When you are interacting with people that only want what they want, regardless of how it affects you, you’re in for a very dysfunctional, and possibly emotionally harmful situation.
It’s important to know your line and know when people cross it, then honor that line so that you don’t lose a bit of yourself.
(The following podcast transcript has been modified for easier readability and to benefit the Deaf and hard of hearing)
How do you handle a toxic situation with grace and ease? The first toxic situation that comes to my mind is with family. You know, toxic family members that you may or may not have in your life? Or that person in the grocery line that’s giving you a hard time?
How do you bow out or confront gracefully might be a topic for another show, but just as a thought that I had as I was starting this episode, one of the toxic situations that comes up for me is when someone from your family will say something that you are wholly against, or is outside of your values and in their values maybe, or just offensive to you.
I just had an episode on Love and Abuse, my other podcast – If you listen to that episode, you’re going to hear me talk about how to handle toxic situations on social media. So when someone disagrees with you or post something that triggers you emotionally, what do you do? How do you say what you want to say? Maybe you shouldn’t say anything.
One of the more major bullet points that I talked about, has to do with inviting yourself into a possibly abusive scenario. We do this! We get ourselves involved in what we know, subconsciously or consciously, is going to be a volatile, aggressive, or abusive scenario. Because we know that, we are heavily responsible for what we do from that point on. If someone triggers us, how are we going to gracefully get out of that possibly toxic situation that’s developing?
So again, I talked about that on Love and Abuse, but if you don’t listen to that episode, take this away with you today, which is how are you injecting or inviting yourself into the toxic situation or into the possibly abusive conversation or interaction? Because this is what we do we get triggered, we get charged and we want to either defend ourselves or prove to someone else that they’re wrong or speak up because we want to stand up for what’s right. Then we get ourselves into a mess.
The reason it’s a mess is because usually the person triggering us, if they’re known for triggering us, then we know what we’re getting into, as soon as we engage. So just keep this in mind in any scenario, whether it’s in social media, whether it’s at the grocery store, whether it’s at home, when someone triggers you, you are then making a decision to engage in a toxic situation or not.
It’s possibly toxic. I mean, just because you’re triggered doesn’t mean it’s gonna be a toxic situation, but I’m talking about the people that will continue an interaction that is aggressive, volatile, or abusive.
When they’re going to continue that interaction in an abusive way, then you have a choice to inject yourself into that mix or not. Most of the time. And I know there are those yelling at me right now saying, “I don’t have a choice! I try to walk away and he or she continues to pull me into the conversation.”
I get that. And when that happens, you have to be aware that there are people that want to win. Not only do they want to win, but they want to make you lose. They want to make you feel bad. They want to make sure that you are on the bottom, so they’re on the top, and they can put their foot on your dying corpse and raise their fist and say, “Yes, I’m the winner!”
So you have to know these personalities and do your best to stay out of the toxic situation that these personalities can create in your life. Because once you know the personality, once you know who they are, then almost always engagement is your choice. So be careful about that because we want to engage we want to honor ourselves and say what’s right. We want to stand up for what’s right. We want to tell them how wrong they are. And maybe this time we’ll convince them how wrong they are.
But if you know what the past has shown you, you’re probably not going to win against certain people. If you accept that, that certain people you can’t win with, then it might be the best choice to not engage with them. Just a thought before we begin this episode, which is partially or wholly about, I haven’t decided yet, selfishness. Because what happens when you are dealing with selfish people? They don’t care about you. Most of the time. They don’t care about you, all they want is what they want. They’ll do anything to get it. They’re selfish!
It’s the person that knows there are five people in the office and five cookies on the plate in the kitchen, and one of them takes two. The other person doesn’t get one so when they walk in and see the empty plate, they’re like “Oh, all the cookies are gone!”
Too bad, so sad. At least that’s what the selfish person would think or say. That’s just a minor example because selfishness runs rampant in certain people, especially narcissists. If you don’t know what narcissism is, that’s a good thing to look up because there’s a lot of people with narcissistic tendencies and full-blown narcissism.
My definition of full-blown narcissism, at least a useful definition for me, is something I already said:
When someone is so selfish that you don’t matter.
No matter what they do, almost every behavior has to do with them in getting what they want. They want their needs met, regardless of your needs.
When it comes to narcissism, what you’ll experience from the narcissist is different moments where they seem to care. The narcissist seems to care, but they do that in order to get their needs met. There could be an argument like “Well Paul, don’t we all do that?” To a certain extent, I can agree with that (that we all do things to get our own needs met), but really certain people aren’t selfless at all and have absolutely no empathy.
