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Living successfully with others who are not on our Happy List
Twitter, every "10 things you must do to feel happy"-list, and every "freedom lifestyle" course includes this one common admonition:
Drop the negative people in your life!
Fine, if you can do it; and excellent, if the cause is not within you.
The advice is simplistic. Life is just a bit more complicated.
Most of us have to live with others who we would not put on our Happy List. What we really need to know is how to resist being sucked into the black holes of others.
Until well into my 30s I was a glass-half-full personality. I didn't really know that I was like that, but I came to realise that others perceived life through a different lens.
I've done my best to self-reflect and be responsible for my perception of the world, and how I react to others and to circumstances.
I can relate to others who were like me, and I wonder why they haven't also changed.
The realisation that they were hooked on their problems came as a shock to me. I hadn't thought of it before in that way. The satisfaction they get from being hooked is in reflecting their problem in others.
These behaviours may seem paradoxical. They may seem to threaten the person who is triggering the response. Knowing why this is so, provides you with your means of defence.
Take anger, for instance.
Why would an angry person want to make you angry?
Why would an angry person want you to be angry?
Perhaps you have regular contact with a chronically angry person? Have you noticed that the instances of peak happiness for them are when you become angry?
They will grind away and wear down your energy and motivation - and not be satisfied.
You won't feel great, but if you can walk away without reacting, then you will get on with your day. Unfortunately, this will make a chronically angry person even angrier. They will keep niggling and working at you until they get you to react with anger.
Your angry reaction is their winning goal.
Your anger makes them feel good. It validates their own anger as now you are the cause of them feeling angry.
You may even notice that a flash of happiness comes into their lives.
They suddenly become "normal" and even slightly empathetic. You feel a rush of relief that they have stopped attacking you, and now also a slight sense of guilt that you may have overreacted. At this point, they are victorious.
They are victorious because:
A victory delivers them a rush of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins — the quartet of neurotransmitters responsible for happiness, and for the sense of satisfaction in exercising power over another.
That's why they are genuinely chemically addicted to their problem. And that's why they are addicted to giving to you.
This addiction also fuels their lack of responsibility for their behaviour. It enables them to continually confirm that they are not responsible, but are victims. It strengthens their lack of responsibility for self-reflection.
You don't need to be part of that circle.
You need a defence, and to be able to step outside of their addiction.
Your best defence is knowing their strategy
Your defence? Your best defence is this: KNOWING THEIR STRATEGY.
Knowing that they are addicted to making you part of their problem is your number one defence.
The practical consequence of you having this knowledge is in the perspective it will give you when you are interacting.
Observe their behaviour from a 3rd position - not from you emotionally but from above, looking down as an observer.
When you do that you will give yourself the maximum capacity to resist; to not be drawn into their problem; to not allow yourself to support their issue.
You will allow them to be what they want to be and not allow them to transfer responsibility.
Knowing their strategy will also allow you more control over your conversation. In particular, the ability to keep neutrally distant from acknowledging any sense of normality about their issue. You don't acknowledge any normality because if you do that will become the wedge they will drive into you to insert their problem.
Retaining your sense of balance is by no means easy. It is emotional; it is unpredictable; it is hard. You’ll have days where they win. But stay at it, and you’ll get better at not receiving their problem.
Your number one weapon of self-defence is that you know their strategy - which is to make you part of their problem and hence to validate it.
You know their strategy, but you do not know their plan to make you own their problem. Shielding yourself will take practice and patience. You will be able to do it, now you know their game.
Repeat to yourself "no, I am not receiving your obesity as part of who I am", "no, I am not receiving your violence as part of who I am", "no, I am not receiving your racism as part of who I am", "no, I am not receiving your anger as part of who I am".
Always remember this, you are not responsible for their addiction. You are not responsible for their denial of their own responsibility. You are only responsible for not making them worse by receiving their problem and fueling their addiction.
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Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter