Interacting With Difficult People

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.

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Change Yourself and Change Your Marriage

I am a firm believer that you cannot change other people, you can only change yourself. Often, couples come to counselors for counseling because they are upset with their spouses’ actions. Usually one of the two appear to be miserable and spend a considerable amount of time nagging, complaining, and criticizing the other. This is a waste of time, couples have to realize that they do not have the right to force someone else to change. Who is to say whether or not someone needs to change? If someone does need to change wouldn’t the change be more effective if the individual came to this realization on their own? Individual change cannot occur because someone demands for it to happen or because they are shamed into change. For change to occur and to be meaningful it needs to happen because the individual sees a need, and desires to make it happen.

The best approach is to change yourself which will change your marriage. When you change the manner in which you respond to others, they will in return change the way they behave.

Relationship Insanity

Life is short, so ideally we should spend our time being productive and loving life as well as each other.  Well for some life is long, painful, and traumatic because of relationship choices. At what point do we stop participating in relationship insanity? You may wonder what exactly is relationship insanity?? Well relationship insanity is the act or process of engaging in constant mistreatment, but saying that you want something different and something better, but doing nothing proactively that could bring about change. For instance, staying with a chronic cheater, continuing to have children without a commitment, having unprotected sex and complaining about contracting STIs (sexually transmitted infections) etc. All of these acts require full participation from you, people can only do what you allow them to do.  What sense does it make to cry and complain about mistreatment when we have free will to change our circumstances and our relationships.

Why do people participate in this type of insanity? Well I suspect that some of the foundational reasons may be low feelings of self-worth, high levels of neediness, fear of abandonment, and poor relationship outlook. All of this leads to a willingness to accept mediocre relationships that are hurtful, dangerous, and pointless. Perhaps some people feel it is better to be with a loser than to sleep alone. But at what  cost are you willing to compromise your self for the sake of “so-called love” I am always amazed at what people consider love.

The bible says “Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.  It is not  conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5 AMP)

So how do we break the patterns of insane relationships? Here are some tips:

  1. Conduct a reality check and break the cycle of denial, if everyone around you can see the insanity, you might want to examine the relationship.
  2. Be sure that you have a definition of love, if love is not present in your relationship then let it go.
  3. Care more about your mental and emotional health and well-being; more than the relationship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toxic Parents

Ideally parents are supposed to teach, love, and protect their children. Sometimes parents lack the ability in any of the above  mentioned duties. Parents should value and cultivate their children, but unfortunately some parents are very toxic. By toxic I mean abusive and neglectful, abusive by means of verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional withholding or parental neglect. Some children are lucky enough to receive help in repairing those old wounds of abuse, but what about the children who are not rescued, counseled, or engage in spiritual healing? Well they turn into adults who may someday have children of their own. The question then becomes how do adults avoid becoming a toxic parent? Well lets identify all the ways one can be a toxic parent and then we will examine ways to recover from toxic parenting.

The following should be considered toxic parenting:

  1. Verbal abuse in the form of criticism, yelling, name calling, cursing, discouraging your child, overall negativity. Ex. “you are useless” “you are stupid” “you are not smart enough to do that” “I wish you were never born” “I don’t like you”
  2. Sexual abuse in the form of touching, forcing a child to watch pornography, sexual intercourse, forcing a child to watch adults have sex etc.
  3. Neglect in the forms of not providing adequate food or shelter, meeting the adults needs before the child’s. Ex. buying food or clothes for adults but not the child, leaving children unattended in order to hang out socially, withholding emotional affection/emotionally unavailable.
  4. Physical abuse in the forms of hitting, beating with objects which leave long-lasting bruises, yelling, all punishments are physical, slapping a child, punching a child, pushing into furniture for mere infractions that are age appropriate.
  5. Untreated mental illness in which the child suffers because the parent is suffering from depression, mood disorders etc. the parent refuses to be medicated and refuses mental health counseling. Untreated mental illness leaves the child to suffer with abrupt moods, extreme anger, witnessing suicide attempts etc.
  6. Substance abuse which leaves the child witnessing parental black outs, drug and alcohol abuse by many adults within the home (parties), drug selling, neglect because the family finances are used to obtain drugs or alcohol. All of this can leave the child with trust issues, developmental issues (if use occurs during pregnancy), co-dependency issues, etc.
  7. Manipulating and controlling parents who constantly manipulate their children to fulfill their own agendas such as using guilt trips, using money to control children, using religion to inflict guilt etc.

Ways to recover from toxic parenting:

  1. Adults recovering from toxic parenting should seek mental health and spiritual counseling.
  2. Create boundaries such as staying away from those who have or continue to abuse or mistreat you.
  3. Self reflection exercises: listing your good qualities, volunteer work that makes you feel worthy and needed, and showcases your talents.
  4. Journal often, this helps to regulate feelings and is good for releasing anger.
  5. Learn the art of prayer and meditation.
  6. Join a support group.
  7. Surround yourself around positive people who love and support you in your goals, and who can help further your goals in life.
  8. Seek a mentor, a person who is healthy and possibly have overcome the same type of experience with toxic parents.