This is what differentiates the narcissist from most people is that they don’t have any empathy. I’m talking about full-blown narcissism. A lot of us have narcissistic tendencies, but this is the person that just doesn’t care if you are hurting, if you feel bad, if what they did cause a problem in your life, as long as they get their needs met all as well.
And so if you are with a narcissist, if you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, then you are experiencing this at the most intense level. you’re experiencing this at a level that is very, very difficult and emotionally draining, and you are probably in a space of low self-worth, low self-esteem, feeling guilty all the time for all the “problems” you cause in the relationship, and on and on and on. Because a narcissist wants other people to feel bad so that they can feel good.
That’s not the precise cause and effect always but sometimes it is. Sometimes the narcissist feels good because someone else is on the downside; because someone else feels bad. But in reality, what they’re doing is trying to satisfy their needs and be comfortable, regardless of other people’s comfort. They want to be happy regardless of other people’s happiness. And if you point out what they’re doing, they’re going to blame you for not having sensitivity for their needs or for not caring about them or for not loving them enough.
This is all the kind of stuff that a narcissist (or someone with major narcissistic tendencies) will put you through. They will make you feel so bad that you’ll be focused on yourself, and you won’t have any time to think about what they’re doing to you because they’re redirecting, causing you to refocus, making sure that all you do is concentrate on what you need to do to fix you so that you can satisfy their needs.
It’s a crazy thing and a lot of people get locked up in it. It’s heavily emotionally abusive. I talk more on that subject on my other podcast. When it happens, the victim of narcissistic abuse often tries harder. They try harder to please them, to show them that they’re worthy, to show them that they’re really trying to work on the relationship. And the narcissist will continue pointing out how they’re doing things wrong.
Kind, caring, empathetic, compassionate people, typically always try harder. Because of that, it’s a detriment. It’s a dysfunction. That sucks to say, because I don’t want to say that kindness, compassion, caring, and generosity are dysfunctions. But they become dysfunctional if you do it to enable someone else’s narcissistic behavior.
This is really good to keep in mind with anyone in your life. It does lead into what I’m talking about today, which isn’t necessarily totally about narcissism, but it is about selfishness and how we might fail to identify a selfish response or behavior from someone else because we’re so focused on what we might be doing wrong, or wanting to be right, or proving to them that they’re wrong.
If you misidentify what might be considered selfish behavior, then you might get drawn into the toxic or abusive interaction. This is what we need to keep in mind when we’re conversing with anyone. We need to listen to their words and ask ourselves, “I wonder why they would say that? I wonder what they get from that? What are they trying to achieve? What outcome are they going for?”
If you can answer those questions, you’ll stop getting sucked into conversations like that. You’ll stop getting into relationships with people that call you wrong, or call you bad and say that you need to be fixed but they are perfectly fine.
You’ll change your life if you are able to spot selfish behavior and realize that the behavior that you see is actually a function that they’ve developed over the years that helps them achieve their outcome, regardless of your thoughts, feelings, or emotions. And you’ll just have to realize there are people like, people that maybe you love and respect in your life right now that are like this.
It’s hard to spot them because they’re usually so kind and caring. They seem so generous. What happens is when you start to break apart the actual behavior – what they say and what they do – what you end up with are the components that make up a bigger picture that you didn’t see before. That bigger picture is someone’s actually devising or scheming this whole thing just to get what they want.
This can be very hurtful to the people that care about these people. If your mom is like this, or your dad, your partner, your friend… whoever in your life is like this, when you’re drawn into the deception that they’re creating, it’s hard for you to see outside of that deception because you’re so involved and enmeshed in it. When you are involved in something like this, it’s very difficult to see from the outside what’s happening.
This is why it’s important to start listening carefully, and break apart what they say and do in your own mind first. Then, as you get better at hearing what they are saying, ask yourself, “Well, what are they trying to accomplish here? What is in it for them?”
That’s the question that you kind of stew on for a while. Every time they do something that seems questionable, or that especially makes you feel bad, or even if it makes you feel good. Ask yourself what’s in it for them.
Something else I need to bring up is that narcissists, or people with high tendencies of narcissism, or just very selfish people even if they’re not full-blown narcissists, know how to make you feel good about yourself. They know how to make you feel loved and worthy and their best friend, the best person they know. They do that to get their needs met.
This is the type of relationship that the narcissist, or someone with a high tendency toward narcissism, can create. It’s an up and down thing: “I’m going to give you what you want, and you’re going to feel great. And I’m going to take it away because what I want isn’t being met. So I need to arrange things to get what I want.”
What they want may just be you feeling bad. Because if you feel bad, guess who you’re focused on from that point on? You’re focused on yourself. You’re focused on what you need to do to not only feel better but likely your thoughts are more on the idea that you did something wrong and you’ll try to figure out how can you now do something right and better this time, just so they’ll see the “better you”.
You’ll want them to see the you that you know you are inside. You’ll want them to understand that you’re trying really hard to show them a better version of yourself, so you’ll be showing up as best as you can. You will try harder and harder to prove to them that you are working on yourself. And it becomes a huge energy drain on you.
Again, I’m not necessarily talking about narcissism to the fullest extent today but I think you should know all this stuff, just in case you’re dealing with someone in your life that is like this. People in relationships that deal with emotional abuse and narcissism should definitely listen to the Love and Abuse podcast. But in this episode, I really want you to get the idea that when we relate to someone, we have to be careful about certain people and where they’re coming from because we could end up damaged.
I’m not going to use that term lightly because this is what happens. This is why the term narcissistic abuse exists. It’s the ultimate form of selfishness, regardless of how you feel, and it may not be something they’re doing intentionally – this can happen too. It may be that all they want is to feel happy and comfortable in themselves. But the way they go about it hurts you.
And when that happens, there’s a decision to be made. There’s a thought that you need to have about, “Am I going to inject myself into this toxic situation? Am I going to engage in this toxic conversation? Am I going to put myself in harm’s way?”
This is a big level of responsibility for you too. If you’re deep in someone’s narcissistic magnetism, where they always make you feel good, then they take it away, trauma bonding happens. That’s when you are going through the love and abuse cycle: You’re loved then abused, then you’re loved again, then abused again, but because you love the highs of feeling loved and worthy you stay in the relationship. And because of that, you suffer through the lows of feeling worthless and unloved, just to get to that next high.
It’s hard to get out of trauma bonding when you’re in a situation like that because it is like a drug. It’s like an addiction. It’s like you’re always looking for that next high, which is them treating you right or at least in a healthy way.
For this first segment, I just want you to walk away with some sense of understanding that some people can be very selfish, and appear as the most generous, kindest, supportive person ever. But you only find out that they’re selfish once you step out of your own stuff.
Because this is what happens: We get into our own stuff. We think, “I must have done something wrong” because highly selfish people will make sure that you focus on what you’re doing wrong (which they make up). As long as you’re focused on that, then you won’t see what they’re actually doing to get their desires, needs, and wants met.
When they get their desires, needs, and wants met, and they feel good inside themselves, it still won’t be enough. However, they realize if they continue to treat you badly, and you’re always feeling low because of the calamity they’re creating in your life, they’re going to know that you have a breaking point. They’re going to pull back right before your breaking point.
Just be aware of this stuff, I want you to be highly cognizant of what is happening. The only way to do that is to step out of your own stuff.
I’m going to say some things right now that I mean with all love and respect for you, but I want you to take what I say as something that could be powerful for your life.
One of them is: When you know people like this and you feel bad around them, stop feeling bad for yourself.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Stop thinking that you’re the problem. Stop thinking that you are causing them to feel bad.
Stop thinking about anything that you could do better, to make the situation better. Because I guarantee you, in fact, I would bet a year’s pay that if you are generally a kind, caring, compassionate and empathetic person, that you’re already doing enough.
You really are. And if you have to try any harder than what you’re doing now, to please someone like that, then all it does is get taken advantage of, and you get your energy sucked out of you. And you will feel that trauma bonding unless you get out of it.
That’s more for romantic relationships, but it’s also for family, probably just as powerful if not more powerful, because we want the love of family. It’s also for friendships, and it can happen at work with coworkers or bosses. We just have to be careful with these people because unless they want to change they’re not going to and so we just have to make this an acceptance inside of us that certain people won’t change, which means we have to take care of ourselves.
It’s great to take care of someone else and treat them nicely when it comes back at us. But if they’re using some sort of narcissistic formula to make us feel good, then make us feel bad, or make us feel crazy thinking that no matter what we do is wrong. or making us think that we’re the problem and they’re perfectly fine, and we have to work on ourselves and on and on, then that’s a huge red flag. We just have to be careful about those red flags.
