Monday, September 28, 2009


Where as oneupmanship has been described as a form of 'male bullying' ,onedownmanship was seen as the female equivalent or "female bullying" maneuver. Given the rise of individualism such gender differentiation is no longer so apparent. Women and men are equally using 'onedownmanship' to justify negative behaviours.
A favourite psychological contest is 'who had the worst childhood?" Interestingly as this is purely subjective and not so readily open to objective assessment it's also been called a 'whiner's ball" and the person who whine's most, or appears on the brink of being 'overwhelmed' or 'becoming out of control' usually steals the stage. As Shakespeare said, "all the world's a stage."
Rodney Dangerfield, the comedian, was one of the greats for making fun of this human trait. The classic dialogue of that era was ,'when I was a kid we had to walk 10 miles to school> You think that was bad, we had to walk 10 miles to school and we didn't have shoes.'
Today it is more common to hear, "I was sexually abused as a child." "Well, I was sexually and physically abused as a child." "I was sexually abused and physically abused and neglected." This is not to validate any abuse or denigrate the experience of abuse that individuals have. Further these discussions which occur is a psychaitrist's office are as different as the discussion of physical illness that patients have in their parlours compared to what goes on in the general pratictioner's office.
It is however interesting to note that the most capable of this kind of psychological 'game" or "transaction" as the Transactional Analysts described these ,were more often sociopaths and psychopaths as they were best at this kind of 'drama queen" or "drama king" presentation. In the triage considerations of physical medicine it was recognised that yelling for help took considerable energy so that commonly those who could put forth their concerns the best were not as end stage as the person exsanguinating beside them.
In the famous Take Back the Night series at Harvard one year the most impassioned speaker turned out to be bold faced lying about all the events of her life, claiming poverty when in fact she was rich, abuse when she was if anything the abuser. Indeed it's common for victimizer's to claim 'victimhood' as a last ditch attempt to escape responsibility.
The tragedy in the jails is that the psychopath, often a developed chameleon, can in fact do a far better, far more believable, presentation of victimship than the truly victimized. If it serves the psychopath to be a victim and do onedownmanship then it's likely they will do it and do it well. The movie, Chicago, did a very fine job of presenting how this plays out in the court drama.
That's also why Hollywood uses actors rather than real people more often than not to get across a particularly sad story. It's easier to 'act' being a victim than it is to be a real victim.
Further, as the Combat Veterans learned those who were in combat were the last to talk openly about their experiences whereas the first to come forward for pensions were those who were veterans but had been furthest from the arenas of action despite the stories they so glibly told.
"Onedownmanship" serves as social bullying because it can stop communication and deflect discussion of solutions but perpetually demanding attention to the past. In fact it's a kind of 'reverse ad hominem' in terms of philosophical fallacies. Further it is commonly associated with tremendous resentment and covert aggression. In a discussion where onedownmanship is employed the person not only is saying 'poor me' but directly or indirectly 'attacking' the other person as being an 'abuser' which of course constitutes 'false allegation' but this has somehow been lost in the pseudoscience of pop psychology.
There is also a common demand in 'onedownmanship' not for an individual situational deferential distinction but also for a "license" into perpetuity.
This demand to have the advantages and benefits of "victimhood" gave rise to the counter argument which was simply , "Get down off the cross, we can use the wood."
"Onedownmanship" and "victimhood" would not at first sight seem particularly attractive positions however in the greater context of society they are commonly 'compensatable." Further onedownmanship and victimhood are means whereby an individual can gather allies. The challenge is always in separating truth from falsehood and deciding individually priorization. Is this person 'bullying' or indeed 'needing' versus 'wanting' attention.

No comments: