only tolerated… it’s expected and accepted… in its government, in its media, and its business climate.
I’ve heard that there are more nicotine addicts per capita in Reno than in any other city in the U.S. There are also multitudes of alcoholics, drug addicts, sex addicts, and compulsive gamblers. For every addict there are the accompanying multitudes of codependents. It is a culture of denial, avoidance, and getting numb.
Naturally, such a culture makes an imprint on its inhabitants. The psychic atmosphere is so muddy there that you cannot help but get your feet dirty.
What if we made it less acceptable in our communities and tribes to tolerate bullshit? If we can’t do that in our homes and families and neighborhoods, then we can’t change the world. We have to start with cleaning up our own little circles. We can do that in our homes and our workplaces and communities by sticking with a very simple guideline:
- Do what you say you’re going to do.
- Be courteous and respectful.
- Take responsibility for your own equanimity. If you feel you can’t be kind and emotionally stable while being truthful, then walk away until you figure it out
- Don’t exaggerate. Be truthful and reasonable.
It’s a start.