Again, check out the Love and Abuse podcast for more on emotionally abusive relationships, but I want to talk about this a little bit more when we come back. I’m going to read you an email that inspired this episode. Make some comments. I think we have some good stuff to talk about today. We’ll be right back.
Welcome back. As I said, I’m going to read you an email. We’re on the selfish episode now. So this email is from someone, I think it’s a woman, who had an experience with a selfish person. Let’s see where we go with this.
She says I just want to say thank you. I was in a relationship with someone for a couple of years. In the beginning of that relationship. I thought I found my someone special. At some point, things started to feel darker and darker. I wasn’t okay with this behavior. I felt like I was being manipulated. But the situation was hard because I had moved in so quickly. And he had a child that he had full custody of.
I became this child stepmom and pretty much did everything for both of them. As I was slipping into this dark place, I needed some sort of help to prove that how I was feeling wasn’t just me being crazy. I searched for top mental health podcasts and yours came upon a list so I went with that one.
Once I started listening to your podcast, a lot of things you were saying were lining up with his behavior, and slowly realized I wasn’t the problem. I eventually fell into listening to Love and Abuse, which was even more healing. He was narcissistic and toxic in so many ways. There were signs of physical abuse like him pushing me. But at the time, I let it slide because I wanted to hold physically strong. It wasn’t until we got into an argument where he threw me into the wall and I crashed against the wall and landed on the floor. I was immediately crying. When I got up, I tried to leave. He freaked out and broke the light and broken glass was everywhere and he was telling me I can’t just leave after “everything we’ve built.”
I stayed out of fear. A week later, I was in the apartment by myself, and I was supposed to go with him and his child, but I said I need to chill at home tonight. In that moment, feeling alone and very sad, I checked his messages on Facebook and found some evidence of him cheating. I already knew that he had and for some reason, I needed another reason to leave. At this point, I found my nail in the coffin on the situation. I impulsively packed my bags, shoved everything I could into my car, and figured whatever furniture I left behind, I would just buy in the future. And I went back to my mom’s house.
That’s a long story short, but I just want to say thank you for bringing awareness on these topics, because a lot of people get stuck. It’s been seven months now and I’m healthier and happier, still healing, but it’s been a process. Thank you for being you.
Okay, thank you so much for writing this. I am so happy that you’re in a better space today. Thank you for being you and for having the strength to leave and take care of yourself, protect yourself, honor yourself. Everything that you went through is certainly going to help you in the future, and it usually weakens us at first, but it strengthens us later. I want you to remember that.
And you do sound stronger, so that’s wonderful. Thank you for sharing all this too, because I want to share this with anyone listening that might need to hear it. It’s about an abusive relationship. Not everyone’s in an abusive relationship, but there can be abusive people in our lives. Like I was saying, and family or friends or work, even church. I mean, this happens there are abusive people everywhere. And so what we need to do is have some resources inside of us so when these abusive people show up in our lives, we know how to handle it.
And handling it might mean we always come back to the big picture of honoring and protecting ourselves. So keeping that in mind anytime you’re with someone who is trying to hurt you or harm you or make you feel bad in some way, which is damaging, it is emotionally damaging, and the wounds can last for a long time, come back to that bigger picture of what’s most important:
Your health, your sanity, your emotional state, your mental state, your life. Keep that big picture in mind, that is your driving force or should be your driving force, that should be your main motivation to protect you. Not that you’re always going around, paranoid and thinking everyone’s out to get you, but you keep it at the top of your list – something very important, high value. So if anyone does cross the line, you’re going to access that higher purpose for yourself, to protect you to honor you.
So with that in mind, I’m going to go through a couple of things that this person wrote the email and just comment on them regarding the selfish place that some people go to. We’re on the selfish topic so let’s just continue with that. She said at the beginning of the relationship, she thought she found someone special.
So here’s the thing when it comes to certain selfish people… We can call them narcissists, we can call them sociopaths, we can call them a lot of things, but let’s just call them selfish. Selfish is when they want what they want, no matter what it takes to get it. That kind of selfish I’m talking about.
Certain selfish people, which I mentioned in the last segment will do things that make you feel good about yourself. They make you feel special. There’s a certain characteristic amongst the very selfish people that make you feel amazing. They make you feel so loved, they will love bomb you, they will gift bomb you, they will charm the pants off of you sometimes literally. Hate to be that graphic but that can and does happen.
So we need to be very careful, especially at the beginning of a romantic relationship, that when someone makes you feel that special, there might be something a little insidious underneath. I hate to say that because people want to feel special. You want to feel loved. You want to feel like you’re admired or even worshiped, maybe not everyone listening, but some people just want to feel they are so worthy that somebody would do anything for them.
When that happens sooner than later, you just have to be careful. I consider that an orange and sometimes red flag. That is something that you just want to consider if you start feeling very special. Like they are going over the top. They’re talking marriage and kids may because maybe that’s what you want, or maybe not. They’re talking about everything that you want. It might be too good to be true. That doesn’t mean you stop the relationship. It just means you put your radar on. You put your selfish-radar on. “Are they being selfish? Are they saying this? To attract me more? Are they saying this to get me to get closer to them to make me feel more comfortable with them?”
And ask yourself “If they were trying to be selfish in this moment? How would it work? If what they said to me or did for me, would it work to make me feel like I trust them more?”
This is tricky because I know there are genuine things, authentic things, that people do that automatically make you want to trust them and feel comfortable around them. So it is hard to tell sometimes, but I usually see that the more selfish someone is, the more giving they seem in the beginning. This is where the giving builds credibility for them so that when you think about them, you have all these amazing feelings about them.
So again, this is for romantic relationships, but it also works in family as well. But it’s not as exact with family because family you’ve known all your life, typically. So family doesn’t have to give you that first impression. You just have to watch for those first impressions. This does work in a similar way with friends and coworkers and bosses and other people in your life, that they will seem very giving and kind and generous.
So I like to walk around with a slight bit of skepticism about every single person I meet. That sounds so pessimistic. But I keep that skepticism up not because I’m a negative person or think badly about people. But because I think that’s a very healthy, critical thinking thing to do. I think when you think critically and discerningly, and you are making judgments and you are making a decision on who you want to let into your inner circle, who you want to let close to you, that you do have to be careful and selective.
This is a lot harder to do if you walk around in the world trying to make friends desperately, or trying to connect with people desperately because you’re more likely to let your guard down if you’re desperate. This is why I’ve said on other episodes when you’re starting any type of relationship, if you bring in a desperate energy, you’re going to probably attract a dysfunctional relationship. That’s tough because if you’ve been alone for a long time, or you’re trying to make friends, you’ll be more forgiving of people’s bad behavior. And sometimes you won’t even see the bad behavior.
So I like keeping a little bit of skepticism, always having that radar on just so that I can pace the process of connecting and getting to know someone and never dive in too fast too much so that I don’t get burned by my own misperception. Because that’s what happens, we can see the signs if we’re aware of them and we know what to look for. But we might get lost in our own perception or interpretation of things so we don’t follow through with the signs that we see. Or we just don’t notice them. That can be hazardous to our health.
So that’s why I like to say is just be aware, just be skeptical a little bit, doesn’t mean you’re not going to be any less loving or caring or compassionate or kind or respectable. It just means you have a watchful eye on yourself. You’re carrying your own personal bodyguard with you. That gives you that sense of security because your guard isn’t always up. And of course, when you get to know people and they prove themselves over and over again, you find out that you don’t have to carry that bodyguard around them anymore because they’re a nice person or they’re kind and they have your best interest in mind.
So when it comes to “someone special” as he’s saying, that’s my only thought on that is that selfish people will make the other person appear very special, but there’s usually something they do that’s a little over the top – a little too much. So just keep an eye on that.
She said something else. She said, “Once I started listening to your podcasts, a lot of things that you were saying were lining up with his behavior. And I slowly realized I wasn’t the problem.”
Now, this is important too, especially like I said in the last segment, when you’re kind and caring, and sympathetic and generous and compassionate, all the good qualities that I believe people should have, when you are those things, and you know you’re trying, that’s usually enough. It’s usually enough! Unless you are intentionally being bad.
But it’s usually enough. What what I just described there, if you have all those qualities, and you are trying, that’s usually enough, and what I mean by that is, it’s usually enough to tell me that you are probably not the problem. So I want you to remember that. If you ever find someone that is being very difficult with you, and they’re pointing the finger at you, and they’re always blaming, or criticizing you, or telling you “You need to try harder, and you’re the problem I’m not”, you’re probably not the problem.
If you’re all those qualities, or at least most of them, if you do not have those qualities, then that’s something to work on, I believe. I believe you have to work on this stuff because we have to get along we have to socialize, we have to connect with other people. Because life goes a lot easier when we can connect with other people.
