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revisiting hysteria

an essay by Lexi Summer Hale

a very unpopular opinion i have is that “hysteria” is actually a very real thing and a largely female problem that we’re losing the ability to deal with as a society, much to our detriment

there is this particular behavior/thought pattern i have noticed in myself and other women, particularly women with bpd but most of us seem to do this to some extent or other (perhaps hence the observation “all women are a little bit borderline”), where, when we get too emotionally aroused, we tend to enter this state of just lashing out at convenient targets, whether that’s a friend, a colleague, a drunk at a bar, a subordinate, or, most of the time, a husband or boyfriend. from what i’ve seen we seem to latch onto men preferentially as targets. we’ll yell, scream, cry, make outrageous and inane accusations that we 100% fully believe in the moment, and in general make a scene until one of several things happens.

one way of responding to a woman’s hysterical episode is to try and calm her down with Facts And Logic, or argue/fight back (there is no difference between these approaches in outcome); this always results in continuous escalation until the victim backs down, violence erupts, or the woman runs out of steam. too many men try this (essentially, treating their woman like they would another man) and it’s really stupid for a couple reasons. obviously, you can’t reason with someone who’s being driven by their inner chimp and is running on pure emotion; i think men don’t realize how easily we wind up in this state because usually they can keep their cool for longer. a less obvious problem with this way of responding is that it legitimizes the attack, it tells the attacker she’s hit a nerve, and that just incentivizes her to keep on going, particularly if you’re her husband (or really, any man at all) because you’ve failed to display dominant behavior, and women universally hate it when men do that like little else (with the possible exception of some lesbians, i think). if you’ve seen feminists rage about “nice guys” you know how this goes. you have failed to take charge of the situation, you are letting her push you around, you are a failure as a man and your effete, undersexed omega-male existence is an insult to all womankind.

the worst possible response to hysteria is to try and placate her outright. arguing is a failure to take charge of the situation, but placation is outright submission. it will either unleash a dramatic escalation of white-hot rage, probably involving dredging up or inventing outright past slights (or twisting events so she has something to blame you for — i want to emphasize this is a subconscious process for most of us, not an active attempt at abuse, we genuinely feel victimized and believe what our brains are telling us. people with bpd especially alternate between idealizing and devaluing people, and often cannot even access memories that contradict our current state), or she’ll seem to calm down for the moment after lecturing you a bit and issuing demands, but her behavior will get more pushy, more bitchy, more controlling, and the frequency of hysteric episodes will increase until you dump her or she dumps you. because you’ve demonstrated you’re unwilling to defend yourself even with words, and that you can be cajoled into doing whatever she wants with a bit of screaming and yelling. there is nothing on this earth that will make a women disrespect a man more.

the only good response, the only response that will prevent your relationship from deterioriating, that will cause her to respect you and like you and look up to you as a reliable partner/friend/boss/whatever, is to take charge of the situation. demonstrate clearly that you are unaffected by what she says, maintain outward calm, don’t show strong emotion (even if you feel it), don’t engage with her words (not even, and i cannot emphasize this strongly enough, not even if you think she has a legitimate point or even if she’s completely in the right and you just realized you’re the biggest asshole on earth) or do anything that might indicate to her that she’s getting to you. take control of her, bodily if necessary, and if she becomes desperate enough to provoke you that she’s willing to get physical, restrain her until she calms down, but don’t start throwing plates or punches no matter how violent she gets.¹ you have to show her that you’re in control and you’re not going to let her tantrums push you into making an emotional display. be a little bit mean,² but show care and affection as well. that’s the only chance of getting her to calm down safely.³

if she said things that genuinely merit further discussion, or if you think you need to get down on both knees and beg for her forgiveness, do that after she’s back in the driver’s seat and not jacked up on adrenaline. it’s vastly better to have a serious conversation about a relationship and try to resolve conflict when the brain’s flooded with black tar endorphins and weepy post-fight oxytocin rather than racemic rage and freebase spite — trying the latter is all but guaranteed to wreck your shit.

(okay, so, there’s an option i left out of all this: walk away. only do this if you 100% sincerely do not give a shit what happens to her because if you leave her alone with all that anger boiling her blood there’s a good chance that emotion gets turned inwards and she’ll end up doing something stupid and self-destructive, if not outright suicidal. and if she’s outright borderline, expect suicidality. these situations always feel unfair, and they are, to both parties — believe me, it’s not FUN having your brain screaming at you that the person you would do anything for secretly hates you and was always going to betray you from the start “AND THIS IS JUST MORE PROOF YOU KNEW IT ALL ALONG WHY DID YOU LET IT GET THIS FAR” — and it’s understandable to feel angry in the moment, to feel like “she can deal with her mess on her own for all i care and if that hurts her, well, maybe she’ll understand how I feel”, but seriously do not ever try this unless when you envision holding your girl’s corpse in your hands it doesn’t even make you flinch.)

call it hysteria, call it a transient psychotic reaction, call it whatever makes you comfortable, but this is a real phenomenon that affects i think probably most women, especially young women, especially hormonal young women. part of being a functional human culture is training your young men to deal with this problem, so they know how to handle it when it arises, because most men (at least, men who interact with women…) are going to confront this at least once, probably many more times. take away that training, and relationships start falling apart, gender relations get strained to all hell, women get blinded and controlled by our psychotic impulses and delusions, and end up doing things like, oh, falsely accusing men of rape for no discernible reason.

and unfortunately, as part of the ongoing program of feminist cultural engineering and enforced Gender Equality®, western cultures have largely deemed it Officially Misogynist to admit the existence of hysteria, much less teach men how to handle it.

shit’s fucked, y’all.

1) i mean, obviously, defend yourself if you actually have to, but if you’re weak enough that your woman can overpower or seriously injure you, you need to fix that ASAP if you want the relationship to last. also, women can be violent domestic abusers too — there comes a point where the right call might be that the relationship isn’t worth saving and you need to get the fuck out of there. no matter what some people might say, this is a decision you have to make for yourself, and a line you have to draw for yourself. you are allowed to choose for yourself how much you are willing to endure for love — just make sure that love is truly reciprocated before you go making huge sacrifices.
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2) no one ever won a woman’s heart by being perfectly sweet to her and giving her everything she asked for
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3) if you don’t show care and affection, you’ll be signalling that you don’t care about her and cutting short the path to de-escalation; if you’re not a little bit mean, you’re signalling unwillingness to punish her delinquent behavior. either is bad for the relationship.
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