It’s true. Plain and simple. Don’t make it worse by pretending it’s not.
Sometimes the problem is you. If you’re not a full-time, perma-asshole, facing this truth is probably p-r-e-t-t-y painful. When I hurt the people I care about, I feel really, really bad and when confronted about it, I often get defensive. Or I cry because sometimes, to quote Anne of Green Gables, after I’ve been an asshole, I sink to “the depths of despair.” I feel shame, which I think might be the most destructive feeling you can feel, and that is hard to handle. I want to mope, but I have these 3 super-observant, highly sensitive, incredibly needy little creatures to keep alive. They constantly need food and love and explanations and clean diapers and help with their homework. Their neediness, when I’m already feeling shitty, can lead to rage but I cannot take out my negative feelings on them and I cannot hide from them. I must not drive a cycle of demolition. I am the parent. I have to deal. If I give in to the guilt and shirk my responsibilities, then I basically continue being an asshole. If I don’t model good behavior, I risk creating a bunch of little assholes too and that just makes everything worse for everyone.
Most of us have had one of those intense, passionate, tumultuous relationships that lasts way longer than it should, right? My understanding of the asshole-spiral truly began with mine. Once upon a time, I was taken completely by surprise when I got sucked down the rabbit hole of love with a legit crazy person. I was crazy too back then too so tit for tat, I guess. The thing about this person is, they were in a lot of pain. They were broken. They had been punished over and over and over by the people who were supposed to protect them, just for being who they were. It completely sucked. I spent time with their family. It. Completely. Sucked.
Sadly, this relationship left me broken too, and for a while, I got even crazier than before, but I learned so very much. This person took up all the space there was in my life and when there was nothing left to take, like the Wicked Witch of the West, they were gone, in a wisp of green smoke. Poof and there was nothing. Just a big, empty vacuum of nothing. I realized that this person was perpetuating a negative cycle. They were so consumed by their pain that they couldn’t see they were destroying everything in their wake. They were not taking responsibility for the damage they were causing in the now. If ever they were to wake from their fog, they would realize they had made things worse for themselves and countless others. Because what if I decided to take the pain of this relationship out on the next person I met (which I did) and the next person (which I did) and so on and so on and so on to infinity? Pain can be quite contagious. I know that I have hurt others because of my old wounds. I vow to do my best to stop this. I will renew this vow daily. And I will fail. But when I’m the asshole, from now on, I will put on my big-girl pants, face the people I’ve hurt, and say, “I’m sorry.” That is the best I can do.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I used to balk at the idea that you could create your own happiness but it’s kind of true. I cannot change others, I cannot erase clinical depression, I cannot change the weather, I cannot make myself like bananas or develop a visual memory, and I cannot control final outcomes, but if something bad is happening, I can address it. I can control my responses. It seems to me that everything I do begins with a choice. I need to choose carefully, and always remember that mistakes and failures are opportunities to learn and grow and change. I will try not to dwell on my mistakes or on other people’s bad choices. I will try to live my best life.
Becky Bailey, the mind behind the Conscious Discipline program (which I talk about ALL the time), re-framed Eleanor Roosevelt’s idea: “No one can make you angry without your permission.” Someone thought it was important enough to make a greeting card out of it! Read her book. She attempts to give coping tools to everyone: The bullied and the bully, the teacher, the parent, EVERYONE. And there are scripts!!! Scripts for your daily LIFE! Scripts for apologizing. Scripts for speaking up when you get hurt. Scripts for speaking up BEFORE you get hurt. Scripts for reinforcing family bonds. And the crazy part is, it WORKS. It takes some effort and some practice, but it works! Tools for self-regulation (and GOOD coping mechanisms!!)… Imagine that! Just imagine that! Bullies can learn not to bully. The enraged can learned how not to rage. The sad can learn to cope. The quiet can learn to speak-up.
The goal is for people to feel their feelings but also, learn how to be productive and settled even as they continue to feel stuff. Speaking of which, you are not your emotions, you are not even your behaviors. So, allow me to correct myself. Sometimes, I make bad choices. Sometimes, I feel devalued. Sometimes, I feel guilt and shame. Sometimes, I act like an asshole. But I am not an asshole. I am Juanita (self-awareness-ninja). And making good on my vows, I must go apologize to my partner for telling the entire world about the ADHD-sausage-debacle-thing without permission. Peace out.
(And here’s a link to Conscious Discipline)