I used to have a problem with people who were inconsistent. It doesn’t matter if were are a family member or a colleague. I often felt insecure when you’d appear happy one moment and anger the next. Here’s what used to happens in my head . (Okay, I admit, it still happens more often than I care to admit.) Let’s pretend you are a co-worker.
I have you and your family over for dinner. You are more than cordial. You are downright warm. You hug me when you enter my home. You bring a bottle of wine and offer to serve everyone a glass. When we gather around the fireplace after dinner, you ask questions about what my life was like as a child. You tell me about yours. You stay later than I expected, but I’m enjoying your company so much that I barely even notice. You pay attention to my children and ask my husband about his work, and you seem genuinely interested.
The next day I see you at work. I get out of my car and walk toward you so we can walk into the building together but you simply wave at me from the distance, and walk inside. When I see you later that morning, you say hello in a most formal tone. Here’s where the mind starts to go a little haywire. I think to myself, “My, she seems a little aloof today. I thought we had opened up to one another and it took our friendship to a deeper level. Maybe she doesn’t like me now that she’s been to our home. Maybe our kids got on her nerves. Or perhaps she disapproves of the way I was raised. What if she thinks we’re snobs. Or worse, that we’re not good enough for her.”
I go about my work without much more thought, although the questions re-appear in my mind whenever my co-worker seems even a little stand-offish. The rational side of me says that she is maintaining a professional distance and that her behavior is not a refection of me, but sometimes my rational side goes AWOL and I’m left with crazy brain. When crazy brain strikes, I do the crazy dance. The crazy dance is set to the song, “Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?” because I do not know who the other person is going to be that day – cold, professional woman or warm, gracious woman. And if I don’t know who I’m getting, how do I know how to react.
There’s the key word: react. Why is it necessary for me to REACT? It took me a long time to even notice that I was reacting to people rather than simply acting myself. For instance, I have a friend who can not fake her disappointment very well. When I see this certain look on her face, I know something is not right. But when I ask her what’s wrong, she often denies that anything is wrong. I know this friend well enough to know that she is lying. She says “nothing,” with a little smile that indicates that her heart is aching but she is not yet comfortable, for whatever reason, to open up about it.
I used to do the crazy brain, crazy dance with her. My mind would swirl with all the possibilities of why she might be upset with me. I wondered how on earth she could have gone from happy friend to sad friend in a day. And since crazy brain is irrational brain, I couldn’t respect her need to be silent for a while. So I would pry and pry until she would cave. Usually it was before she was ready to talk, which made her explanation come across harsher than she meant it. I often felt attacked, which caused me to dig my heels in to her arguments rather than listening with an open heart. And when I don’t listen with an open heart, the issue is misconstrued as I make it all about me rather than all about the true issue.
I am learning to give her space and tell her that I care about what’s going on with her. I tell her that I want to know but I won’t pry any longer. I tell her that when SHE is ready to talk, then she can call me, and until then I want her to know that I love her no matter what.
I feel so much healthier this way. So much healthier since I acknowledged the harm that crazy brain was capable of. When I see myself starting to do the dance, the crazy dance, I use several tools to deal with the inconsistencies in other people’s behavior. Here are just a few of the truths I hold onto:
1. I have no power over other people’s behavior. Imagine that! And all this time I thought I could control the moods of others.
2. Other people’s attitudes and moods are not a reflection of me. I have learned to see where the other person ends and where I begin. This helps me to detach from someone’s sadness with love, meaning… I still care about the person’s feelings, but I do not need to live as if they are my own.
3. It’s none of my business what other people think of me. Seriously! This one is so hard for me. Every time I think someone is mad or disappointed with me, I don’t need to know why. The only thing I need to be concerned with is whether or not I am loving that person the best I can. If I feel like I have wronged someone, then it’s appropriate to ask. But if I have a clear conscience that I didn’t purposely hurt or offend someone, then I think it is their responsibility to come to me with their issues.
4. If someone calls me a witch, it does not make me a witch anymore than someone calling me a car makes me a car. As long as I am connected to God and asking him to guide my actions and words, I am only one thing – and that is a Child of God, created to do whatever he wants me to do, not what the people I want to please want me to do.
These are only some of the tools I use to avoid the codependent, people-pleasing little girl that likes to pop out of my otherwise, mature and loving woman body. I wish I could say I have become totally healthy in this arena of my life, but inconsistencies in other people’s behavior still affects me now and then. The closer the relationship I have with someone, the harder it is not to take it personally. But every morning I get a chance to start living as God wants me to live. And living in his will has provided me with more security than any person on earth could ever give.