WHY ME? - HOW TO DEAL WITH TOXICITY AND SAVE YOUR SANITY
Updated: May 14
It is highly likely that, you too, have experienced the feeling of being utterly stuck. Like no matter how hard you have tried with the other person, no matter how you were being, you just couldn't do anything right. You could never make them behave decent towards you and you most certainly could never win.
We get so confused by an emotional instability and behavioural unpredicatability. Like walking on thin ice we can sometimes feel utterly powerless when relating to the insecure and power hungry. Blaming ourselves in desperation, we render ourselves even more powerless...
'I don't deserve this. Why me?!' I asked myself in a whining voice. Since my twenties I developed a contructive habit of writing things that confuse me down. Typically, if it is on my mind for some time there is something for me to discover, like a false belief that my thought circuit hinges on. I am a curious, eager learner. Besides, who could I better understad than myself? Immediately after I type down my question I receive kind of an obvious answer. A 'Dah!' speach bubble appears in my mind upon hearing 'By saying "why me" you are making it personal. You are making their shit your problem, and you are stuck with it! The situation is no longer about them behaving shitty because you have taken their shit in your hands, complaining that it smells.'
Unfortunately, I have some deeply flawed people in my life I cannot door slam (in a true INFJ fashion). They are communicating with me much to my aversion. Having shockingly low self-awareness (and self-esteem) the blame shifting with bouts of agression ending in verbal assaults, the emotional battery, are making me sometimes cave into the dispair and hatred of their existence with them. I learned that I cannot expect anything nice from them. Going through these experiences for years I am used to being on my toes, which led to my anxiety. My amygdala, the emotional sensor in my brain, is on high alert and I get easily rattled on contact with these self-centred, manipulative characters. I am having to work hard (through therapy and self-education) on grounding myself to keep my cool. But some interactions throw me off my rocker no matter how hard I try to stay zen.
It feels like being strapped in to a roller-coaster against my will: I never know what comes next which makes my stomach turn inside out in anticipation of a conflict. I feel overwhelmed, unwell with my heart racing, and all I really want is to get out. The most frustrating thing is that I don't feel I can...
I didn't think I expect much from some people after years of incessant abuse. I got that no matter how logical and reasonable I am, I can never be right. Truth can really enrage some people so I am learning to reduce my exposure, keeping my contact with them to the absolute minimum. I also learned time and time again that I cannot trust them because they have no principles of their own. There are no rules that govern their thinking and shape their actions apart from one: The fear of not having and not being enough. Which is why they have to always come on top. In every interaction, they need to appear smarter, the better parent, the nicer and more reasonable human. I understood the profound shame they feel whenever they are exposed to truth that is somewhat trickier to deny. The fury that follows is spectacular!
Being aware of all the above however, their volatile actions keep muddling my emotional waters. ‘Why do I feel bad when I could foresee this?' I get confused at times. It agitates me when staying clear of things that could potentially trigger them made no difference to how they responded. Believe it or not, I even feel bad for misjudging them when they are briefly nice! I keep going through notions of feeling unhappy and sad for how they are treating me (feeling like the victim that I refuse to be) and feeling angry for how I am treating myself (for holding the grudge to my own detriment). I keep asking myself 'What am I doing wrong that a/ I cannot keep rising above it, and b/ I get dragged into the drama?' As the self-doubts creep in it feels double bad to us genuinely caring souls who don’t like to treat others unfairly. Feeling like a fool I force myself to let things go whilst holding onto self-resentment by going against my own ideal. Reluctantly opening my heart I keep thinking that 'No one is all bad, right? There is shade in everyone, including ourselves.' I so I let my guard down, thinking they perhaps came to their senses (unknowingly raising my expectations of them). It doesn’t take long for me to become upset whilst feeling foolish for thinking that their actions can ever change from being purely transactional.
By dropping to their level of thinking and being I sometimes feel like being in a prison forced to do business with the devil.
If we are to retain our sanity, self-love, dignity and freedom we must understand some people are incapable to give without pondering over what they get in return - without how they will cheat us and laugh behind our back. Sadly, needing to have one up and over others is their daily mission. The result? A profound sense of unfulfilment that manifests as an ever rumbling inner unrest. A melancholy over the illogical reality of having a lot but never feeling good enough, of being very busy but not living a life of substance. How do you contain that overwhelmingly drowning, internal dissatisfaction existing for no apparent reason? All that shitty feeling needs to go somewhere, right? The more frequently it is spewed, the more rest they can temporarily get. Which never lasts because their unchecked self-resentment for going against the truth, against their authentic core - their soul - forever grows. Their life filled with jealousy the hollow within deepens further separating them from the authentic life they so intensely envy others.
Compassion is a releasing emotion, capable to free us from the prison of conditional love for others and ourselves.
