Tag Archives: passive aggressive

From Death to Forgiveness.

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I have a few things that I can’t seem to forgive.

I live with these things bumping around in here—bruising and hurting—have lived with them a long time—some longer than others.

I, like Brene Brown—who says she worked on forgiveness for 10 years—have been letting the notion of forgiveness steep inside me for a long time, mulling it over, periodically pulling out my still-needs-to-be-forgiven incidents to see if I can fit a square peg into that round hole once more.

I was relieved when I heard her say she had been rumbling with forgiveness for ten years. I was beginning to lose hope for myself and forgiveness, beginning to think we would never hook up, never even be able to be in the same room together. To find out that someone else had also been struggling with it for so many years, put me in good, albeit stubborn, company.

I am aware of the famous quote: “Holding on to anger and resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I know I should forgive. I know it only hurts me and not my forgivees. I want to forgive. But I just can’t seem to make/let it happen in some situations.

“In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die.” ~ Rev. Joe Reynolds

So, a few mornings ago, when I once again heard Brene tell the story of how she had worked on forgiveness for 10 years and then heard her pastor in church say the “something has to die” line, so that the pieces finally fell together for her, I found myself wondering if maybe that was the piece that was missing for me too.

I felt some hope—mixed with dread at the thought of death and grieving—that forgiveness might be possible for me. So what is it that needs to die so that I can forgive?

Three days later I was still thinking about the dying and trying on the grief that must necessarily follow death. I didn’t want to grieve. But I thought Joe and Brene might be correct. I think I might have to let something die in order to be able to forgive.

There are incidences from the past that still bring up pain and anger, even though I understand why the person did what they had to do. Is that forgiveness, the understanding of the cause? Or maybe some form of forgiveness? When I agree with them and see their point and am even kind of glad they did it that way, but still feel the pain it caused me at that time?

Maybe I don’t understand what forgiveness really is. A quick search brought up:

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).

I am finding that there is in me a small, hard-to-pin-down, part that thinks my lack of forgiveness provides me with something useful and justified. It provides me with a type of book/place mark, a reminder, of sorts.

By hanging on to the resentment, pain, anger, etc., so that it brings up the pain every time I think of it, I don’t ever allow myself to forget to protect myself against such instances. I think, after many years of working on this for myself, that that is what lack of forgiveness means for me.

And indeed, to let go of my pain and anger, almost seems like a betrayal of myself. Because if I succeed in letting those place markers die, mourn the loss and manage to be able to forgive and move on, don’t I leave myself wide open to further pain and possible hurt?

If I forgive that person, then what defense do I have to stop them from harming me again? What reminds me that I must keep my guard up against them and those like them?

And why do I think that my defensive stance would stop anyone from hurting me again? That’s not going to stop anyone from offending or harming me. It’s just stopping me from living fully.

Lack of forgiveness holds the pain that never lets me forget—and never lets me rest. And I am tired; I want to rest from this lifelong vigil.

Lack of forgiveness also allows me to feel superior to the offender. Even if I never say it out loud, I get to think things like, “Well at least I never did that!” when I somehow hurt someone else. So apparently, I have degrees/hierarchies of offense, and if I judge their offense/faux pas as worse than mine, then in some sick, convoluted way, I win.

Is it a simple tit for tat, then, for me? I can’t let go because I might need that pain for ammunition some time in the future to use against them—even if it’s only in my own mind?

Wow. Yuck.

So, more determined than ever to resolve this lifelong dilemma after those lovely discoveries, I am still exploring what might need to die. After much thought this last week and after watching Brene’s video several times, I think it is ideas I hold that have to die.

Here’s the first list:

  1. The idea that those who love me will never hurt me.
  2. The idea that I will always be able to avoid hurting others.
  3. The idea that people who hurt me are always wrong.
  4. The idea that if they do hurt me, they must not love/like me.
  5. The idea that anyone who hurts me is against me and is out to get me and must be my enemy.
  6. The idea that anyone who hurts me is doing it deliberately (it must be personal).

Why has it taken me so long to realize and face the fact that it is not possible to never hurt anyone?

Sometimes we must make difficult, hard-won, unpopular decisions based on our ethics, morals, obligations and beliefs. When we make these decisions, perhaps choosing the lesser of two (or more) evils, we can expect that not everyone is going to like our decision. And we can also expect that our decision may hurt someone. That someone may be a person we dearly love, respect and admire—someone we are close to.

I cannot ask anyone, even someone I carefully love, to go against what they know is right for them, in order to keep from hurting me. I just can’t justify that in any way—even when the pain it might cause may be bumping around in here for years afterwards.

