So last time I wrote, I raised the question whether it was my own culture that led me to have very high expectations of people and their behaviours. I wondered if the world had changed from when we were brought up or had the culture set us for failure?
Posing this question to my therapist, she said that if the principles and values didn’t work in reality, then yes, the culture is setting you up for failure. (She’s so good, she doesn’t criticize my crazy thinking!). However, she said it is more likely that your high values of loyalty and duty are the first things to signal a manipulator who will then hone in on you and exploit those values. All strengths have their flip side. So a sense of duty and loyalty can be a strength. When a manipulator, a bully, or an abuser sees that in you, they will then manipulate you so that it becomes a weakness. Something for me to get my head around.
When I have read self-help books or talked to people about emotional abuse or bullying, they have all said ‘You have to change’. I have sometimes felt very resentful about that. Why should I have to change? Why should someone else’s behaviour mean that I have to change who I am? Recently I read something in a book called ‘Boundaries’ by Cloud and Townsend that helped the lights go on.
“You cannot change anything else: not the weather, the past, the economy – and especially not other people. You cannot change others. More people suffer from trying to change others than from any other sickness. And it is impossible. What you can do is influence others. But there is a trick. Since you cannot get them to change, you must change yourself …..”
Oh no, here we go again, I thought, I’m being told I have to change myself.
“Since you cannot get them to change, you must change yourself so that their destructive patterns no longer work on you. Change your way of dealing with them; they may be motivated to change if their old ways no longer work.”
So basically, what I learned that I had to do is to change how I respond to them so that their destructive behaviours no longer work on me! This validated my thoughts that the abusers’ behaviours were destructive. What I have to change is my reaction to their behaviours. So this was most useful to me as it actually defined a little more clearly what kind of changes I needed to make.
I have one or two things that I have been working on in relation to this, but I’m sure I will discover many more on my journey. One of the things that I am trying to change is how I view people in the working environment. I have a deeply ingrained sense of hierarchy and how I should behave to someone who holds a position. I tend to be very deferential to those in authority. My therapist suggested that I look at this differently – not to encourage disrespect or rudeness – but so that I can create a different paradigm to work within. Using the example of my boss or my trainer, she said that they are no different from me – they are not better than me – they just have different responsibilities than I do at work. The other thing is that I have given myself permission to call them (or rather their behaviour) ‘jerks’ in my thought processes when their behaviour towards me is demeaning; when they talk over me when I’m asking a question or explaining a situation that they need to know about due their position; and when they withhold information from me. I think the word ‘jerk’ might be one of the Americanisms that I have picked up. I’m sure my dad would use the word ‘idiot’!
I don’t usually like to think unkindly of people, but using the word ‘jerk’ is helping me obtain a better reality of the situation. (I so hope it doesn’t just pop out of my mouth when I’m speaking to them! That would be an interesting dilemma that I don’t want to have to deal with). It is also helping me not to absorb their destructive behaviours as my fault.
The other thing that I need to work on is my communication. The rules that I have to practice have the acronym of HARD.
Communication is HARD.
I don’t have a problem with ‘Appropriate’ and ‘Respectful’. I do have a problem with ‘Honest’ and ‘Direct’. ‘Honest’ is hard for me more in the realm of omission. It is hard for me to be confrontational and to say exactly how I feel. Unfortunately this weakness leads me to be passive aggressive – meaning that I won’t tell the person that I’m upset with that I’m upset with them, but I would tell my husband or a close friend. This lets me vent and release my anger but it doesn’t really solve any problems. When my boss talks over me as I’m explaining something, it is hard for me to say ‘I feel that talking over me is rude’. I guess this is why ‘Direct’ is also hard for me. Ha ha – I am thinking that not only is it difficult for me to actually say this to her, I also think that she would still be talking over me when I said it, so I don’t have a window to say it in. Then there is the fear of being rejected or have some other verbal abuse come back from saying it – at which point I would probably hang up on her and lose my job.
Why not forget the job? This is a very good question. I will leave my answer for another day ….
(First published 13th March, 2018 on Spanish Views)