My partner went through a bad patch a number of years ago. She arranged some therapy sessions with a counsellor called Fahrad. After a few sessions Fahrad’s advice seemed to settle into a fairly predictable pattern. My partner would discuss the things that were dragging her down and, possibly unsurprisingly, they were generally the behaviours of other people. There were a whole bunch of people in her life who brought little of value and, instead, brought stress and unhappiness.
My partner, it should be pointed out, is a successful professional woman well used to putting people in their place in her professional life. In fact, she is known for it.
So why was her personal life so full of people dragging her down?
The answer, of course, is very simple. She allowed these people to cause her misery. Now, nobody actually says “hey – why don’t you treat me like a piece of shit?” or, “you’d like to behave appallingly to me and for me to just suck it up? Certainly – go right ahead!” What she was doing was not challenging these people and so they just carried on.
Think about how a small child learns discipline. They behave badly and they get pulled up about it. If they don’t they carry on behaving badly because, well, there is no reason to behave well, especially if behaving badly is more fun or you get what you want.
Now some children, of course, are not appropriately disciplined and grow up to be insufferable spoiled little shits. Why should they be considerate and polite if they get what they want by behaving badly. And they do know they are behaving badly you know. How often do you hear of children who are absolutely evil to their parents but are little angels at school or with other adults? All the time. Which only goes to prove that they know how they are supposed to behave. Which makes it worse when they are being vile to their parents.
There are quite a lot of adults who behave like this too. People who treat others like shit because nobody ever challenges them on it. Unfortunately, this seems to most often happen within families. The overbearing, controlling parent/parent in law; the ungrateful, rude grown-up child; the sibling who always wants to rub your nose in how much better they are doing than you. Sound familiar? And that’s before we get on to the other relationships at work and so on.
What do all of these arseholes have in common? They treat you like crap because they can. Because they are confident that there will never be any blow-back because you wouldn’t dare or you’ve always taken it in the past.
And you know what? When you really think about it I bet you’ll find that most of the stress and unhappiness in your life comes from tolerating these people.
So, what was Fahrad’s sage advice about this most pervasive of problems?
Tell them to Fuck Off.
We used to laugh about it, my partner and I, because it seemed so simplistic. The more we dwelled upon it though, the more sense it made. It really is that simple a lot of the time. When you say it isn’t it is because you are making excuses to avoid grappling with the issue.
There are good reasons not to do it with, say your boss or other superior at work, but again, what is worse; being miserable or doing something about it. Maybe best to get that other job lined up first though.
With family/so-called-friends it can seem harder, yet it is in fact easier. You don’t have to actually drop the F-bomb. It can be as simple as you telling this person what it is about their behaviour that upsets and stresses you and give them a chance to change it. With the clear ultimatum that if they don’t you will be cutting them off from your life until they are able to behave. Really, it is like dealing with a naughty toddler. And if they don’t change you must follow through. If they do change then great, but with most of these individuals imagine how much better your life would be if you didn’t have to deal with them..
Remember, it is not you who is being unreasonable. If you ask them to stop treating you like shit and they don’t, bin them. End of. If you fail to take action you can’t complain if they keep shitting on you.
I have had to do just this to a couple of people recently. People who have been using me as a punch-bag for too many years. It’s sad to have to do it but a huge relief also. And yes, I did use the F-word with one of them. Should have done it years ago.
Don’t get to the end of your life and find that your greatest regret is that you didn’t tell more arseholes to fuck right off. If you keep taking shit it probably will be.