Enter Death. Grief. Pain.

Hopefully followed by Forgiveness and Release, those two bedfellows who travel closely, gracefully and mercifully together.

The elephant journal version: I Can Never Forgive You

Why I Might be a Bully.

crow pie

I am eating humble (crow) pie today.

“Crow is presumably foul-tasting in the same way that being proven wrong might be emotionally hard to swallow. The exact origin of the idiom is unknown, but it probably began with an American story published around 1850 about a slow-witted New York farmer.”

A few months ago, I manifested someone into my life who has offered me the gift to look at my reaction to—and association with—aggression, anger and verbal violence.

Enter the adult bully.

That this person offers me anger, aggression and verbal/emotional violence tells me that it must be time for me to take a look at the same in myself.

Granted, this person was (and is) pointing the aggression at me, and they have also been inviting me into their drama to play some passive aggressive, personalized head games starring yours truly—games that I have recognized and refused to play (at least, so far, and thank God).

And I’m not happy—or proud—to admit that it has taken me several months to understand that even in this case, the anger and aggression really have nothing to do with me.

For many months I saw the behavior as personal and specific to me—and saw myself as some kind of poor victim to that aggression. It’s easy to assume the other person is just being aggressive, devious and mean, to assume it’s personal and that I am the victim.

It’s handier, easier and makes me look wonderfully non-violent, innocent and spiritual, doesn’t it?

Superior martyr much?

Two weeks ago, before I started this specific mental quest, I would have told you that I was not a violent person. I cannot say that now, after only a few days of self-examination.

I took a look/meditation and assumed my fearful reaction to anger originated from being repeatedly exposed, as a child, to a particularly nasty variety of instant, unpredictable, rage.

But unfortunately that’s not the whole story.

I also found a co-dependent part of me that not only accepted the anger and saw it as normal, but would take on the anger as deserved—encouraged it and even welcomed it—to keep the aggressive person from feeling too guilty about being a bully.

Ew. Sick. Enable much?

When I closely examined my reaction, I found that I am sometimes, even as an adult, afraid of anger—often more like terrified. I run or freeze—if not physically, then mentally. I get afraid. I disassociate. I can’t think, be myself or talk intelligently.

I even panic, without trying to show it outwardly, of course, because I have learned how inappropriate it is, as an adult, to run from a confrontation.

By association, I also freeze up around anyone who is loud, bossy and putting off confrontational, aggressive energy. Someone who I perceive might, without warning, suddenly turn into a bully (product of that “instant, unpredictable” thing).

Even if it’s not pointed at me, I get nervous and jumpy just being in the general vicinity of said person or behavior.

And please, how does one handle an adult bully?

I got online and searched for posts about it. Most of the articles dealt with adult bullying in the workplace, which wasn’t very helpful, as this person is not in my workplace.

Anger as Protection for Vulnerability

A couple of weeks ago, as I hunkered into the task of unearthing and healing this issue for myself, using the tool of writing, I speculated:

“They (the aggressive ones) might do that as defense, a habit, so therefore they must feel threatened in some way. Do they have a need to always be stronger and more threatening than everyone else, and to “prove” that right up front by always being louder and more aggressive than the people they address?

I’m pretty sure they aren’t aware that they come across that way. Or maybe they want to come across that way to scare off would-be attackers?”

All of this made me wonder if I give off aggressive vibes without being consciously aware of it—if I have something in me that feels so unsafe that it must automatically and instantly “put up its dukes.”

After finding the origins of that personal button and then speculating that aggressive behavior might be the product of what started as protection, but might now be habit, I reluctantly asked the Universe/God to (gently!) tell me how I might be showing up in violence—how I might be a bully.

Because sometimes, after the panic and to cover up any vulnerability, I meet anger with anger—warranted or not—because it seems somehow safer.

The Universe didn’t take long in coming up with examples of my own aggression.

Within just a couple of days, and with someone I dearly love, I realized (after the anger and argument) that I had been in an emotional shame spiral but was not conscious of that and had tried to make them feel guilty instead of owning and working through the shame.

To my disappointment, the anger and blaming came easily, informing me about the habitual, unconscious, knee-jerk nature of it.

The vulnerability that would have been required to admit to feeling shame was too scary. It also meant that I would have had to admit that I am flawed/unable to handle life/weak/wrong/scared/imperfect—insert your favorite inner critic’s usual harangue word here.

The next instance was another form of using anger to protect my vulnerability—only this time it was passive—and theretofore subconscious.

