Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Insufficient Compassion

I've been too harsh on Anxiety, I don't treat it like a serious condition.

"They mistake danger for safety and safety for danger" was Gabor Mate quoting someone else and the first time I ever made sense of the routinely appalling choices people who 'have anxiety' routinely make.

Let's try and comprehend it together. you have a person and that person 'has anxiety'. Now let's imbure this imaginary person with a fairly simple desire, they want their poetry to be praised. They want praise, they sit around imagining scenarios where they show it to their friends, teacher, publish it in a zine and people write in and talk about how great and beautiful their poetry is.

But for this person, praise is so unfamiliar to their formative experiences, that when it occurs it makes them uncomfortable, or distressing. Creating a constant tension between advancing towards their goals and withdrawing.

This is the mind bending subjective experience I can't imagine, similar to the celiac who craves a piece of cake or doughnut or crusty loaf of bread but upon ingesting it even in minute quantities convulsives and vomits up the contents of their stomach, because their bodies find gluten to be a toxic foreign body.

However, while celiacs have to avoid bread to avoid projectile vomiting, the anxious have to avoid life in order to avoid feeling... unpleasant.

This is the part where I can fully sympathise (if not empathise) with celiacs but I reflexively look at the anxious people in my life and privately think 'you fucking weaklings'.

Firstly if you track your eyes back to paragraph 3 you'll notice I put 'has anxiety' in scare quotes, because in my experience I come across a lot of people who will confide in me the 'have anxiety' nobody says 'I have an anxious personality disorder' or 'I have an anxious attachment style (dismissive/needy)' It's offered up as though to explain this person to me, but nobody seems to treat it like they actually have a debilitating condition that they need to be working on, if not against.

Everyone seems to go to therapy and talk about sport or some shit, and carry very little behavioral change out into their workaday lives.

Consider the alcoholic, step 1 is admitting you have a problem, but when was the last time you were standing by the fridge in some kitchen at some party talking craft beers with some bearded dude with ear plugs you'd never met before and they said to you 'actually I'm an alcoholic.'

Admittedly I'm not that social, but I'd wager never. Not with a drink in hand. I myself have stated bluntly and matter-of-factly at parties to the host offering me a drink that I'm a recovering addict, and I'll never be drinking. Yet people who inform me they have anxiety tend to be standing in a corner of a party not engaging with anyone new or interesting. They are talking to me because I'm the only person they knew before somehow mistakenly turning up to this event.

And I understand shy, I often go to parties too tired to actually make connections with new people, though I do love flirting. I'm not talking about people telling me they are an introvert, because being an introvert is not a problem. (I will say however that I seem to live in a world of introverts and if I met an actual extrovert somewhere I would probably kiss them with delight, also introverts need to understand that preferring not to socialize is not an excuse to not socialize, you need to get to that fucken party and support the host. Fucking extroverts did homework in isolation during school so you can talk to strangers from time to time, I do.)

Another way alcoholics are unlike the anxious, is that not only do the alcoholics we know rarely admit to us and themselves they are alcoholics, but a big reason for this is because it is understood that alcoholics (and indeed all addicts) are required to do something about their problem.

I guarantee no public broadcasting service outside of Russia has done a feature on life with an alcoholic where some husband or wife sits at a kitchen table and says 'Well Casey is an alcoholic, so you know on payday they generally go to the bar and spend most if not all of their paycheck and liquor so we've had to adjust and devise ways to feed ourselves without their income.' That may be a harsh reality, but nobody accommodates alcoholism like we do anxiety.

And I understand addiction better than I do anxiety, and the tragedy of this juxtaposition is that our society generally demands its addicts to fight their addiction when it is most often a symptom of things like anxiety, depression etc.

Alcoholism has been presented as an illness, and more recently (and as of the latest, baselessly) as a genetic condition. It may have been useful in the old days to destigmatise alcoholism by removing personal responsibility from the equation, but that's the thing, people have beaten addiction, substance dependence.

Mental Illness has last I checked (about 3 years ago) been rebranded as Mental Health Issues, probably (I don't know, and never checked) for the very reason that 'illness' absolves people from responsibility for behaviors they can actually address, and also bias us towards pharmaceutical solutions.

