People can only drive us crazy if we let them. A person can spin his or her web, but we don’t have to fly into the center of it to be stunned, stung, paralyzed and eaten. Remember that your time and your energy are the most precious gifts you have to offer anyone, and that includes those closest to you, and also total strangers. Your energy and your time are also both finite, so it’s really important to be mindful about where you’re placing those gifts.
It’s hard not to get caught up when someone we love is suffering, or thrashing around, or in so much pain they don’t know what else to do but lash out. It’s hard not to take that to heart, or to defend yourself, or to try to make things better for them. But you’re not going to walk into a ring and calm a raging bull with your well-thought out monologue, you’re just going to get kicked in the face, at best, and I use that analogy intentionally. People in pain–whether we’re talking about people with personality disorders or clinical depression, people suffering with addiction, or people who are going through mind-boggling loss–are dealing with deep wounds. They didn’t wake up this way one morning. Whether it’s a chronic issue, or an acute and immediate situation, when you’re dealing with heightened emotions including rage, jealousy, or debilitating fear, you’re not going to help when a person is in the eye of the storm. If someone is irrational, trying to reason with them makes you as irrational as they are. You can’t negotiate when someone is in the midst of a fight or flight reaction. We’re all beyond reason sometimes. We all have days when we feel everyone is against us, whether that’s based in any kind of reality or not.
You can offer your love, your patience, your kindness and your compassion if someone you care for is suffering. You can try to get them the support they need. You can make them a meal, or show up and just be there to hold their hand, or take them to the window to let in a little light. But if someone is attacking you verbally or otherwise, we’re in a different territory. You are not here to be abused, mistreated, or disrespected. You are not here to defend yourself against someone’s need to make you the villain. You don’t have to give that stuff your energy, and I’d suggest that you don’t. It’s better spent in other places.
We can lose hours and days and weeks getting caught up in drama or someone else’s manipulation. That’s time we’ll never have back. Of course things happen in life; people do and say and want things that can be crushing sometimes, but the real story to examine is always the story of our participation. If someone needs you to be the bad guy, why do you keep trying to prove you’re actually wonderful? Are you wonderful? Brilliant, get back to it. If someone has a mental illness and they are incapable of controlling themselves, keeping their word, or treating you with respect, why do you keep accepting their invitation to rumble? You already know what’s going to happen. Don’t you have a better way to spend your afternoon? My point is, life is too short.
When a person is in the kind of pain that causes them to create pain around them, your job is to create boundaries if it’s someone you want to have in your life. You figure out how to live your life and honor your own well-being, and deal with the other party in a way that creates the least disharmony for you. That means you don’t get in the ring when they put their dukes up. You don’t allow yourself to get sucked in. Do you really think this is the time you’ll finally be heard or seen or understood? People who need to be angry cannot hear you. It doesn’t matter what you do or say, they have a construct they’ve built to support a story about their life that they can live with; it doesn’t have to be based in reality. Not everyone is searching for their own truth or their own peace; some people are clinging to their rage, because that feels easier or more comfortable, or because they really, truly aren’t ready to do anything else yet. You’re not going to solve that. But you can squander your time and energy trying. You can make yourself sick that way. I just don’t recommend it.
You really don’t have to allow other people to steal your peace, whether we’re talking about those closest to you, or people you don’t even know, like the guy who cuts you off on the freeway, or the woman talking loudly on her cellphone at the bank. You don’t have to let this stuff get under your skin and agitate you. You don’t have to let someone’s thoughtless comment or action rob you of a beautiful afternoon. Of course we give our time to people who need us. I’m just saying, don’t get caught up in the drama. If you need help, try this.
Sending you love,
6 thoughts on “You Can’t Negotiate with a Raging Bull”
Hi Ally. I just went through a horrible divorce. Mr ex left me and my children for another woman. He moved across country and my kids are really struggling with this. How could this nan who was a good and hands on dad just pick up and leave. After two years of so much pain I’ve learned so so much about myself and my ex. I know he is in pain and should of gotten help years ago to help with his abandonment issues from being adopted. Also the not so great parents that adopted him. We were together for 21 years and it was good for awhile but slowly was eroding and dealing with his alcoholism was a huge struggle. He is so mentally and verbally abusive and it’s taken me until now to learn how to respond to him and I still sometimes get caught up in it. Thank god for my many friends, family and you to help me through this nightmare I’ve had to live. I’m doing much better now and my main focus is on my children who my heart breaks for. Thank you so so much for coming into my life with wonderful words of wisdom. It has helped change my life. Sending love to you Ally. Dona
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I”m sending love to you and your kids, Dona. I hope you guys are hanging in there. Sometimes it is relly hard to comprehend the things people do. I hope you’re all healing, sounds like your kids have a great mama.
Thank a lot dear Ally for all things share with us; again was true for my day <3 <3 <3
You’re very welcome, Maryam. Glad it came at the right time! XOXO
Thank you Ally. Setting up boundaries is something I’ve been working on. As an empathic person, it is a difficult thing to do, especially living with someone who is up and down and at times very fragile. I feel I’m walking a very fine line of being supportive and compassionate and setting up the necessary boundaries for my own well being. Your posts are always very encouraging!
Yes, it’s a tough thing. Sometimes it’s a very fine line between compassion for others and abuse of self. Sounds like you’re very aware, though. Hugs and love.