Here’s the thing:
Other people can really, really, REALLY fuck up YOUR life.
They can drive a car over you while you ride your bicycle down the side of the road.
They can steal your car or your money or you identity.
They can walk into a school or a movie theatre or their former employer’s office and start shooting everyone.
They can marry you and then become a depressed alcoholic that sits in the living room drinking beer and playing video games, managing to destroy your soul from the comfort of their chair.
People affect us.
But in the self-help world, it’s all the rage to say,
“No, it’s not people that affect us. It’s how we choose to react or think about their behavior that affects us.”
That sounds all true and good but I am calling bullshit on that.
It makes it sound like we have this choice as to whether or not we are “affected” by another person’s toxic behavior.
We don’t have a choice.
Human emotions are wired in us.
If I walk up to you and punch you in the face, you don’t CHOOSE for that to hurt.
And if I walk up to you and assault you with ugly, mean words, neither do you CHOOSE for that to pierce your soul.
What we CHOOSE is whether or not we do the gut-wrenching, soul-draining work to PROCESS how other people affect us. What we CHOOSE is whether or not we allow those emotions of being sucker-punched with words and toxic behavior to sit and ferment within our soul or we exercise them from our being.
I don’t like people saying,
“Oh it’s your choice how you feel about X….”
It makes it sound like this should all be easy.
Like I should simply say to myself,
“Ok, I choose not to let my completely withdrawn and checked-out husband affect me. I choose to be hunky-dorey, a-ok with the fact that I have a dead, emotionless marriage.”
No, what I can choose – what I have to choose if I have any hope of survival – is to acknowledge and validate and process the incredibly painful emotions that come with a failed marriage and then send those emotions on their way.
A hell of a lot more work – but far more honest – than trying to simply say,
“Oh, I choose not to be affected by you.”