But unlike ADHD, my experience of interacting with the now anxious majority, gives me no indication that big-pharma is the man behind the curtains. Though it appears to team up with depression often, the only one of my friends I have real insight into the role of medication in conjunction with anxiety is that of my best friend. Otherwise some may be using SSRI's but most people I know are not taking any medication.

To be honest, I have absolutely no fucking idea what most of these anxious people are doing about their anxiety. They just seem to form social groups where being anxious is the norm, maintain stressful lifestyles and avoid practical solutions and most forms of exposure response prevention therapies.

I'm not talking about the horrifying extremes like OCD, or PTSD. I'm talking about people who feel self conscious in a room full of people, that need to drink in social situations, that feel anxious receiving a phone call and would prefer if people texted, that pop up on social media IM to see if I'm going to a party before they decide on attending.

Garden variety anxiety.

Having some little insight into schizophrenia, bipolar, psychosis, OCD and clinical depression. I find it really hard to take the anxious very seriously, I just see them unconsciously formulating the new norms of social interaction, and I don't get it and I don't want to jump on the anxiety bandwagon. I don't think of anxiety like depression or even celiacs, I feel exactly the same about the anxious as I do hipsters and emos.

Something the kids are all doing these days that is strange and confusing to me. Hence insufficient compassion for their plight.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Eating to Live.

So it's high time I got down here some of my travel experiences. And the best place to start, is food, and the best place to start talking about food is from when I got back to Melbourne.

After 3 months, I'd more or less figured out a new diet, the local staples, where was good, where I liked best. Then suddenly I had to adjust again. Which you think would be easy, given that I had ten years experience of where to eat pretty much everywhere in M-town. I knew the good spots, I have 20 places in the bank for impressing ladies on the first date out, without having to double down on anywhere.

That's right, I had spots to burn. But my tastebuds had something else to say. I recall in the early weeks of being in Italy, I was missing the realy rich meaty flavors I was use to in Melbourne. Animal fats just aren't celebrated really. Nor are they big fans of American excess, like I was.

That's right, Eurotrash infection number one, pronounced rejection of American fastfood. Or is it? I still think the only thing in New York that isn't over-rated is the eating. Yanks are the best pizza makers and they know how to make a burger still without having to write home about it.

What I mean is that I just find physiologically I can't stomach rich food any more, salty, juicy, cheesy food. The one thing I had left. I made my bolognese sauce that I cooked and improved obsessively for a year and found I couldn't handle it no more. The only thing that was easy to resume really was Chinese food, which they have in Italy but really, 3 months is not long enough to feel a call for it. Chinese food or Cucina Cinise and McDonalds are the only two cuisines to make any real headway into Liguria. Other regions have Burger King...

Also, back in Melbs after 3 months without a single ailment or complaint, I contracted gastro from my welcoming family. Then last week I got some form of food poisoning that may or may not have been salmonella. Fasting is pretty easy when you are having stomach cramps, it's not really appetizing, but the first bout of gastro, after 24 hours I just dove back into food with no regard.

The second time though, I actually did find plain toast all I wanted to eat. It could be that Musashi's proscription no. 13 "Do not pursue the taste of good food" has now worked into my mind deep enough to effect my perception of food, but surprisingly after 3 months in Italy, I look at food more as a source of fuel and nutrition than a source of pleasure.

Which is crazy, I really enjoyed eating in Genova, so I'm back in Genova now, not literally of course - I'm just talking about it now. And it was by staying in Genova that I learned that Italian food or Italian cuisine if you fucking insist, does not exist. I'm not the first to learn this lesson so please take it as a statement of my ignorance or at best, naivete. I did very little research and planning for this trip.

Hence I was alarmed when I kept ordering foccacia with 'tomato and wurst' and the (inevitable) lady serving me would confirm my request with 'pizza'. My brain stopped me from saying in a pitying way 'that's not pizza, if it is, you can grab a pizza from a perspex cupboard in woolworths' that's a foccacia with some pizza-esque toppings on it. I'd travelled enough of Italy in the past to know that Naples was home of the pizza where white tourists, did the very white thing of having to go to the very most authentic place to get the original pizza ever, and I heard it was pretty good. I would probably do that shit just that Naples is waaaaaayyy south of Liguria. But I had experienced that Rome sell pizza 'by the slice' in the square form, and Florence makes shitty pizza's that are wood fired but pretty flavorless (Tuscan cuisine was the least endeared to me) then there's the calzone and what not. So I was scared that so obsessed with foccacia were the Genovese that this was their take on pizza.

Turns out that there were some places that made actual pizza's in the historic center, to varying degrees of crapiness through to quite good, and if you got outside the historic center - there was some real gold. My favorite wound up being the Maxi-sized Dolce Mary that had italian sausage and two kinds of cheese from the place near my local bus stop. It was so good I became pretty loyal pretty fucken quick.

So, yeah, you can get bolognese outside of Bolagna, and Pizza outside of Naples. But it's not like Japan, and Japan is for me a far more interesting yardstick for comparison to Italy than Australia. In Japan every fucking town and city has some speciality, Nagoya my home-town Japan (specifically Handa in Aichi-Ken) is known for miso-katsu, some delicious chicken wings, vinegar and I can't remember what else. Osaka my favorite holiday destination in Japan is known for all the good fried shit, tako-yaki, yaki-soba etc. The thing is you can get takoyaki, and good takoyaki anywhere in Japan, and you can presumably get the Nagoya specials anywhere else to good quality.

Just about anywhere anybody is preparing food in Japan, any kitchen, someone is taking pride in it. Some masochist is working a 20 hour day making sure it is perfect. Not so in Italy, people take pride in their regional dishes, and the regional dishes are more about regional-seasonal produce and everything is cooked with pride but very little fuss. Just love, like agape love. And if something isn't regional, it just becomes something to stuff in your mouth. Something to snack on while you are drinking.

Which is a key piece of a puzzle to a riddle posed to me by some of Genova's famous historic center graffiti. Right near the architecture faculty of the university, I saw a message saying 'anti-hipster zone' not much of a riddle you say? well here's the thing - there are no hipsters in Genova. Or not none, but like 1 or 2. It is incredibly rare to see a group of hipsters and even then, I didn't see anyone who had assembled a complete look such as they could pass another hipster on the streets of Fitzroy and hate each other.

So the riddle became - why are there no hipsters here? Why is Italy of all places, immune to this embarassing mirror the youth (including the 40 year olds the hipster phenomenon has allowed to be part of youth culture) hold up a mirror to the anxieties of the adult culture and express so obnoxiously what we hate about ourselves and eachother?

One implausible theory was that the graffiti message worked. Hipsters saw it and left town. Later I devised my favorite theory - there are no food trends here.

Sure there's Eataly, and the aforementioned McDonalds has successfully tethered itself to Italian soil. But if I had to say what the biggest food trend in Italy was while I was there, it was the hamburger. Which when I say it like that, makes it sound like it is on pace with Melbourne, and from what Jamie Oliver has said - apparantly the UK. You know Gourmet burgers and shit. Grill'd lead waves of Huxtaburger, Rockwell and Sons I fucken assume Melbourne has a hamburger eating guide by now- but that's not what I'm talking about - it's like they are just discovering the hamburger for the first time.

It was nigh impossible to get Cheddar in Italy, and the spongey sesame seed buns you could get in supermarkets but basically, probably driven by expats returning from the UK and experiencing 'gourmet-burgers' it appeared to me like Italy was basically finally having a go at the hamburger, because now it occured to some entreprenuers that burgers had finally reached the quality of the produce and ingredients Italian's have to work with.

The local hamburgers took me some getting used to because the bread was too good. The burgers tasted like steak, and the cheese was like a cream sauce, it added no bite. Eventually I figured out which other toppings worked well and I got into them. But in the early days I was like 'you don't get it guys, they are supposed to just by greasy salty crap that you cram in your mouth'

Even so, I'd almost say that Italian hamburgers aren't hamburgers. They are more akin to some kind of hot-panini sandwich than even the gourmet burgers here, but this isn't a burger review.

It's to say that there was no food trends. Genova is 1/8th the size of Melbourne but there were only 3 places on this 'trend' and only 1 was a franchise and 2 of those three were really taking it seriously. This was not the summer of Boost-Juice everywhere, this was not Ramen is the new Tacos, this was not fuck queing up I want to eat now. This was not Melbourne.

I hadn't even realised that this was part of Melbourne culture. But back walking the streets of Melbourne it seared my retinas. A slight aside, back in my first year in Magic Johnstone studio's MJ's proprietor took all the artists in residence to lunch one day at his 3rd business venture - the smith st restaurant Sugar Prawn. Sugar Prawn was great, it had good food, served and prepared well. The decor was thought out and they'd even set up a DJ booth in the front window. We were served by an unhealthily skinny hipster chick with torn stockings displaying her ironic tattoos and it ticked every box for an exciting new food destination in the changing face of Smith St. It was New Fitzroy.

The lunch was delightful and I love MJ studios everything about it. I can't wait to get back there. But the next week I went into the city to have lunch with my law-talking friends from highschool, both now working in govt. depts. The place of our lunch was Pellegrini's on Bourke, up near Parliament house. A place that hasn't changed at all since it pretty much opened. The menu hasn't changed, the venue has never expanded and business has never taken a misstep. Here I thought 'Sugar Prawn has done everything right. It's thumb is on the pulse and they've run over every detail with a fine tooth comb. But you don't want to be Sugar Prawn, you don't want to own Sugar Prawn, you want to own Pellegrini's they don't have to care about any of that shit, they are an institution.'

I want to make clear, that Melbourne does have great food. Great food is being made, it's just being fucked up by so much bullshit. Here is the impression I have of Melbourne's food scene - it is driven by Graphic Design and Interior Designers and Design period. In the 1 month I have been back I've noticed an alarming amount of change (excluding that Sugar Prawn is closed, that was not alarming, MJ's proprietor told me that was going down and he noted quite validly that the exercise was still cheaper than an education) but I went to a social gathering on High St where I first noticed how sleek and shiny every fucking shops design was. Graphic logos, polished timber fittings, stainless steel trimmings, bespoke chairs. I presume some philosophy of complete dining experience. The shitty old places were all but disappeared.

The same has happened in Chinatown, though thankfully Nam-Loongs and other institutions remain impervious, but most distressingly for me was cycling up Sydney Road last friday night. I was literally about to have a heart attack walking past Ramen store after decked out ramen store and Burger Bar trying to determine whether my former staple Tandoori Nights had been renovated out of the picture - people used to think Greens was Brunswick gentrified, how little we knew, Greens feels rustic now by comparison. Thankfully, Tandoori Nights still exists, albeit they've removed a lot of the kitsch lighting and they don't seem to lay butcher's paper over the table cloth anymore or provide crayons on every table, which is sad - to me. Also Sydney Road is going to take a fucking long time to gentrify end to end.

But this is it, it is madness, lunacy. I appreciate living in a country with no real domestic cuisine, being able to eat and take on whatever from wherever is great and Melbourne's a good cold wintry city for that globalised shit to go down in, but it's obsessed currently with novelty, and I wonder how much of our food is being prepped with a mindfulness to instagram. The kind of people that decide the workers of New Fitzroy need Vegan Ramen or worse a Ramen Burger during their lunch break from designing yoga mats, are the kind that engage social media "experts" who tend to "add" "value" to a business by informing their chefs that customers are going to post a photo to social media of their food before they even eat it and that appearance and presentation is everything.

And that's what it seems. All the eating world of Melbourne is now a food court, a snazzy new renovated foodcourt, but with higher overheads and less certain foot traffic. The average lifespan of these businesses has to be akin to Sugar Prawns, and to (probably misquote) NNT that's what makes a restaurant fragile but restaurants anti-fragile. Except crappy time-worn facades that soak up the character of a neighborhood are being destroyed and replaced with shiny new commercial shit that could be straight out of Dubai airport.

