After watching ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’, I started thinking about why people are so attracted to abusive personalities. If we look around, we will see that almost each one of us is dying to impress someone who has mistreated us in one way or the other. Why do we seek approval from abusive people? The fact that a person like Donald Trump is in the race for presidency proves that people are vulnerable to gaslighting.
In ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’, Ranbir Kapoor’s character wants romantic, passionate love, which Anushka Sharma’s character is unable to give. Ranbir throws tantrums because he is friendzoned and he believes he is entitled to romantic love from Anushka. He forcefully tries to kiss Anushka and even shoves her because he wants her ‘love’ at any cost. The sad part is that most people let others treat them this way. One reason is that most of us don’t really love ourselves and we doubt our own worth. In ‘The Gaslight Effect’ (click), Dr. Robin Stern writes that as long as people believe that they need external validation, they will be always vulnerable to gaslighting and other forms of emotional abuse. Manipulative people love those who don’t love themselves because they tolerate abuse in exchange of love and appreciation. Manipulative people cleverly alternate between bad and good behavior so that their victims stay confused (“But he is not abusive! He was so nice to my parents!”).
Another reason why we are attracted to abusive people is the drama that they bring to our lives. We may talk about peace but we kind of like drama, thrill, and excitement. Many abusers are charming…in fact, some abusers are acclaimed artists or people with special talent. Somewhere, our ideals of a ‘true artist’ stop us from considering the possibility that they might have abused someone. Woody Allen is considered to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time but the sexual abuse allegations against him are hard to digest because of his accomplishments. The allegations of domestic violence against Johnny Depp are dismissed by his fans because he brings so much integrity to his characters.
To put an end to this cycle of abuse we have to realize that we can never impress our abuser. Manipulative people want to dominate and feel superior to others, so there is no reason why they will give us respect. To respect someone, we have to acknowledge that someone is as good as or better than us. People like Donald Trump feel confident when they put others down so there is no question of ‘winning’ their love or appreciation. Once we realize this, we choose peace over drama and love over abuse.