While being (good-naturedly) teased about something, I began teasing that person in return. But it felt horrible, like an argument, almost—like a contest of some sort, a competition.

When I paused to dig at the feelings coming up, I realized I was feeling embarrassment and shame again. I was surprised and shocked to find I had knee-jerked into “teasing” them about something I unconsciously hoped would shame them so much that they would stop teasing me.

Wow. So much for non-violence, huh?

To say I am embarrassed by my own thoughts and behavior is a drastic understatement.

So, after all the embarrassment and shame at having not allowed the embarrassment and shame in the first place—and how I handled it so dysfunctionally—I am beginning to move forward again.

My usual remedy: First, I give myself time to get over the shame. Next, I briefly explain and apologize.

If I’ve thrown this awful brand of angry, blaming defense at you at any time for any reason, I apologize. Please forgive me.

Third? That’s the hardest part: I have to continue to monitor myself and change this defensive, negative, violent, angry habit and behavior by allowing myself to be human, flawed and vulnerable—to admit this to you, myself, the World—while I am so fearful in that moment when it’s happening, instead of angering-up.

Meanwhile, Back to My Private Bully.

And how do I now handle a bully—or even just a loud, aggressive person—that person who may not even be consciously aware, like me, that they are projectile-vomiting aggression on everyone around them?

I stand, the half-eaten slice of humble crow pie in hand, ready to offer understanding, even as I am also ready to stop offering myself up to be their enabler and victim.

“Don’t shrink; don’t puff up. Just stand your holy ground.” ~ Brene Brown

Because perhaps they too have a part in them that feels so very unsafe that the first, instinctive, habitual, most important thing to always do is throw all the defenses they’ve got at it—at everything and everyone around them.

“The proper pairing of wine and food can heighten one’s appreciation, but in the case of eating crow, wine selection becomes even more critical.” ~Wine for Eating Crow

And I am ready now, please and thank you Universe, to step out of this specific karmic production.

A version published at elephant journal.

Photo courtesy of Artisan Vineyards.

Can You Trust Him?

DTS_Photography_Movie3Oh my gawd, I’m in love with a man who cannot be trusted!

Recently I’ve been thinking about a short Facebook conversation I had a couple of years ago with a male friend. I explained, in a post, the dilemma I always go through when I feel someone has broken/betrayed my trust.

I always wonder if I can trust them at all and to what degree or if I should even continue to put myself in their sphere—like I might just be asking to be betrayed again if I do.

I’d have no one but myself to blame, at that point, because they’d already betrayed me, and I’d just be setting myself up for more of the same if I continued to interact with them in any way.

I feel, when this sort of thing happens, that I cannot trust them at all—in any area. The distrust I feel extends to the entire person and to everything they do and say.

I went on to write about how I could still love that person without being around them and without interacting with them much—if at all, and how that might be much more healthy than hanging around being jumpy about if I’d be betrayed again or not.

My friend was amused by my throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bath-water approach and proceeded to explain how wrong I was. He used the analogy of knowing he could trust his dog, because he knew her from years of experience. He also knew, he wrote, that if he gave his dog a cookie and asked her to take it over to his wife, that his dog would eat the cookie instead of taking it to his wife.

Therefore, he reasoned, he knew he could trust his dog, just not with cookies. So why was I so ready to throw away a person and their friendship just because they couldn’t be trusted with one thing?

I followed his logic and even felt a bit chastised and kind of ashamed of my ready willingness to be so “callous”—especially since it had been such a public discussion. I reexamined my own logic long and hard, trying to find a way to adopt his way of looking at the situation.

But I just couldn’t. It didn’t feel safe to me. To adopt his way of thinking felt like not taking care of myself. It felt like I was putting myself in possible harm’s way, like I was not standing my ground and maintaining my healthy boundaries.

I have discovered, though, in the intervening time—and after much research—that we were really having a conversation about how men’s and women’s brains function so very differently. We just weren’t aware we were having that conversation.

His explanation and how he classified the trust experience is a classic example of how men’s brains work. Men compartmentalize. Each subject/person/idea has its own separate “box/compartment” in his brain. Men’s brains are, for the most part, single-focused—while women’s brains are considered to be multi-focused.

I envy men this ability. I wish I could turn off all but one subject and focus exclusively on that one subject/idea. I also wish I could compartmentalize the way they do.

Instead, with my female brain, when one (even small) thing feels not right, then my whole world feels not right. That not-rightness extends into everything I do and feel and say, etc. It colors everything in my life/world.