The first time I travelled through Italy, I was struck by all the UNESCO heritage listed signs I saw and 'protected' signs. These were a rare site in Aus, being so young, and although Italy has perhaps one of the richest cultural heritages of anywhere in the world, it felt stifling to the young. Where was a young architect to realize his life's work in Italy if every place of note was built in the Renaissance or the Roman Empire and forbidden from being scratched or even dented? (Turns out Milan, Milan is the place for Modern shit, outside of it's key Heritage site, it could be pretty much anywhere in the modern world)

In a city like Genova though, it kind of became the thing that saves Italian youth from a relentless pursuit of novelty (not that that doesn't necessarily pain the youth) because the Historic Center leaves you with these small medieval interiors to work with, it suits a lifestyle that has been naturally selected over hundreds of years and it can accomodate immigrants coming in and cooking Halal, but not the instagram crowd, not the yelp crowd. You can't adapt your business model and say 'I want them to feel like they are dining simultaneously in the future and in an Edo period Ramen stall' the interiors and decors have to be largely left alone, the sense of space and the soundproofing is done, you can't knock through a wall and expand because you are the 'it' spot of the moment.

What you get is a bunch of kitchens that lean on the charm of the rustic heritage to build atmosphere and let the chefs just focus on making good food.

And so it is good. Italian food is what you've heard about it, it's just not something you can come back and reproduce here. You can come here and make great pasta and a great restaurant for sure. It just wont be the low-key good that the Genovese have (but perhaps don't appreciate) or can you?

It's been pointed out to me that Lygon St Carlton really hasn't gone anywhere since the 80s. It's been largely overtaken. There's some slow attrition to more Asian restaurants in places, but a bunch of those restaurants haven't changed in 20 years. I've heard organisers of the Lygon St Festival go on Radio and talk about the need to make it relevant again, but I really predict the next aesthetic people will embrace will be old and shitty. Nam Loong's will be where the cool kids eat precisely because you can't open up 14 new Nam Loong's in 3 months. Watch any Vice 'Munchies' thing on Youtube and you generally see this already happening - fat white dudes hitting up the institutions of the places they visit. Currently I assume that's the driver of 40 ramen joints in one Melbourne st, like the Summer of Boost Juice - people watching Munchies and thinking 'Melbourne needs that' but sooner or later people clue in and cut out the middle man.

Though the '3 hour work week' based on outsourcing your job to an Indian MBA has been around for a decade and wall st hasn't figured out to cut out the middle men yet. So I'm probably wrong.

Basically, I just like cooking some pasta and then stirring in some crushed tomato and sprinkling parmesan on it now. Also I'm eating parsley again.

It's late.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

On Gaslighting

Wikipedia has a pretty serviceable definition of gaslighting if you aren't familiar. But it wasn't until I read this that it really occurred to me that gaslighting can be an unconscious, unintended behavior.

The blog post linked, is interesting but not great (and I make no promises my own will exceed that benchmark) for one thing it's on a blog that is specifically for 'feminist men' so it focuses pretty heavily on men gaslighting women. 

Also in two of the examples the author writes the definitions get a bit broad for me, even though the result for the author was that she doubted her own perceptions. The tricky thing when talking about dysfunctional behavior and mental health is that rather than being binary, it's a matter of degree.

For example, we are all supposed to possess a kind of healthy narcissism, present in almost everybody in such mental quirks as illusion of control, optimism bias, illusion of superiority and positive allusions. Most people are slightly narcissistic, but very few people have a narcissistic personality disorder.

So a guy cutting off a conversation, and then explaining his rude behavior as being preoccupied with cooking only to later admit that he had a physiological response that made him feel like he couldn't handle the conversation is to me less gaslighting than a more garden variety form of telling a convenient lie to avoid responsibility. 

Also someone asserting their ignorant belief as fact to me is obnoxious behavior but not usefully described as gaslighting. It doesn't make it okay to call someone an idiot for suggesting they drive around to find 'rooms to rent' advertised in property windows, because everyone uses craigslist these days - but someone asserting that 'nobody uses taxis anymore, it's all uber' doesn't make me doubt the existence of taxicabs in the present day.  

I recently told my first conscious lie in some years under a situation of extreme duress (for me), through a failure of imagination my only two options were to publicly humiliate a person by expelling the truth or to shut down the conversation with a lie. Here's the lie I told: 'No.' In hindsight, I could have created space for myself by saying 'could I have a word in private' and then been able to tell the truth by saying 'As I told you almost a year ago, I'm not going to discuss such matters with you anymore.'