So when she says, I slowly realized I wasn’t the problem, that is phenomenal. Because to realize that means that there’s a self-awareness going on. And sometimes we lose our self-awareness in any type of dysfunctional relationship, even with selfish people that we can’t see how selfish they’re being. We lose our self-awareness, we lose our conscientiousness of the situation, we lose our ability to see what’s really going on because we get redirected to focus on ourselves because we think we need to fix ourselves.
The person who wrote realized that she wasn’t the problem. She started thinking critically, she started being discerning, she started realizing that she was doing the best she can, and the other person wasn’t. That’s my interpretation. And I’m very happy that she figured that out.
So try to remember that when you are all those great characteristics, you’re probably not the problem. Now something else that she said that really stuck out, and this is a totally selfish thing for him to say, is she said he freaked out and he smashed something. Then he said, “You can’t leave after everything we’ve built.”
Now, this is when you ask yourself, Is this person saying this because they feel love for me?
Remember that question. “Is this person saying this because they feel love for me? Is this person saying this because they care about me? Is this person saying this because they respect me? Is this person saying this because they want what’s best for me?”
If she asked herself that question after he said that, which she may have, then she would have realized that him saying “You can’t leave after everything we’ve built” was a total manipulation. It was a way to make her feel bad about her decision. Because who says that with somebody who’s upset with them, and then they say, ‘You can’t leave after everything we built’ (mind you, this was just after he pushed her against the wall)?
If you want to find out if someone’s selfish, ask yourself, “Are they saying this because they want an outcome?” Whether you like it or not.
Just ask that question: “Do they want this outcome whether I like it or not?” If the answer is yes, then you may be looking at a very, very selfish person. And if that’s the case, then they’re going to do everything they can to get their way. We have to be really careful around those people. Because those are the kinds of people that will end up leaving us high and dry. They will end up taking love away from us, they will end up hurting us in many ways. Yet we keep spending time with them. This is where we inject ourselves into a toxic situation until we get out.
So if you’re in a romantic relationship with someone like that, it’s definitely something to think about. I’m not trying to make you feel bad about the decisions you’ve made. If you’re in a situation like that. I’m not trying to say that you have to leave. I’m just saying you need to keep these things in mind. So if you have a conversation with them, you are on solid ground with what you realize. And you are also in a better headspace so that you can have conversations from a rational place inside of you, instead of feeling like you’re going crazy.
So that comment, “You can’t leave after everything we’ve built”… I don’t feel love in that at all. I feel fear. I feel someone that is so selfish that’s wants what he wants, no matter who he hurts, that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. That just scares me. I don’t like that at all. I hope you don’t either.
So, the last thing that I want to read on this is how we tolerate so much from a selfish person before we do anything for ourselves. She already knew that he had cheated. She’d already been through all this abusive behavior. Then she found out that he cheated again, or he was still cheating, and she finally was pushed to threshold; she was finally pushed over the edge.
And I think I was talking about this last week, where you get pushed only so far, where you finally say, “I’ve had enough. I’ve had it I can’t take anymore. My heart can’t take it. My mind cannot take it. My body can’t take it. I’ve had enough.” And when you reach that point, you’re going to be the strongest person ever because you’re going to take care of things at that point. I
t’s either going to be a thought that you put into motion or a plan that you put into motion or an action step that you take. No matter what, you’re going to reach that limit, and you’re going to break through whatever was limiting you before. That could have been, “Hey, maybe it’ll work out. Maybe he’ll change. Maybe he’ll realize that he’s hurting me… ” (You know, I’m talking about the person who wrote), “Maybe he’ll realize the error of his ways” on and on and on.
We make these excuses. Instead of saying “No, this behavior is unacceptable. I have standards, I have criteria and you are violating that criteria. You are violating me. And I value me too much for you to violate me. So I will not take it anymore.”
And what I want to mention about her reaching that breaking point is that we sometimes stay way too long in a situation that is abusive or harmful and damaging. We sometimes stay way too long. Because we become resilient. We become or are forgiving. We are compassionate. We are caring. We feel bad because they’ve had a tough life and they have a hard time. We feel like we need to be more for the people that we love in our lives. Even though some of them, the selfish people, don’t seem to feel the same way toward us.
They want to do what they want to do to get what they want. We try to do everything we can to give them what they want. Yet they always want more, or they are hurting us or whatever (I’ve talked about it to death in this episode), they are continually draining us. And what ends up happening is that we become so tolerant of bad behavior, we continue to let it happen because at least it’s not worse. That’s like one of the worst things you can say to yourself:
“At least it’s not worse. He pushed me against the wall, but at least he didn’t punch me in the face. You know what, he yelled at me in front of my mom, but at least he didn’t smack my child. “
And on and on. We take these violations of our values, and we just throw them out the window as if they don’t exist. That’s when we become more and more resilient to bad behavior.
