“I felt like a cage was around me when I was with John. I wasn’t me. I was afraid to be me. I was always nervous about doing the wrong thing and setting him off.”
Those words were spoken by my client, Marta, who finally left her husband because he’s an alcoholic—he got violent. Click here to read an earlier post about Marta’s situation.
Are you like Marta was, anxious about upsetting others if you voice your truth, act yourself, or possess a mind and will of your own?
If you nodded your head, it’s very likely you’ve spent a chunk of time with a person who made it difficult for you to do so. Their intense—often combustible—reaction taught you to remain tight-lipped and behave chameleon-like in their presence. You soon realized that it’s better to appease than face the consequences of being true to you.
Understandably, a sharp tongue, harsh hand or painful withdrawal are backlashes worth avoiding.
Who are these people? Some are addicts—hooked on drugs or alcohol, some are spoiled children residing in adult-size bodies. Some have a mental disorder of some kind, and others are just over-reactive, difficult people.
They all possess something in common: They can’t be counted on to be consistent with their warmth, remorse or clarity. In one moment they will understand what you want them to understand and in the next they won’t. One day you’re a beloved friend or ally, but the next day you’re the target for blame and hostility.
Their unpredictable fluctuations cause that tight knot in your stomach to take up permanent residence. You’re constantly on the watch for the next upheaval. Over-exposure to these people can cause you to doubt yourself. You wonder: “Am I at fault? Did I cause their reaction? What can I do to fix it?”
You can’t. There’s only one solution: Save yourself. Don’t entertain the thought—for an instant—that you’re the cause or the one responsible to fix it. Trust your instincts that say:
“This is not sunlight for my soul.”
In fact, it’s just the opposite.
We’re hard-wired to sense what’s toxic for us both physically and psychologically. Call it our survival instinct. Trust it.
And finally, believe that you’re worthy of the sunlight. You deserve to be around people who are consistent, who see your goodness, and who relish your individuality, which includes having a mind and will of your own.
Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.