I'm confident though, that my lie was detected for what it is, as they usually are. Contextually though I would be amazed if she began to doubt her own reality and intuitions as a result. 

What of a situation where someone says 'I'm having birthday drinks tomorrow, you should come!' and the person they are speaking to says 'oh...um...sorry, I have a thing on... I'm not sure what, but I committed to it, so I won't be able to be there... sorry.' It's a terrible excuse and almost certainly a lie, but it isn't useful to describe such behavior as gaslighting. (that blog post I linked, by the way, doesn't either).

But imagine now you say to someone 'I'm having birthday drinks tomorrow, you should come!' and that person just stares blankly and walks past you. Rude? Yes. But they heard my offer, maybe they just absorbed the information and will be there? But why not confirm that in some way? A nod of the head, or a 'that sounds great'? Did they even here me? Did I offend them because the invitation is too late?

Maybe... maybe, just maybe... they suffer from social anxiety and emotionally can't process the concept of a party. They shut down and had to retreat? 

Is this behavior a form of unconscious gaslighting?

Here, I should make clear my own biases. I have gone into psychotherapy because of someone else's behavior I now identify as unconscious gaslighting. I'm also very averse to what I call a 'victim mentality' largely because I feel that people who identify themselves as victims of something, often fail to realize that they and all victims can also be perpetrators. If you put the two together, I had to for my own self-assurance that I was sane, have a psychologist wield her authority to tell me I was the victim of something, though we never used the term gaslighting.

And I don't have any real authority to broaden or narrow the definition of gaslighting. So let's focus on the effect. 

I would hope it's the case of the above example, that everyone would consider it odd in a conversation for somebody to simply not acknowledge an invite to a birthday party at all. We'd generally accept that the responses to an invitation are pretty binary - yes or no. In certain situations where the time/date/venue are all or in part inflexible there may be sufficient grounds for it to be a yes, no, maybe triumvirate of responses. And there are certainly many ways to convey these three options - an enthusiastic yes, a non-committal yes, an explanation of the factors that make your attendance unlikely all the way through to a terse 'that sounds awful there's no way I'm coming, I hate you, never speak to me again.'

But translate this exchange to the medium of text-based communication and things shift. Take Aziz Ansari's experience with his friend 'Tanya' (real name changed) the opening and closing of this excerpt from his book 'Modern Romance'.

At no point do I think Tanya was aware of what she was doing to Aziz, nor does Aziz ever describe it as abusive. But problematically for me, Aziz attributes his frustration and confusion to not understanding the modern age we live in with technology integrated into our social lives.

This behavior is normal enough for multiple people with too much time and grandiose plans of making it big in the meme-scene to have created 'facebook seen' memes.

The thing is, Aziz outlines the stress and anxiety of waiting for a response, exacerbated admittedly by modern technologies capacity for instantaneous communication. You can expect a response as early as the time taken to read a message, write that response and then hit send. If the responses are going to be some variation of the 'yes, no, maybe' then expectation can arrive within a minute of sending your invite. 

I've recently read some love-letters from famous historical figures (read James-Joyce's with caution) and many of them (being mostly men, given their over-representation in historical narratives) express some frustration at not having heard from their lovers. But, if you are Napoleon Bonaparte camping in a warzone and reliant on mail being physically carried from Paris, over the Alps or around the coast into Northern Italy, it's going to be weeks before Paranoia sets in, and also far more likely that the mail has been lost in one direction or the other. To doubt whether your letter has been received.

But I would assume, its pretty commonly held, that not acknowledging someone is rude, and has been for centuries. Not that we have stamped rudeness out.

There's a simple fix seemingly, if somebody ignores your invitation to a date - assume it is a no. I have absolutely no evidence to support this conjecture, but I would say that most people do this.

Where it becomes gaslighting though is when Aziz runs into Tanya again and her behavior is not consistent with somebody that has rejected you. (spoiler alert, they hook up again) She offers an explanation for her past behavior, promises no more games, then repeats the exact same behavior.

Now, I believe that 'No means no.' For any woman interested in me that might consider it a clever hard-to-get-game and that you'll say no with your mouth but 'yes' with your eyes, that's dumb. I'm going to take your words at face value, even if my read of you feels it's a lie. Do not expect a second ask.

But I have had cause to actually say to problematic friends that 'nothing means nothing' a concept I feel not readily understood. 

I once asked a doctor I knew about having to tell people they were going to die, and what it was like. Unbelievably they confessed to me, that they try to avoid those patients when they can until their shift ends and they can sneak out. I was appalled by this, and when I challenged them they responded 'well how about how I feel?' 

I suspect that the prestige of being a doctor is part of what drives people so ill-suited compassion wise to pursue the career of healer, and I also suspect a similar self-centeredness to drive the 'seen' or 'no response' behavior. Hence my disclaimer of bias against victim mentalities and also why I believe that this form of gaslighting is unconscious, unintentional.

My friend (who possesses exactly as little authority or qualifications as I) once said: Narcissism and anxiety are two sides of the same coin, the coin being egocentricity. They are both all about you. And my own experience supports this (though I know far fewer narcissists than people who identify as anxious or suffering from anxiety) 

I have to imagine what it is like to have anxiety, because nothing I will describe in this speculation is remotely close to any experience I've had: but somebody you really like and have been flirting with and spending time with sends you a message asking you out. It's exciting but suddenly you feel really uncomfortable, and when you try to craft a response you start to feel really anxious. The anxiety feels aweful and even though you like this person whenever you think about going on that date you think of all the horrible things that could happen or fail, or be stood up or told they were just joking... it could change the friendship and then you lose that and the ability to flirt and to imagine what it would be like to date that person, and what if they or you don't live up to those expectations. You find the whole thing so uncomfortable to deal with, that in the end you resign to just don't. But you don't want them to feel bad, or to feel rejected or to stop flirting - so you just won't acknowledge that this ever happened.

If that describes the thought process of people who don't respond, it's an accident. I suspect it is quite an authentic description, because I literally can't imagine the circumstances under which I would ever choose to ignore somebody asking me out. This though, is the most charitable thought process I can conceive of for this behavior. (Albeit, I will concede that men do kill a lot of women, and a lot of women they claim to love or feel affection for - but I feel this is more an argument for letting a guy down gently than the crazymaking non-response)

I should clarify, if somebody reads an ask for a date and ignores it, and then when they see that person next acts in a manner consistent with rejecting them - that isn't gaslighting. If I ask a woman out, and she doesn't respond and then when I see her next she avoids eye-contact, distances herself physically, is luke-warm in interaction and generally it feels awkward. That's rude but fine. The extent of the inconsideration is that had you actually told them before you next saw them that you don't want to go out with them - they are mentally prepared for the encounter too.

But if your behavior is business-as-usual that's gaslighting, I can't see much difference between denying that a communication was ever sent and denying that the lights are being manipulated. Few, including myself are sufficiently capable of breaking social cues to say 'you know I asked you out and you ignored me.' if somebody is being perfectly pleasant and engaged, perhaps even flirtatious. Instead most of us tend to follow the behavioral norms, and go privately crazy wondering where we stand.

And that's the real insult of anxiety-based gaslighting. You are selfishly self-serving by choosing not to respond, to spare your own discomfort you are passing it onto somebody else, and in a way that will make them anxious - because you are fomenting uncertainty. 

All my first hand experience with anxiety is owing to it being the most contagious emotional state. Anxious people make me anxious, thereby the victims of anxiety can become the perpetrators or rather the perpetuators of it, by refusing to confront their own anxiety.

And that's what is tricky in dealing with this form of gaslighting - you'll notice (if you read the account) that Aziz and his friend he confided in made excuses for Tanya, like that she was busy - but Aziz found that she had posted content to instagram, which is surely a lower priority than responding to a date request. Even if you accept the later excuse Tanya made as a true and correct explanation of her behavior, until that was furnished Aziz was left wondering what the fuck was going on.

Now, did he miss the obvious solution of sending a message that says 'hey, I asked you out.' and so forth until she was compelled to actually respond. Let's remember how risky that is in the presence of doubt - if you actually do want the person to go out with you, you don't get to hassle them because that could turn a potential yes into a potential no, just because you were being pushy. 

