Without going into details, (because for the purposes of celebrating a milestone, it does not matter how I got here in the first place), for the first time in my life, I was able to tell someone, calmly, without emotion, factually, without malice, in control:
1. You cannot treat me like this.
2. You disrespected me.
3. You’ve shown me signs before and I chose to give you the benefit of the doubt. Now I’m watching. This was not okay.
4. If there are other underlying reasons why you are frustrated with me, let’s discuss those issues. We can always resolve problems if we talk honestly about them. Being passive aggressive towards me will only make the situation worse. However, your feelings are your feelings. So if you feel like I’m doing something to you, I’m open to hearing about that.
5. I don’t care if you dislike me or even disrespect me. Just behave in a manner that allows us to function together constructively.
This is a huge milestone! An incredible step towards improved mental health.
It would have been much easier to assume that they were bullying me and create a whole narrative about how I was a victim. It would have been habitual to ruminate and remember all the times they behaved badly and point out how the evidence points to them being mean to me. It would have been fun to bash them to anyone who would listen that they were so inappropriate and to plan how I would fight back against such injustices.
I could speak with them.
So I did.
They apologized for their inappropriate behaviour. They admitted that it came from a place of misunderstanding. They concurred that there were other underlying reasons of frustration.
If they did not own and apologize for their behaviour, if they continued to behave in this disrespectful manner, if they indicated that there was nothing wrong with this behaviour, then I would know that this person meant to disrespect and hurt me. (And this would be a different blog post.) However, if that was not the person’s intention (as they claimed), then we have opened the door for better communication and a better relationship.
I am grateful to this person and the situation for the opportunity to grow as a human being, learn about myself, and develop new ways to handle recurring stressful situations. I welcome the chance to change my MO when confronted by what felt like a disregard for me as a person. I am eager to manage the view of the world I see so that I can eliminate unnecessary stress to my life.
Ideally, I would much prefer that people didn’t say or do mean things. Of course! But as we are not in utopia, I need to be able to break out of the vicious cycle that I contribute to with my own behaviours and beliefs in response to a perceived slight or insult. For all I know, this person could be creating a narrative in their mind that I am in fact bullying them, that I created the problems causing their frustrations, which in turn made them explode with anger and aggression at me.
Who hurt whom first?
Stop the cycle. Find the source. Face the issue. Resolve the problem.
[Note: In some cases, there are serious issues of bullying in school, at home or in the workplace. That requires firm and immediate intervention rather than just a shift in perspective. This blog post refers more to how sometimes our own narrative may contribute to how we see a situation. In any case, addressing it upfront is incredibly important and powerful to do.]