Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A woman on my discussion board asked an interesting question this morning and I found myself caught up in giving a thorough answer. It seems to belong here.

The question was " What do I do when people upset me? "

If I respect the person and care about repairing the relationship I talk to the person directly (maybe after a little private venting and sorting) and try to make things right. I use "I statements.", or try to "When you said or did x I felt y and I need z. Sometimes "z" is "I need to understand your side of this" and sometimes it's "i need you to pay more attention to my preferences in the future." or "to come to me first if you have a problem with me rather than talking to others." Usually this works very well. Either I come to understand that no hurt was intended and the person and I were coming from different places (a pure misunderstanding), or I see my part in the hurt and make my own apology or ammends, and/or the other person apologizes and changes future behavior. When it doesn't work well, I lose some intimacy in a realtionship, which I feel sad about, but feel good that I made my best effort to have no unnecessary losses.

If I don't respect the person or care about repairing the relationship I vent in my journal, maybe a little to my husband or a daughter, and create distance between myself and the person in the future. I strenghen my boundaries regarding that person. I only want to be close to people who behave kindly and who I enjoy - don't have time for gossip and triangulation - too much to do that matters and/or is fun.

I really believe that I can't be deeply hurt by someone I don't respect - someone I haven't chosen to be one of my mirrors because the power to hurt comes from the presence of a trust, a respect, a relationship that can be broken. I can be disappointed and taken aback, even briefly angered by the behavior of people I don't respect, but not really personally hurt.

If I find myself dwelling on something that I feel is having undue impact, I ask myself a therapist's question "If this weren't me and this person now, who would it be, when?" Sometimes that helps me get it really fast that I am replaying old hurts (usually mother related) and that the healing needs to come regarding those original events. If I get stuck and can't get past giving something destructive power, I talk to someone wise for perspective and healing.


Choices get more complicated when real damage is threatened, not just hurt feelings - gut that is rare in my life. It has never happened, but if someone wrongly accused me of malpractice or some other bad action that could hurt my ability to earn a living I would deal with that through channels in the professional community. When our office was robbed, we went to the police. If I feel I'm mistreated by a doctor or dentist (or even shop keeper) I take my business elsewhere and write letters of complaint. I would be reluctant to ever sue - but would consider it in a real case of malpractice.

Also there is the issue of prejudice - in my case antisemitism. I've been the object of a few pretty mean antisemitic remarks over the years, and have overheard others. They don't hurt my feelings because I don't respect the people who make them. They don't make me question myself. They, along with other hate comments about other groups do alarm me and stir me to social action. I feel the same way (though with a little less intensity) about sexist remarks going in both directions and agist and lookist remarks - not personal but a sign of sickness in our culture and in need of correction and notice.

1 comment:

Dixi said...

I did read your thorough answer to the question on the discussion board & here again.

Like you, I try to work things out with people that I care about and / or respect. On occasion I talk with my partner who has a wonderfully logical mind before I do so! Sometimes there is no necessity to talk at all. Sometimes with a little bit of time I decide that I just need to accept and understand and move on.

If I don't care about / respect the person, I try not to put much energy into the situation because there are so many important things and people to spend time on and with.