That’s not good. I mean, you don’t need me to say that. But what you want to do is be careful of your levels of resilience and toleration, because I understand that they are good qualities to have. I appreciate it; I definitely work on my resilience and toleration with certain people, but not when it violates my values, not when it violates my boundaries.
There’s a line. And you have to make sure that that line for you is solid, and that when people cross it, they know they’ve crossed it. They also know that there is accountability when they cross it. If you’re not there yet, work on that, work on getting there because life is just too short.
Life is too short for people to be crossing our line all the time and stepping all over you. You don’t deserve that. So to the person who wrote this email, you said, it’s been seven months now and you’re healthier and you’re happier. You are a testament to what can happen if you decide to get out of a toxic situation. If you decide to remove toxic people from your life, life gets better.
Life can be harder at first, I guarantee you when she first left, it was hard. In fact, it probably felt defeating. It probably felt like she was going to end up on the street. I don’t know. Maybe she felt like she’d never find love again. I hear all of these things over and over again. People write to me all the time, saying I’ll never find that type of person again, I’ll never find that kind of love again. And here’s someone who probably thought that she was in the best relationship ever. Then it turned out to be something awful.
But instead of continuing a path that made her feel bad day after day after day, she became aware, she turned on that radar and realized, “Wait, I’m not causing this. I’m just a part of his dysfunction. I don’t want to be.” And so she decided that she needed to go.
I know it was a hard decision. And sometimes decisions are hard. I have left toxic work environments when I needed the money. I’ve honored myself with toxic people when I knew I would lose their friendship or someone in my family, someone’s love.
I have chosen the hard road, not to pat myself on the back but to tell you, you’ll survive. You’ll get through it. You will make it out the other side. And when you get away from the people that draining you, or talk to them and tell them that they’re draining you, and hopefully, they realize how bad that is and they change their ways that would be great too, but when you change something, even though the road might be harder, because it usually is, big changes like this are usually harder, the rewards are often greater.
Kind of what happens is that the harder roads typically lead to bigger rewards, but you have to get the lessons out of it, you have to take the path that honors you. If it’s hard and it doesn’t honor you, then you might be on the wrong path. But if it’s hard, and it honors you, it’s usually highly rewarding. I appreciate you. Thank you so much for writing and thank you for listening to another episode of The Overwhelmed Brain. We’ll be right back. I’ll say some thank yous and my final words after this.
Someone wrote to me and asked, “How can I get my friend to listen to your show or take advice on the emotionally abusive relationship that she’s currently in?”
It was a longer email than that, but she said a friend of hers, and her, are talking to another friend who’s in a bad situation. They’re telling her, “You gotta listen to the show. You gotta listen to Love and Abuse. You’ve got to see this behavior you’re telling us about. It’s all in this show. You’ve got to listen to it. “
She said that friend doesn’t have time to listen, or doesn’t want to take the time to listen, or isn’t motivated to listen to it or something like that. So the person who wrote to me is asking, “How can I make her listen or…” I don’t know if she asked that way, but she said, “How can I urge her to listen” or “How can I get her to see what she’s going through is very bad for her, we care about her.”
The answer to that is very simple and very difficult. The simple answer is, you probably will never be able to convince her until she’s ready. That’s a simple answer. But it’s difficult because you’re going to watch your friend suffer. And she will suffer. And I’m guessing she will suffer but from what you’re describing, she will suffer.
But what does that mean? It means you have to be there for her if she needs you.
That’s it. That’s the best advice I can give you because you trying to convince someone to do something that they’re not ready for, that even if she listened to that show, she’s gonna find out truths that may be too difficult for her to hear.
I do believe that show will help but if she knows there’s already a problem (believe me, she already knows there’s a problem in her relationship), she believes that it’s more comfortable to stay in some sense of denial, just so she can get through another day, just so she doesn’t have to stop things and deal with reality. Because if she were to leave that relationship, or if she were to confront the person she’s with, it’s going to be hard like I was saying earlier. It’s going to be difficult!
Some people aren’t ready for difficult. Some people want the easy path, even if the easy path is completely uncomfortable. At least it’s what she knows. Some people can deal with what they know a lot easier than with what they don’t know. Or at least what they fear – might be a better way to put it.
