Some people suck. Let’s just put it out there. You can go along, doing all the things to keep your life positive and good and then, BAM! They step in with their manipulation, negativity, and button pushing and you find yourself derailed, thrashing around in the muck that you are 100% sure they created.
And no amount of reframing can turn the muck into rainbows and daisies.
It’s even worse when they intentionally direct the muck at you, making it seem like you are the one who is the problem. I mean, who are they anyway?
You are just trying to be loving and kind- they are the one with the problem, right?
And so we spin- saying we want out of the muck, dreaming of everyone getting along (if they would just change and not be so horrible).
I would love to say I have the answer to pop back out of the muck and into the rainbows but unfortunately it isn’t as easy as all that. Not easy, but 100% possible...with some practice and some self management.
Sure you can argue that they should be managing themselves, it even seems like a reasonable argument, but that just keeps us in the pool of misery that started out as anger toward them. This anger may even be justified but if we stay in it, the pool of muck turns into resentment, and resentment is our responsibility.
Resentment feels awful, awful AND justified which is what makes it so hard to deal with.
Here’s the thing, whether it’s justified or not, I don’t WANT to feel awful. I don’t want these aforementioned sucky people taking up all the mental real-estate in my brain. But until I deal with it, that’s exactly where they stay, front and center, coloring every part of my day with mental muck.
So here are the approaches that I have tried with some success, different ones work at different times (sometimes I need them all).
First, get it all out on paper. Write down all the awful things that you are thinking about them. The act of writing it down and not just thinking about it is an important tool, it helps you organize it and really get to the heart of the matter. The thing I find interesting about this particular exercise is that it brings some clarity to just how judgy and awful I can be about them. Now this may seem counter productive, especially if you are prone to beating yourself up, but it helps me see that my reaction to them may actually be producing some of the muck. If I am producing some of the muck, I can knock it off and get out of this mess sooner. I don’t have to feel bad about it, I just have to have the awareness that it’s happening so I can move forward.
Which brings me to the second approach. Decide who I want to be in this moment. This won’t prevent the mental meltdown that I have when people are awful (yup-still judging), but it can allow me to define myself instead of being defined by this person that in the moment I don’t respect anyway. It’s more than just “taking the higher ground”, it’s really settling into being a badass ninja who is going to decide on purpose how to feel, even when the muck throwers are running rampant.
This approach takes a little more intentional practice. It takes moving my focus from the injustice of it all to just how proud I can be if I can handle this with fortitude and grit, if I can hold on to the vision of the person I want to be, of the person I know I already am. Sure, the muck may be there but I refuse to stay in it- who WANTS to stay in muck? We already agreed if feels awful to be in that place.
Now you may not believe that it is possible to just decide to be a better person. There is actually one more approach that is kind of crucial for this to work but I left it for last because it may make you cringe.
Forgive the sucky people,
if the muck isn’t directly thrown at you,
compassion and not forgiveness may be the necessary approach.
This is where, if you are like me, your brain is freaking out a little. It may be coming up with things like,
“But what they are saying is totally untrue!”
“Their nonsense is hurting someone I love!” (this is the worst one for me)
“They shouldn’t be able to get away with this.”
“They act all ‘holier than thou’ but they are the worst ones.”
“It’s not fair, I literally did NOTHING to deserve this.”
“They are literally ruining the whole environment.”
“They are so unprofessional, negative, hateful, conniving, ____________….” you fill in the blank.
I am not here to argue this out. I admit, every single one of these things may actually be true. What I am concerned about is me, how I feel, what I allow to occupy my mind. Until we can pull ourselves out of the muck, we won’t feel better.
So what do we do if all these things feel true?
We have to come up with some thoughts that will help neutralize them, some thoughts that will help us show compassion and/or forgiveness. This doesn’t mean we are condoning the behavior, it just means that we are going to put ourselves first by managing ourselves and our experience. Whether they deserve it or not, forgiveness and compassion allows US to take control of how we feel. It evicts them from the front and center realestate of our minds so we can move on to things we WANT to occupy our mental energy.
It effectively removes them, and their muck throwing stills, from our brains.
Yup, forgiveness and compassion for muck slingers is the ultimate act of putting yourself and your own well being first. Forgiveness as self care (makes it much easier to swallow).
Of course, you have to be willing to give up the anger and resentment. For me, this sometimes takes a few days of self-torture before I realize that I am the one who is propagating this for myself. Sometimes I feel like I need to be angry for a bit first, which is totally fine, but then I need to take responsibility that it is 100% my choice and not some super power of the muck maker. Whenever I am ready to feel better, I can start the process.
So what are the neutralizing thoughts that I use to feel better, forgive and show compassion?
- It’s ok if they are wrong about me, people are just wrong sometimes.
- I can show up as someone I am proud of regardless of what nonsense she is causing. She can’t actually MAKE me act any way at all
- It must feel terrible to act so badly. (compassion)
- She doesn’t have the skills to be a better person.
- I can forgive them even if they are totally wrong. I can forgive them and this doesn’t mean that I agree with what was said or done.
- I am going to try and find a way to work this out for both of us.
- I can deal with anything.
- I can manage how I think and feel, even when there is craziness going on.
Full disclosure, I usually have to sit and look at my list of complaints about them before I can come up with some neutralizing thoughts to feel better. And more often than not, I then need to write it on a post-it to remind me throughout the day. The negative thoughts about the mucksters don’t evacuate without a fight. It takes some repetition and intention.
There will always be sucky people. It doesn’t mean that I have to be bothered by them (or at least I don’t have to STAY bothered by them).
See what you think. Try it. The muck is no match for you.
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