Saturday, September 19, 2015

Happiness is...

They say that other people can't make you happy, you have to decide to be happy. I tried that, and for a while it worked. The problem is that there are people out there who don't want to find their own happiness and are determined to bring down anyone who is. We all know these people. They are catty and blame others. They seek sympathy but refuse to listen to solutions. They don't want the problems fixed - they want to cling to their misery so that others will pity them.

Unfortunately, I often come across people like that. They always seem so normal at first. They say they want to be friends and that they will be there for me. But then the slowly they start to show who they really are. It starts with rude comments or a judgmental statement because they "had a bad day." They say they are sorry but they aren't really and the person they are hating on forgives them, because they think it's a one time thing and want to be nice. What is really happening is that the "friend" is conditioning the person to accept that they can be treated poorly as long as the "friend" has a excuse. Over time the rudeness and judgmental attitude continue until the person starts to believe they deserve to be treated badly. Given enough time the rest of the people that are associated with the group also start to believe that this is they appropriate way to treat that single person. In many cases the person will begin to believe it about themselves.

The real struggle is how to make friends and yet be vigilant for this type of manipulative behaviour. After going this time and again I have come up with a few things that I do for myself.

Listen and Observe

If someone is going to be eventually try to tear you down then they are most likely already doing it to someone else. Watch how the person treats other people in the group of friends. Is there someone that acts like they are separate from group? Is that person viewed as a "third wheel" or often talked down to by one or more people in the group? If so, is there a single person in the group who is encouraging the negative comments? If you try to befriend the outcast does anyone make a point to try to separate you either by sending the person away or belittling you?

Don't Share

These people want to get close to you so that they can figure out how to control you. Until you have observed their behaviour and are able to determine the nature of who they are - don't give them the power to hurt you. I've made this mistake on more than one occasion and have had my fears thrown in my face. It's not a pretty thing to go through. If you refuse to give them any knowledge about yourself that you value, then they have no ammunition for attacking you later. Keep in mind that their goal is to see you miserable, so if you share your traumatic moments with them they will find a way to use that, either by stating that your being stupid or by dismissing the trauma as irrelevant in front of the group. Thereby also telling the group that you are irrelevant.

Know your Value

For a long time I struggled when I ran into these situations because over time I began to believe what I was being told. My feelings didn't matter. My concerns were stupid. And by consequence - I didn't matter and was stupid.  It wasn't until I had a job as an administrative assistant that I heard something that really clicked.

"You have to teach people how to treat you."

Before that I assumed that people were generally nice and that they were really just having a bad day when they spoke down to me. And in some cases this may still be true. But in most it's not. It's that person trying to control me. Knowing, and remembering, that I deserve to be treated with respect means that I also don't deserve the negative comments and the harsh criticisms. This was particular hard for me because my nature was to "turn the other cheek" and "get along".

It's important to state that this is not to say that you should become the jerk that you are trying to protect yourself from. It's still possible to be friendly - unless they are determined to be hateful.

Having these rules in place has helped me to better see who is my friend, who is looking for a perpetual pity party, and who is simply mean spirited. And that knowledge has allowed me to better surround myself with real friends, avoid the "pity me" trap and stop associating those who are only interested in hurting other people.

The hardest part of this process is that sometimes I have to let people go who would rather associate with the mean person. This is a different struggle entirely as I have to allow myself to mourn the loss of a friendship rather than try to convenience the other person that the rude or mean "friend" isn't actually a friend. Letting go is hard. Letting go of someone close and knowing that they are going to hurt is harder. But I can't allow the mean people to continue to try hurt me and I can't help someone who doesn't want my help. All I can do is be a friend after they learn the truth for themselves.