Caring more for others than ourselves, us empathic people are much harsher critics of our own behaviour. Growing up around emotional instability and destructive behavioural patterns we developed unhealthy ways of coping with the unpleasant reality which erode our self-esteem.
The truth is that forcing open our heart is giving back from fear and guilt (the exact same space controlling abusers operate from), not from a fearless, loving understanding which actually allows us to let go of our expectations. In that space our expectations remain attached to others being in a certain way, which isn't realistic but very damaging to ourselves. The same expectations (being non-judmental and fair) we have unknowingly placed on ourselves. We wish to be calm and stable but that is also unrealistic given the volatile circumstances. Being triggered doesn't turn us into bad people, does it? What we must examine is our choices. At times we feel like we are stuck between rock and hard when oscillating from being on guard to cutting others some slack, not really grasping that feeling trapped around them is simply down to our expectations. The expectations between who we ought to be (their projected expectations onto us we are unconsciously trying to prove right or wrong) and who we are comfortable being (our expectations of what will make us feel good about ourselves). To allow the critical voice to hypnotise us into thinking that we have failed simply because others are displeased with us, then trying to change ourselves, is a mind boggling circus dilapidating our self-esteem!
So what CAN we control and how do we free ourselves from expectations when relating to toxic others?
1. Honestly examine your emotions. Do you feel angry because you imagined things differently? Are you sad, frustrated, fed up, or resigned? Let those emotions flow. They do need to be acknowledged and released without judgement. If you feel disappointed and sad let it out without feeling guilty or less than! Pretending to hold it all together, something you may be extremely good at, is like leaving a pressure cooker on a stove unattended. You will have to face the damage that could have been prevented. Pretending to be brave, altough pushed onto us by society, can be really damaging. The more in touch you become with your emotions, with your truth, the more safely you will be able to deal with things long before they are distorted under pressure and out of your control!
2. Take a deep breath. Recognise that the only way to deal with things, having a degree of control, is to examine the disparity between the reality and your ideas about it. If you are angry or sad you clearly had expectations, imagining how things were going to be but didn't quite manifest. It is OK!
3. Recognise that you might not always be free from expectations, that they arise in your mind automatically. After all they are just thoughts you have projected into the future, or ideas about how you wish others were, which led to the feelings of disappointment in the present moment. Catching ourselves isn’t always easy because, having experienced transactional love, having expectations became an agitating habit. It will take time to unlearn it and dismantle your beliefs around having expectations. Being fair is about cutting yourself some slack too!
4. Recognise that others' displeasure with you are their unchecked expectations projected onto you you don't need to comply with. You are not responsible for these - let them be their thoughts! Their opinions and resulting actions being a mere reflection of these thoughts, they are not your responsibility!
What givers [read pleasers] really struggle with is needing to forever equalise their environment, thinking it is their purpose because they can read others better. Coming from families filled with endless drama they find their power in 'fixing' others, frequently at their own expense. It isn't a happy, nor healthy, relationship model to take responsibility for the shit that isn't our own. By allowing others displeasure with us to dictate who we are, and how we feel about ourselves (!), we allow their expectations to become our ideas - our truth we forever wrestle with. Grabbing onto the crumbs of affection, the kind of love we have experienced as children, we manage to turn it against ourselves. Holding ourselves to an impossible standard, judging ourselves harshly for opening ourselves up, for blindly trusting yet again, for hoping that people can change we manage to hurt ourselves even further. The shit smearing has no end...
Or has it?
Can we release our ideas of others (and how they act) as something that is truly impersonal? As a mere reflection of their own shade, they are unable to hide and we can never fix no matter how exemplary we are being? Or, shall we keep on hoping? Hoping that others will eventually see our light (perhaps because we struggle seeing it ourselves), believing that we can explain things better, that our common sense will permeate and awaken them? Who are we trying to impress?!
Yes, people can change. I have lived the change myself. Expectations, however, are a bitch. To expect that others want to be happy in life is like expecting that everyone wants to read self-help books. We know of their existence but not everyone reaches for them. Happiness is a choice. A choice that arises from understanding ourselves and what makes us miserable. It is important to remember that it is OK to feel confused. I see an ackgnowledged confusion as the beginning of clarity. It would be unfair of me to expect that I won't ever have expectations or make mistakes. What I am commited to is to practice releasing them daily whenever I feel disappointed. My takeaway from writing this is a realisation that the moment I make it my mission to convince others of my goodness I stop being good to myself. Therefore, out of self-love I am letting go of the idea that others should treat me the way I deserve. Because what I truly deserve is life free of expectations.
Thank you for reading. If my article contributed to understanding yourself, please be generous and share it with others.
Copyright © 2022 Michaela Patel