As always around this time of the year, I find myself reflecting on what's gone before (since I finally have time to breathe and to think), and on what I'd like to change for the remainder of the year.
I've been reading a lot of psychology articles about personalities--in particular, the group known as "energy vampires." People who suck the very life out of you--and out of your life.
As you'll notice from the meme to the right, I've learned that "it's okay to say no to unnecessary crazy," and I've posted the meme here to remind myself of that on a daily basis. Because I tend to forget, and I'm easily drawn in by what initially appear to be minor situations that then have a strange tendency to escalate into full-blown drama.
I'm often left sitting and staring at an email, wondering, "Wait, what? How did this... I mean... it isn't really... that important...". And yet, there it is. DRAMA. ANGST. And the churning stomach that accompanies them.
Clearly, I'm missing the cues, and I want to get better at picking up on them before I find myself in a mess, rather than afterward.
And this means I need to say "no" earlier and probably a bit more often than I currently do.
I found this online quiz interesting. It helped me think through my situation. On the one hand, I have a pretty strong "emotional capacity" in general. A tendency towards self-reflection is a key component of one's emotional capacity and if nothing else, this blog testifies to that. I also have a good job, good education, and strong friendships with healthy and well-balanced people.
So you think I wouldn't get sucked in at all, right?
But it turns out that, like most people with a pretty strong emotional capacity, I also have my down-days. There have been times when I've had a lot of work, chaos, and health-crises in my life, and these are times when I'm more vulnerable--as most people are or would be.
And this is typically when the energy-draining people begin to become problematic. Relationships that I may have been managing or tolerating just fine when my emotional capacity was high, quickly spiral into insanity and exhaustion when my own capacity is diminished.
When you look at the quiz's questions for assessing an "energy vampire," you realize, wow. That is NOT someone I would want in my life. And in a way, although energy vampires are often unconscious of what they're doing--they don't necessarily realize how truly draining they are--they are also aware that you wouldn't want them in your life, if you knew what they were like. So they don't pile on to a person right out of the gate. They groom their "friends," and then the demands begin.
In short, once they have their hooks in you, it's harder to get away. And they bring a LOT of unnecessary crazy in their wake. So you have to leave.
I also discovered several articles about the psychology of apologizing that helped me feel even more justified in saying no to unnecessary crazy and the type of personality I've called "forgiveness bullies."
Non-apologies avoid initiating a request to talk, avoid directly addressing what happened, and lack sincerity in--or simply avoid--admitting that the person did something wrong. They use "I'm sorry" or "I apologize" as a way of getting out of further discussion. They frequently reference (allegedly) good intentions as a way of sidestepping responsibility and they include words like "if" (I'm sorry IF you felt...) and "but" (I'm sorry BUT I just thought...).
I had an experience recently that, while unpleasant, has become a great way for me to remember two very important things: 1) say no to unnecessary crazy, and 2) non-apologies don't cut it.
Several years ago, I had a serious (and I mean, serious) falling out with someone I had considered a very good friend. I haven't spoken to her in almost 2 years now--and quite frankly, I haven't wanted to.
At the time, I told her very explicitly what I found upsetting about her behavior and why, and that I didn't want to be in touch with her anymore and no longer considered her a friend. I was quite clear. She had betrayed my trust, lied to me to my face, and talked about me behind my back in ways that ended up causing me serious problems that took months for me to straighten out.
She thought I wouldn't find out, but in fact, I caught her at it. It wasn't even like I heard about it from someone else--I straight-up caught her doing it.
So, needless to say, we haven't spoken in a while. Two weeks ago, she suddenly started beeping the horn at me when she saw me.
I couldn't believe it. She actually followed me to the park one day, and literally drove by me, beeping the horn, to get my attention. I think she wanted me to come over and say "hi." I really don't know.
As I told my best friend, I just stared at her. I'm quite certain that, at one point, my mouth was hanging open.
All I could think was, "This person is treating me like I'm a... pet... or something." Like, she beeps the horn and I'm supposed to... what, exactly? Clap my wee hands and scamper over, eager to re-start our so-called friendship, because, oh goody! she's back. I was so hoping! I finally got the last mess she created straightened out and my life is calm, quiet and happy, so this is perfect timing--is that it?
One of my friends said, "She did that? That's f**ked up." To which I say, yes, indeed. It's "unnecessary crazy," in a nutshell, announcing itself as such. And I'm quite certain that horn-beeping is a form of non-apology.
Several days later, I found the following internet meme and, while memes are often cliched and cheesy, I can't help but like them sometimes. And this one, like the "unnecessary crazy" one, I find useful. It summarizes all of the many ways of interacting with other people that lead to genuine friendships and productive relationships.
It's a reminder of all the ways that life can be lived without unnecessary crazy.