I get a lot of requests for advice. And, as I always say, I never answer specific questions but if someone raises an issue I think is of general interest I blog on it. Actually, I have had a few questions about this general topic so here is my ten cents worth on Other People’s Stuff.
When I say Other People’s Stuff I mean other people’s drama and personal problems that they visit on you. Some people are like that you know.
The adage ‘misery loves company’ is true. In addition, I think there are people out there who like being the center of attention. So when they drag you into their stuff or manipulate you with a lot of emotional garbage it makes them feel powerful.
This one young lady told me about their parents messy break up – a father who guilts her – she’s feeling responsible for how her mother gets treated. Can’t express an opinion specifically on that but here are the questions I’d ask myself.
1. Are you helping or enabling? If you are helping, the situation changes and gets better. If you are enabling you are soothing people enough to allow them to continue in their unhealthy patterns.
You can’t fix another person’s toxic relationship with someone else. They have to. You can feel badly for people but if the situation is messed up and you conitnue to behave in the same way as you have how is that going to improve anything? If it didn’t work on Monday it won’t work on Thursday.
Now if you are making the situation better or have a new way to go and you think it might help go ahead. But if you are running around in the same circle what have you accomplished except continuing the pain?
2. What is this situation doing to you?
Are you starting to define yourself by other’s weaknesses, problems or insecurities?
Yes you love your relatives and you want them to love you. But you can’t make people express their love or even behave appropriately towards you. If they can’t that has nothing to do with you. ID them as a person you love with problems. Then you don’t take it personally.
I have a story in My Mother’s Rules about my mother never understanding why her father could leave her, her mom and brother and sisters in such dire poverty. So she went to the town that he was living in and saw that he was an alcoholic and began to understand what that meant. That, she said when she put a period on it. Booze not his feeling for her dictated his day. Nothing personal. Feels that way but it isn’t.
So if you are dealing with family who has issues name it, acknowledge it and work at letting it go. It’s not easy but make that a goal. Then work on that instead of trying to change people.
3. Have you’ve done the best you can?
If so don’t feel guilty.
4. Do you have a family of your own that not only deserves your time and attention but appreciates it?
They should be your focus.
LINES I WOULD USE:
“I love you but I can’t help you.”
“I am so sorry you feel that way but I’ll always love you”
“I wish I could fix this but I can’t. I love you but don’t bring this to me anymore. I’ve done my best.”
“here’s what I think you need to do ______ Cause what you’re doing isn’t working and it hurting everybody. Take my advice if you want but if you don’t we can talk about anything except that mess.”
If things get better you can always have a closer relationship. But in the mean time you have to decide what this things does to you. And you can.
Get strong. Get an attitude – not a nasty one but of good humored cool and glacial calm. Globalize your Pain Quotient – you do not live in a war zone or the drought ravaged Sudan – your pops is childish and self centered.
It’s like a life guard. The first thing they learn in life guard school is how NOT to let a panicking drowning person take you down with them. Break their hold, then assess do your best, but get to the beach alive.
For what it’s worth.