Mark Gungor explains it well in his video about how women’s brains connect everything to everything else.

Because our brains connect everything, if one part of our life is not going well, we tend to connect that to everything else in our life and conclude that really nothing is going well.

To men, this often looks like drama. To women, this looks normal.

This is especially true of trust in relationships. Women are all about relationship—of all kinds. We value relationship above most everything else—with co-workers, friends, lovers, our children, the volunteer committees we’re a part of, our community, the world.

Just yesterday when a client read off her homework list to me in my office, this was once again brought to my attention. She is coming to me for relationship coaching and after listening to her go up and down and around and back again about what she did and didn’t and might want in a relationship last week, I gave her the task of making a list of what she wants in a man/relationship.

I told her to simply write everything down that came to mind. “Don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense, or contradicts itself,” I told her, “just write it all down. Let’s start there.”

After she read off her items, I brought it to her attention that she had several items on that list that all pointed to safety/certainty. Most women rank “comfort/certainty” as their number one priority in life and relationships when asked to take a look at Tony Robbins’ Six Human Needs list. She had written: He walks his talk, he’s trustworthy, honest—among others.

Gentlemen, to feel safe in the world and in a relationship, a woman needs to know she can trust you. When you don’t follow through and do what you told us you’d do, we begin to feel like we can’t trust you and that makes us feel unsafe in our relationship with you and unsafe in the world.

We begin to think things like, can I trust him at all—with anything? Simply because that is the way our brains work; we connect everything to everything else and begin to worry that we need to paint the whole picture of you with that same he-didn’t-do-what-he-said-he-would-do brush.

When I explained to my client that because of the difference in the way men’s and women’s brains work, “trustworthy” might not look the same to her as it does to a man, she was stunned. She had never considered this possibility.

Gentlemen, we know that you just spaced out what you told us. We know that you separate everything into “boxes” in your brain and consider one little forgotten promise to be just that: little.

We know your guy friends wouldn’t bat a proverbial eye at the same space-out, because they categorize everything too. We know they’d think just like my Facebook friend did: I just can’t trust him with cookies; they’d shrug and forget it.

We know you’re a good person; in fact, we love you. And then our brain circuitry takes over and starts making connections (true or not) and we begin to worry that we have chosen an untrustworthy man.

Oh my gawd, I’m in love with a man who cannot be trusted! And I have to make good decisions for myself in my life, I have to take of me, and I know I need to be in a relationship where there is trust, therefore, I am gonna have to leave this untrustworthy man!

Ladies: Stop. Breathe.

Before you throw out the man with the bath water, put on your man-cap for a minute or two and create a few compartments. Just because he spaced out one little thing, does not mean he is not worthy of your trust. Maybe he doesn’t even remember promising you that, because he was distracted when you asked him about it.

One, learn how to really get his attention. Two, maybe you can’t trust what he says about that one subject or in that one area of your relationship. Granted, you will have to designate the worth factor in that one area of your relationship.

But that doesn’t mean he is totally untrustworthy. That just means when he promises you something in or about that category, you know that may or may not happen. You teach yourself to mentally shrug, to let it go and not use it against him.

You love him, remember? Let him be human. Humans make mistakes.

I’m not talking about a man who continues to betray you and lie to you and/or cheat on you. I’m also not talking about compromising your values and putting up with abuse or neglect or anything else that is abhorrent. Those men are a totally different subject for another post.

I’m talking about the man you love and with whom you have an otherwise great relationship—a man who has proven you can trust him in every other category.

That (usually) trustworthy man loves you and is hardwired to make you happy and might have been so dazzled by your sweet smile, or distracted by the lights, the crowd, the noise, (his erection, your body, that beer he had, a work problem, etc.) that he just nodded and said yes. At the very least, give him the benefit of the proverbial doubt first.

Don’t punish him for the way his brain works.

And gentlemen, when we bring this mess of connecting thoughts and fears to you in our pain and confusion, and when we are so upset because we love you and can’t bear to think you might have lied to us and we’re thinking we might have to leave you (!), please don’t punish us for the way our brains work either.

A version also published at elephant journal.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.

Grace is a Certified Hypnotherapist and Registered Psychotherapist in Ft. Collins, CO, USA. She gracethanx2013.3sees clients and facilitates Divine Feminine Hypnotherapy workshops for women. She’s a flaming, Earth-loving, tree-hugging, save-the-bees, believes-in-faeries, bike-riding, card-carrying, spiritual but not religious, hippie cowgirl liberal poet therapist—yep, they do exist. You can find her creations here. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.