My mom dealt with what she knew: A horrible, abusive man for over forty years just because she feared what she didn’t know would happen if she left him. And what we don’t know will happen is usually not just a blank space in our mind. It is what we visualize happening. She might visualize ‘If I leave, that person is going to take all my money or that person is going to take my kids or that person is going to hurt me in some way.’ Some of these may be along the lines of truth.
Fortunately, the victim of abuse typically has the law on their side. That doesn’t mean it’s easier. It doesn’t mean that you can just get everything straightened out really quick. No, it might take a while. Sometimes it’ll take a long time and the process will be slow. But each step away from toxicity heals the relationship radiation. It’s moving toward healing the emotional damage that has taken place.
When you stay in a toxic situation, the damage continues to eat away and hurt. It continues to harm you. But when you step away from it, the very first day is like quitting smoking. It’s like you’re giving your lungs a break for the very first time. Then the second day, your lungs can breathe easier, and the third day easier. But it might take months.
And people don’t like that idea. Some people will not entertain a choice that takes months of hard work or hard decisions or hard emotional battles. They don’t want to deal with it. They don’t want to do it. And so your friend, the person who wrote her friend may not be ready to deal with that. She may not have the strength. She may not have the willpower. It’s been crushed maybe in the relationship and if that’s the case, she might need to reach the breaking point herself.
And sometimes you just have to let people crash. I mean, that’s what they say in AA, sometimes you let them crash. You stop enabling their behavior (like when you’re with an alcoholic or a drug addict), you stop enabling it, and you let them crash, you let them reach bottom so that they finally have some realization that they need to change. That realization comes from the bottom. That realization comes from the lowest place you can reach.
And so some people need to reach that low place, in order to find the strength. There’s a lot of power in that low place. There’s a lot of energy down there, too. When we’re so drained, we suddenly find it when we’re pushed over the edge. Because how much farther down can you go? Once you reach the bottom, you push back up.
It’s that deep end of the pool: You’re holding your breath and you’re swimming down, you’re holding your breath and you’re swimming down. And pretty soon you can’t hold your breath anymore, then you feel the bottom and you push off. And all you want is to breathe again. As you get closer and closer to the surface, then you can breathe, then you feel good, then you’re actually doing something for yourself, you’re honoring yourself, you’re giving your body and your mind life again.
And so some people need to reach that bottom to find that push-off point to get that strength. So she may need to do this, unfortunately, and nothing you can say to convince her will work, in my opinion. So what you might need to do instead, and what I would do if I were you, is say, “Hey, I know you’re going through a rough time and I just want to let you know that I am here for you whenever you need me.”
That’s it. That’s all you say. Because saying that is going to give them a lifeline. She’ll have a lifeline. So whenever she needs it, she’ll call you. And what that does is allows her to initiate self-empowerment. It allows her to take a step forward. herself. So when you get that call, I mean, that’s going to be from a self-realized place, from a self-aware place. Instead of someone trying to convince her, and she feels like she has to do it because she’s under pressure from her friends or whatever, even those a lot of love and care and what you’re trying to do for her, it’s a lot better and it’s a lot more effective, and it usually lasts when somebody initiates it themselves.
That’s why I say throw out that lifeline and if she wants to grab it, it’s her choice. Then you’ll be very helpful for her because she will be open and still might take baby steps with her. She may need to do very small steps to get into a better space. But she has to reach that place herself, go to that mental gym inside of her head, and really start building her mental strength so that she can make decisions for herself because that’s what it’s going to require.
You can try to convince someone all day to leave someone that’s bad for them but what they need is the strength to leave themselves. That is a huge process inside someone’s mind that might have been dealing with it for a long time.
So that’s my advice for you. I hope it’s helpful. And I know it’s hard. But I think that’s the best way to approach anyone that’s in a situation like that, especially when you’ve already tried to convince them that “You should leave him and we’ll do whatever we can for you.” I mean, I tried to do that with my mom for years and years and years, never ever worked.
And as soon as I said, “Hey if you ever want to talk about it, I’m here” she opened up, then things started changing in her. Then she started realizing there’s more to life because she was finally able to access some of the deeper inner wounds that she had, that she felt like I wasn’t going to judge her for, or again, put her on the defense because she wasn’t ready to leave or talk about it. Some of the stuff has to come out in time, in a way that is self-initiated, self-realized, and self-empowered. And I wish that for your friend and I hope that she makes it through this okay and is able to take steps that honor her.