Unless we’re complete recluses exclusively living on fresh water and websites without a comment section, we’re bound to form relationships, at some point in our lives.
Of course, things being what they are, some of these relationships will turn sour and come to a stage where ”‘it seems like someone here needs to own up”.
Hey, that’s normal, relationships are processes, aligning expectations doesn’t always go smoothly. Most of the time, if everyone is being honest, sharing a good shot of adrenalin and spilling it all out is actually a good way to move forward (or get super-heated make-up naughties, depending).
Anger is a funny animal. When kept in captivity, it’s going to gnaw at its cage and constantly harass you about ‘deserving better’ and ‘not taking it anymore’. Once you let it out, it’s going to pounce and growl until it’s completely exhausted, then proceed back to its cage while muttering about you being wrong all along and why the hell do you keep on feeding it anyway, after all it’s supposed to be on a diet and you’re a terrible person.
In an ideal word, once anger has calmed down, we use it to gain insights about how we want things to go versus how they happen, versus how we can make them happen (in a way that doesn’t rely on, say, expecting society to change at once while handling us a cute colorful award).
Sometimes, though, we get stuck at the start of the process, where we have to be right whatever happen, where others are bound to be wrong, and where whatever they say has to be part of a hidden agenda to subjugate us to their evil power.
On occasions, we’re right: there are such things as narcissism or sociopathy and nobody wants to end up as a direct to TV psychological thriller ‘based on a real story’. Still, most of the time, we can’t hear ourselves think over the ruckus anger is making, and we can very well end up spitting out that word which will mark the end of trust as we know it:
Well, bravo to us, we’ve just implied that whatever happened and whatever will happen in our relationship is built on deception. From this moment on, whatever our interlocutors say can be classified as a mean to fulfil their agenda, and even admitting that they are indeed selfish can be seen a clever way to get back into your good graces. Of course we’ve also implied that they might be politicians, which is a sure way to alienate them in any case.
So, you might wonder, what’s the alternative?
Here’s what worked for me:
- I read about sociopathic and narcissistic personality disorders. It gave me real insight about what red flags I should look for (tip: I do mean sociopathic and narcissistic disorders. Beware of the term ‘gaslighting’, which is now used in the same way as ‘autistic’ and ‘psycho’).
- I keep in mind that we’re all selfish to a degree is also rather helpful. There is a huge difference between a person perpetually using us and our reactions as a pretext to be awful, and someone merely being clumsy about getting what they want.
- I prefer asking my interlocutors whether something is bothering them, for some people can turn into gremlins when fed stress after midnight.
- I simply walk away without further ado. A 3rd degree burn on the way out of a relationship isn’t how I like to move on. If I end up genuinely convinced that the other is manipulative, there is no way a dispute will make things better. Either the problem is with them, and that’s their problem, either the problem is with me, and that’s my problem.
Personally, whenever the word ‘manipulative’ finds its way in a debate, I know it’s over and go have some Nutella instead of wasting my energy. It helps me deal with my own anger, provided the Batman hasn’t broken into my kitchen and finished the pot. But then again the Batman is a manipulative basterd, and so are my doctors, all 12 of them.