Although it wasn't to me directly my psychologist has said that in most cases of rejection it indicates that the person isn't ready, not that you grossly misread the situation. I'm sure this doesn't apply to hitting on a girl you don't know walking home alone at night, or hitting on some stranger in the club. But in my experience simply knowing that I like somebody is not sufficient motivation to ask them out, I require some evidence of encouragement to make the ask. Generally I'm usually attracted to people who give me some sense that the attraction is mutual. 

So the simple act of rejection can in some sense, be a form of gaslighting, it would fit that blog posts broad definition any time somebody confesses ten years on 'I really did like you, I just wasn't ready' but too me again, is too broad to be useful.

Rejection itself is useful, even if (inconceivably to me) somebody rejects someone they feel they want.  I can act on rejection under the 'no means no' rule, and as a general rule I will not ask out somebody who has rejected me already, no matter how encouraging they seem at a later stage - partly because it is no risk for them to ask me out. Twice in my life I have hooked up with women that had previously rejected me, and they had initiated those hook-ups. 

When ignored though, it doesn't really work. I know a lot of girls who are greatly pained by wondering if they simply hadn't made their intentions clear enough - if we accept the traditional and still widely present gender roles, we can consider female flirtation by analogy - if a girl wants a boy to ask her out, she flirts with him to signal that he should. And he doesn't. Does this mean he doesn't like her? Or does she just need to flirt harder?

Even though it bears the risk of rejection, I consider the traditional gender role of men asking out women as part of male privilege because it has been so direct and clear. My experience of having asks ignored has been to question whether it was clear enough that I was asking them out.

But there are serious consequences to being accused of sexual harassment, so even though nothing means nothing, it's hard to then pursue an actual no or an unlikely yes (I say unlikely because someone who can't actually say 'yes' to something they want has deep emotional issues that are unlikely to change on any timeframe that will ease your own mental suffering). 

Consider that in (Australia at least) sexual harassment can include inappropriate advances on social networking sites, and unwanted requests to go out on dates. Cyber-stalking can include what Aziz did when he found Tanya posting to instagram. 

What is vague though in most information sites about sexual harassment and stalking/cyberstalking is whether it is necessary for the target of this unwanted behavior to ever communicate that it is unwanted. Obviously I do not for one second believe that you can't convict a man of rape if he manages to get chloroform over his victims mouth fast enough, or that an employee can 'test the waters' by offering a pay rise in exchange for a blow job, there are in the spectrum of harassment and abuse behaviors that need no confirmation that they are acceptable. 

But there is a large overlap of behaviors that are contextually acceptable or unacceptable depending on how we feel about that person. A wink from one man might stir your loins and from another man make your skin crawl. Is winking harassment? It depends. 

Asking someone out on a date, I would hope we can all agree, is not harassment. Asking someone out on a date that has already declined one - could be, and in most cases would be. 4 years may have passed and circumstances may have dramatically changed, in which case it's possibly acceptable depending on the prejudice with which you were previously rebuffed. You may have been furnished with an excuse, in which case it would not be harassment to try again, though if furnished with more excuses demands at some point you read between the lines.

If your initial request for a date was ignored however, and you just want to know where you stand, yes or no, 4 years is not the time frame you are going to have in mind for seeking that clarity, that closure. That's what makes this form of gaslighting so cruel.

I have, going back to my highschool days, an objective that everyone I know, knows how I feel about them. Another rule of thumb adopted later, to combat excessive pining, is that between realizing that I like someone and asking them out, I have a deadline of 3 months to ask them. That loose rule exists because it's better to know one way or another than to just live pining for your crush. It worked well until about 4 years ago, when asking someone out no longer brought clarity but evolved to bring very unsettling uncertainty.

Here is my non-compassionate proposal - if you suffer from anxiety, acknowledge that it is a debilitating condition for you and your foremost responsibility is not to expand the debilitating effects to others. You don't get to accommodate your anxiety when other people's well-being - perhaps even sanity and sense of self, is at stake.

My more compassionate and universal solution to gaslighting is this - be honest. Be honest and if possible, also kind.