No Longer On The List

Who do you have on your friendship list? How did that person make it to the list? How are individuals removed from the list? Your friendship list should be sacred, only a select few allowed. Those that exemplify love, compassion, support, and time when interacting with you should be allowed into the friendship circle. There is no room in the circle for jealously, envy, and those who do not practice reciprocity (returning phone calls and texts and love). In relationships distance is sometimes needed to protect your heart and conserve your time.

What does it look like when someone is no longer on the list?

  1. No longer given priority in relation to time.
  2. No longer going the extra mile to inquire about their day.
  3. In the words of Martin Lawrence “I will see you when I see you”
  4. No longer make the first contact, they should know how to find you, if they want to.
  5. No longer put their concerns before yours.

Misguided Hatred

Quite often, the saying “hate is a wasted emotion” is used, perhaps there is some truth to this saying. Hate usually leaves the individual feeling angry and unhappy.  Dictionary.com  describes hatred as “the feeling of one who hates, intense dislike or extreme aversion or hostility.” Usually when the term hatred is used it is directed toward a specific person, place, or thing. Unfortunately, I think it is highly misused against people.  What does it really mean to hate someone? Does one have to know an individual personally in order to hate them? You would think so, but think of the numerous celebrities that are hated by the general public, most likely for unjust reasons, but yet still hated. I say unjust because how does one hate someone they do not know? The hip hop culture often use the term “he hatin on me” which carries the connotation that someone is disliked or the victim of someone else’s jealous feelings without justification.

What about unjustified hate toward a friend or family member? I often wonder how does someone claim friendship and yet hate the person at the same time?  When the term hate is so loosely used, we forget that sometime the thing that makes us so envious of others could very well be the talent or blessing that God has placed upon them. If you compare yourself to your friend, or become angry or enraged when they acquire material possessions, a new spouse, have a special talent, a raise a work etc., then be careful, because you may be hating a blessing from God. So it’s not really the person you are hating, maybe it’s the blessing, and if it’s the blessing then you run the risk of hating God.

Maybe you should take a personal inventory and examine the next time you feel hate towards someone. Ask yourself, why am I so annoyed by this person, why do I dislike this person?  Think of how unfair it is for the other person who considers you a friend. They spend time with you and share their hopes and dreams, just to have you speak ill behind their backs and to betray their confidence. How unfair for the person who looks at you as a friend, how hurtful. Maybe if you cannot be a true friend without hate or envy then you should let the friendship dissolve. What are you gaining by pretending, every time your friend comes around you feel annoyed or angry; this is your issue not your friend’s. If someone is your friend you should be able to cheer for them and all their successes and help them in times of their failure. Practicing the art of “Fake  Friendship” is a waste of time and is hurtful to the other person.  Just as hate is also a waste of time, because it usually accomplishes nothing.

Moving On After Infidelity

Infidelity is often a touchy subject, unfortunately a common factor in marital relationships.  Many couples seek counseling after an incident of infidelity, which is very helpful for couples looking for clarity, guidance, and coping skills.  After the act of infidelity has been committed, the question becomes how does one move past the hurt and anger if the decision has been  made to continue the relationship.  

If the decision has been made to continue the relationship, then certain rules should be implemented and certain actions taken. 

  1. A qualified professional counselor or marriage and family therapist should be sought out to assist with developing communication skills and to act as a mediator.
  2. Couples should re-establish relationship rules and expectations, such as the importance of fidelity and deal breakers in the relationship.
  3. Clarify whether the infidelity was a one time incident or whether it was part of a pattern of questionable and negative behaviors.  If there is a pattern of infidelity, then one should be cautious because patterns demonstrate serious character flaws, that may require intense psychotherapy and spiritual guidance.
  4. The individual who committed the infidelity has to become transparent and willing to share openly such things as emails, text messages etc. for a limited time until the other party in the relationship feels as though nothing is being hidden (people who have nothing to hide will not object or complain about privacy violations).
  5. The art and act of forgiveness has to be practiced and implemented, it is not fair to continue a relationship and use past infidelity to berate and torture your spouse on a daily basis.
  6. When working with the professional counselor or marriage and family therapist the couple should explore what acts or behaviors led to the infidelity: in other words, did both parties work hard at providing a loving and caring environment, full of sex, dating, caring actions, quality time, and special moments?. Usually there was some sort of lack in one of the above areas that possibly led to the infidelity, both parties have to take responsibility for not taking care of the relationship, unless one member of the party is a chronic adulterer which again leads to ingrained character flaws that should be addressed with long-term psychotherapy.
  7. The couple should seek medical attention to check for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), and should begin practicing safe sex until trust has been re-established and both parties are STI free. 
  8. Prayer and spiritual guidance is imperative, the couple should consult their pastor or other spiritual advisor and use bible based scriptures to learn and implement God’s idea of marriage and love.
  9. Boundary making should be implemented into the relationship, careful consideration should be given in establishing appropriate boundaries, the couple should be careful that outsiders are not allowed into the relationship.  This includes family and friends who could compromise the integrity of the relationship by offering negative advice and unwanted interference.