OK, I’m going to let y’all in on a conundrum I’m currently dealing with: how to stay in relationship with people who “don’t get it”. You know these people – the ones who say the wrong things, judge you, tell you how bad you and your life look from the outside. The people who think that the solution to all that ails ye is a swift kick in the pants delivered by them. You know, the people who just generally make you feel awful about yourself and your situation. What do you do with those people?
There’s something about me that seems to bring out the dysfunctional in people. My theory is that because I tend to be very tolerant and understanding as well as prone to a certain amount of chaos, people simultaneously get their issues triggered and forget themselves with me. They accuse my clueless 6 year old of being an evil mastermind bent on making everyone around him squirm with discomfort. They tell me that I’m arrogant. They tell me that my life is being held hostage to an awful ghetto man who controls and oppresses me. They tell me that I’m a selfish person who spends all my time thinking about myself. They tell me that my life is too awful for them to witness. Or like my husband did earlier this week they tell me that a freak accident involving my purse being left on the roof of the car is proof of A REALLY BIG PROBLEM with the entire way I manage life.
For many years I nearly drove myself crazy taking these sorts of things seriously. I had bought into the idea that everyone could see me much more clearly than I see myself and would take the most outrageous, outlandish things people said to me very seriously. Until I finally came to the realization that for all my attempts to take these sorts of evaluations of me and my life seriously, none of them had ever held up to examination. Why? Certainly not because I’m so perfect! But I’ve always been far harder on myself than anyone imagines, so the odds that some big fault of mine had gone undetected by me lo these many years is pretty slim. Not only that, but giving so much credence to those who lobbed such ideas at me had a very negative effect on my life. Quite literally everything I’ve ever done that I came to regret had one of two roots: an emotional over-reaction on my part or trusting someone else’s opinion more than my own. I’m still wrestling with the emotional over reacting thing. But what to do with all these people who really believe, as I once did, that they can see me and my faults much more clearly than I can?
The easy answer is, “get rid of ‘em!” But what happens when you’re married to one of them? Or the child, sister, brother or parent of one of them? Or they are in your bible study or work with you or live with you? Well, you set boundaries, of course! But what happens when your attempts to do that are met with hostility, accusations that you’re unwilling to face reality or even that you’re being abusive? What do you do when you’ve tried listening, talking, explaining and the other person seems constitutionally incapable of understanding or respecting your perspective?
For quite some time I have generally gone with the default “get rid of ‘em” tactic. It’s been a healthy thing, mostly. I needed the mental space to learn to appreciate what is good about me without all the unhelpful editorializing. But the reality is that most people are dysfunctional. And like I said, I seem to have a knack for triggering that dysfunction. There must be some way to protect myself from these people who just don’t get it and want to fight with me about it without cutting myself off from family and friends. But I’ll admit, I don’t really know what that is. Ideas? Wisdom? Good advice? As long as it doesn’t start with “well, first you need to face the fact that THERE’S SOMETHING SERIOUSLY WRONG WITH YOU”, I’m all ears!