Understanding your limitations when dealing with difficult personalities is key for having peace of mind. People have difficult personalities for various reasons: some have psychological issues which compromises their personality at some level, some have been hurt and traumatized early on in life (childhood), and many have spiritual issues. So lets look at each of these a little closer. Any of these issues could lead to a difficult personality.
Psychological issues: this could include but not limited to diagnosed and un diagnosed mental health disorders such as Bipolar and Borderline Personality. There are many other personality disorders, but the key to understanding these issues is to know that in spite of being diagnosed with a disorder, individuals can live loving productive lives and co-exist with others in a healthy manner. When those struggling with a disorder are not able to form healthy relationships, sometimes it might be due to their lack of medication compliance along with talk therapy. Often, individuals attempt to used medication without talk therapy, which may not be the best idea. Talk therapy is important because it provides the opportunity to learn new coping skills to deal with personality deficits as well as how to communicate such deficits to friends and love ones. Usually when people with personality disorders are receiving consistent treatment they are much easier to interact with.
Childhood trauma: childhood trauma unfortunately is very common and can include sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and disrupted attachment (extreme neglect). Any of these issues left untreated can lead to disruptions in healthy personality creation and growth. When individuals suppress emotions and symptoms related to childhood abuse or neglect they have a difficult time forming healthy attachments and may have many unpredictable, abusive, and dangerous relationships. Those with childhood trauma issues not only have difficulty attaching themselves emotionally to others, but they also have trouble allowing others to attach to them (spouse, friends, and children).
Spiritual issues: this may include but is not limited to a connection and a belief that God exist and that the bible (his living word) can change, heal, and guide them through life. Many do not have an understanding, belief, or connection to God. Many are attempting to figure out life’s meaning. These things are best understood when a connection is made to God. Those that do not have a relationship with God often find themselves angry, insecure, panicky, ill etc. because they feel lost, and find themselves unfilled in all aspects of life.
So what do you do if you are interacting with a difficult person? Well it depends on why they are difficult which will determine how you should react and interact with them. It also depends on the nature of your relationship with the individual. For instance, because I am a psychotherapist I tend to have a higher level of tolerance when dealing with difficult personalities, because I have a unique understanding of what is possibly making them difficult this understanding allows me to be more patient than the average person (at least I think so).
As Christians, I think that we should always walk in love and practice patience with others, but I know there are times when others make this a difficult task. Which is why it is important to determine the level of relationship involvement that is present, for instance spouses and close friends or even family may require more work. This is because we love them, and often are stuck with them for life. At the same time, consideration should also be given to those who are dealing with their issues, the person going to therapy, taking medication, and trying to establish a connection with God should probably be allotted more patience. These things take time and will probably be an ongoing process (like all of us). So maybe we don’t invest as much time and energy with people that we do not interact with regularly, as this may lead to frustration, but we invest more time with loved ones.
What about the difficult person who is NOT attempting to better themselves? It is in this situation where sometimes you have to cut your losses and move on. I say this because you cannot change others, you can only change yourself and the manner in which you react to them. So, the most difficult scenario then becomes the difficult personality, who is within close proximity, and is refusing to change or seek help.
What should you do if this is your situation? Hopefully the following will be helpful:
1. I am a strong believer in prayer, not only for myself but I pray for others (healing, understanding, guidance).
2. Limit conversations and interactions, understand who and what you are dealing with, accept people for who and what they are (often wounded).
3. Lower expectations, sometimes we have expectations that are too high for others to achieve, especially if we are interacting with a wounded person who has not been healed, they may not be able to interact in a positive manner.
4. Arm yourself everyday, with a word from God, this means that we are protected and strengthened; making it difficult for evil spirits to penetrate.
5. Acceptance, that you cannot change others, only yourself. We often want others to change, but we forget that maybe we are the ones who need to change, maybe this difficult person is a test from God to develop something in you or to remove negative qualities from you (judgement, anger, controlling personality etc.)
6. Understanding, because it is imperative that you develop compassion for others, and know that when others are acting ugly that maybe they do not know any better, quite possibly they are in some sort of pain which manifest itself in a difficult personality.
7. Stop ruminating, in the negativity of the person or situation, when we dwell on our problems or fears, we give them power to grow and manifest in our lives on a large-scale. Don’t gossip or share stories about the broken souls in your life that present as difficult personalities (co-workers, friends, spouse, siblings, or parents).
8. Examine yourself, and find out why this person is so difficult for you to interact with. Maybe, just maybe, they reflect the parts of your personality that are not developed or healthy, maybe it is a sign that you need to work on your self.
9. Take your power back, sometimes difficult personalities are like bullies. They can only bother you if you allow them too, if you respond in a different manner, then they will usually stop or move on to someone else, or you learn to become strong enough not to allow their behaviors to affect you.