So, I have a couple of somewhat useless degrees in psychology (mostly because I chose to become a stay at home mom moments after finishing my graduate degree and haven’t had a chance to use it) and my husband is a Speech Therapist (he always makes me write it in caps). That means we get things in the mail like this: Toxic People: Living and Working With High-Conflict Individuals (A Seminar For Health Professionals). This one really caught my attention because I live with some high conflict people and I may even be called one myself if my husband had any say in this blog (yeah, I am sticking my tongue out in his general direction – write you’re own blog, buddy). In all seriousness, the high conflict person in our family is a toddler so, you know, hopefully she’ll outgrow it.
The truth is though, I am like a toxic person magnet. People with serious problems, anger issues, and an overall crankster personality are attracted to me in some twisted karmic way and I want to put an end to it. Yeah, I know, you’re going to say we all have this problem, but I am not talking about the family member that turns toxic in short bursts, drives you crazy for a while and them mysteriously goes back to normal. I am talking about people with pervasive problems that latch onto you and eventually make you exhausted and ill. I’m talking about dangerous stalker types that fixate and make plans to somehow ruin you or make you scared and miserable. I’m talking about people who end up in jail sooner or later and you are not surprised at all. I think this is what got me into psychology in the first place. I mean what the heck, why does my smiling at you once mean I want you to follow me around the grocery store making creepy comments and giving me unwanted once overs?
Then, there are also the people that latch onto you and dump all of their problems on you (problems that they don’t really want to do anything about). They want you to listen to them complain about life, people, situations endlessly, but they have no real interest in doing much about it. The kind of people whose friendship is all about you listening to them gripe and when they are hard pressed they can barely remember your name or what your favorite food is. They don’t know anything about you because they don’t actually listen to what you say. To them you are just an object that nods, listens and occasionally murmurs encouraging words, words (to them) that sound like the teacher in a Peanuts cartoon. Then, in an instant they turn on you, hate you, and try to make your life miserable for something you did, but you never find out what that something was. You’re just standing there dumbfounded wondering if they are going to come to your house later and throw a rock through your window. Yeah, I attract those types too.
It’s not easy to make friends because the entire time I am wondering if they are eventually going to turn into a raging bully with lunatic tendencies. I’ve become a picky friend chooser. I’m thinking can you fill out this questionnaire and pee in this cup before we make plans for lunch? Sometimes my magnetic pull on the unstable is so strong that I am afraid to leave the house. I am hoping this seminar will tell me where the off button is so I can go out into the world untarnished by the unrepentant weirdos in the world. I’m tired of playing defense. I want to meet nice people for a change.
The seminar promises to instruct me on how to be “…proactive with difficult people and difficult situations.” and give me tips on “Expressing needs safely to facilitate meaningful change.” My all time favorite thing the seminar claims to help with is “Creating Boundaries: who should you not interact with and why.” Yes, that is what I need. I need better boundaries. I need to learn to say, “NO!” in a loud and commanding voice. My father-in-law recently told me that “no” was the easiest and shortest word in the English language to say. Even my 21 month old daughter says it with more ease and forcefulness than I do. It’s her default answer. She always says no and asks questions later. I admire her for that. I hope I can start being more courageous and more honest with people in my life. I am learning. Baby-steps here and baby steps there. So far, people don’t really like the changes I am making. Sometimes my saying no causes tantrums and foot stomping (from adults not children) and I just have to be still and wait for it to pass.
I’m signing up for this seminar. Friends and family beware. A loud “no” might be in your future. I’m going to stop being the doormat and start being the door, at least in theory. I’m not striving for perfection, but maybe some equilibrium. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that I don’t turn out to be the crazy one because that’s certainly a possibility. Of course, I use the term “crazy” loosely, especially when it applies to me.
I attended the seminar. Want to hear about my experience? Read about it here: We Attend “The Toxic” People Seminar….