So I’ve been reading about someone who was ideologically abused within Catholicism and it’s bringing up a lot of feelings, but one thing it’s really crystallizing in my mind is an important thing that people fail to understand about ideological abuse.
The (relatively mild) ideological abuse I have experienced was used to convince me of some bad and harmful shit. But I’m worried that the things I’ve said about it make it seem like the abuse was bad because it convinced me of untruths. That’s a very very small part of the problem.
It is possible to commit ideological abuse in the name of ideas that are 100% true. People think that ideological abuse is only done in the name of darkly comic nonsense (Xenu only makes sense to someone who’s been abused so badly they forget how to think clearly) or ideologies based on cruelty and subjugation. It’s true that abuse is more common in ideologies that cannot possibly defend themselves with actual arguments, but it’s completely possible to abuse people in the name of things which make sense.
If you’re dealing with someone who thinks two plus two is five, you can show them they are wrong with counters or numberlines or whatever. This will teach them basic arithmetic and also respect their personhood. This is what any decent person would do.
Or you can control them with fear. You can make it sure that they know that if they ever say two plus two is five, they will be physically harmed or threatened with physical harm. You can lie and belittle and mistreat them in dozens of ways and any time they complain you can tell them that they deserve it for believing that two plus two is five. You can say that they’re not allowed to make even the smallest decisions for themselves (what to eat, how to dress, who to be friends with, what to read) because a person who believes two plus two is five shouldn’t be allowed to decide anything. You can isolate them from anyone you haven’t vetted (which means no friendships with anyone who is wrong about math, but also no friendships with anyone who says “obviously two plus two is four but there’s no need to hit people over it.”) The fact you are right about math doesn’t make it not abuse. You’ve abused them into believing something, and the fact that it is true doesn’t make the abuse ethical.
You’ve also severely damaged their ability to learn math. If they have a basket with two apples and they add two pears, they won’t be able to take an honest look about how many total fruits they have. They are only going to be able to think “I must have four fruits because I don’t want to get hurt again” or “I must have five fruits because there is no way on earth that despicable piece of shit can be right about anything after what they did to me.” You’ve done lasting and possibly permanent epistemic damage to this person. For a long time, maybe for the rest of their life, they will not be able to approach arithmetic with logic; they are going to come to a calculator with so much emotional baggage that they can’t be rational. They may genuinely need to espouse wrong beliefs about numbers because the only psychologically feasible alternative is espousing the (also wrong and more dangerous) belief that they deserve to be abused.
Almost everyone who commits ideological abuse thinks they are convincing their victims of the truth, and they think that this justifies the abuse. They are usually wrong about their ideas being true, but they are always wrong about their tactics being justified. I want anyone reading this to know that if you are seriously hurting someone to get them to believe you, it doesn’t matter that you are right. You have to find another way to do that. What you are doing does horrific damage and doesn’t even succeed in making people actually believe you, just in parroting you so that you will stop hurting them. You have to treat people who are wrong like people. Abusing someone into believing the truth doesn’t become okay because it’s the truth.
More importantly, I want you to know that if someone is using violence, the threat of violence or manipulation to control your beliefs, that is abuse. You do not deserve to be treated this way. You do not have to figure out right now whether what they are trying to make you believe is actually correct. You can leave (if it’s safe) or practice harm-reduction (if leaving isn’t safe yet) before you figure out whether or not they are telling the truth. It is not okay for them to do this to you, even if they are right.
You deserve to be safe. You deserve sovereignty over your own thoughts. Good luck. I love you.
someone reblogged this tonight saying she was not sure if she was “entitled” to this and i just want you to know that anyone is entitled to this