In theory this is good advice, in practice it feels like bad advice
What do you think is the hardest challenge in relationships?
I’m not talking about one specific type of relationship, I mean all of them.
What problem do you consistently encounter when relating to others, whether they are a friend, a co-worker, a boss, a love interest, a spouse, a child.
This is that one thing which when it rears its head you think – Oh, no, not again!
You’ve probably tried solving it, and just when you think you have it presents itself in a slightly altered form requiring a slightly different solution. You’ve read books, articles and stories of others dealing with a similar problem in search of a complete and final solution. The miracle cure. But every time you think you’ve found it and applied it and it has worked…
Oh, no, not again.
Perhaps you’re cursed. Perhaps this is your karma. Perhaps you should give up because you’re stuck in a vicious cycle and the wash program is going to run until it stops on its own and your hands are bleeding and bruised from bashing at the inside of that bash-proof door.
But people are resilient just like problems, and giving up is one of those options we tend to only pretend to choose. I give up, we say… but underneath we’re even more determined to solve it because the act of admitting you’ve given up is like a match to a flammable thread. That thread goes deep inside of us to that primal urge to survive and thrive even if the enemy we are battling is ourselves.
For me the hardest challenge in relationships, and I have many to choose from as I am a bit of a disaster in this area of life (and other areas but I’m not writing about those in this post), is knowing when to keep my mouth shut. To be more specific… no, that’s as specific as something very specific.
See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil
A hypothetical example based on a long series of situations which have happened in the past and in which I effed up, then suffered the consequences of my eff up:
What do you do when you’re a part of a social group and you notice that one member of that group is not who they are portraying themselves as being. At first you’re not sure if your instincts are right. You doubt yourself. It’s natural to do so, first impressions can be very accurate, they can also be misleading. You wait and watch, not like a hawk, just keeping an eye out for clues as to whether you are right or wrong. You don’t need to be right, in fact you hope you’re wrong, so your results should be as unbiased as is humanly possible.
Everyone seems to like this person, more than that they admire them. They admire them in a way which means that saying anything which may be perceived as a criticism even if it is true will be seen as an act of social treason, a bit faux pas which will probably get you excommunicated from the group. If that group connects in any way to other social groups of yours, a gossiping ripple effect may have you sent into solitary confinement.
People do not like to have their beautiful illusions tainted. People cling very tenaciously to their ideals and when their ideals seem real they will fight to the death, your death, to keep their ideals alive and safe.
When people admire someone, the dynamic is personal, very personal. People seek to win the attention and approval of the person they admire, to win a place of honour beside the admired, to have some of their shine rub off on them, this will boost their self-esteem, prove their worth and feed many of those other things which wriggle and jiggle inside of us. To secure this they will bend themselves out of shape and do and say a lot of things which they wouldn’t normally do or say, not with ordinary people, not with equals, but the admired one is special, extraordinary, superior. These yoga exercises of personality and values are things they might criticise in another person if they saw them doing it. Being sycophantic, subservient, and self-sacrificing. Going out of your way, even to your own detriment, to please someone. In another person this behaviour is seen as being bad – How could someone allow themselves to be treated that way, they might utter while chitchatting about the yogi in training, I would never behave in such a way, I don’t care who the person is or how important they are! Bold and probably wise, but… we all have our Waterloo, it’s how life teaches us humility. How we hate it when life does that, but it’s very insistent.
What we allow can be so subtle that we overlook it, until it makes itself known through pain.
So, if a group is behaving in this way with one member, it’s all the more reason to keep your mouth shut if you think they’re all under the spell of a Svengali. If you say anything, anything at all… kiss your ass and social life goodbye!
If you speak up and you’re wrong… well, that burned bridge is easier to repair than if you are right. That bridge is well and truly fine seared dust floating away on the current.
People do not like to be outed as fools, especially if they convinced themselves to be foolish, go against their instincts and believe their rather gullible mind which is usually a fortress of intelligence. The whistleblower will be treated as the culprit, the baddest of the bad, how dare they wipe the stardust from the eyes of others, and the con artist, mesmerising, duping, dreams and ideal seller who was once so admired may no longer be admired but will remain relatively unsullied by the incident. They may actually gain a different kind of admiration, notoriety of the rather seductive and intriguing kind. The alluring and powerful bad boy or bad girl reputation will serve them even better than their perfectly good and saintly rep which they were using previously.
And so you’re left alone, without friends, nowhere to go, no one to turn to, with a reputation in tatters… a persona non grata. But at least your instincts were right about that person, that’s something to hang onto and wonder if being right is the new wrong, and if telling the truth is the new lying.
Artist – H.M. Bateman via James Vaughan on Flickr
The image above is how you feel when you try to ‘out’ a Narcissist who has your community or social group under their spell.
Problem with me is that I can never keep my mouth shut. Not for long. Which always lands me in a prison of silence, from which I then have to break free… and the cycle starts all over again. I learn, but what I learn doesn’t solve the problem. I guess this is one of those where I should just accept it, give up… and keeping trying to surreptitiously solve it.
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