Respect and Compassion vs. Door Mat and Resentment

 think we all wished there was more compassion, respect, kindness, honesty and integrity in this world. If we could learn to love more and hate less, be more understanding and tolerant of others, we’d feel better about ourselves too. It’s a simple equation; the more our default emotions and mental states are in chaos, misery, depression, victimhood or anger, the more we attract of the same. Why? Because our bad behavior that results from these mental and emotional states attracts more bad behaviors, drama and fights.

But where do we draw the line between being compassionate, respectful and kind vs. being a doormat and harboring resentment for not speaking up? At what point do we become passive and ineffective, instead of being self-expressed, but still keeping our dignity?

Compassion is a tricky thing. It implies that we remove all attachment to an outcome and truly respect and accept a person for who they are. It implies that we neither attempt to change them, nor lecture or punish them. It does not, however, mean that we have to take   dishonesty, abuse, unkindness and other harmful behaviors from anyone.

I have encountered many people in my lifetime who are simply mentally ill. Their illness spanned over clinical depression, borderline personality disorder, bi-polar, addiction and psychopathic behavior. Most of them were deeply in denial, never sought out help and continued on a path of self-destruction and harming those around them. One could argue that I consistently attract(ed) them, but I knew how to recognize them. My mother was a borderline and so this kind of completely crazy behavior was normal to me for a long time.

I have spent the past 15 years learning as much as I could about addiction and various other mental illnesses, so I would finally learn to recognize them not only with my gut (because I kept ignoring that one), but with my mind/head. I have gotten so good at it that I turned it in a profession. Fraud prevention is all about recognizing unhealthy and deceptive behavioral patterns. But, I digress.

The point is that I recognize a “faulty harddrive” from 10 miles away. And unlike before, I no longer feel a need to go in and fix it. The problem is, though, that sometimes I am still forced to deal with mentally unstable people; namely those I cannot cut out of my life or walk away from for one reason or another. Trust me, knowing what is going on does not make it easier when it comes to dealing with their hurtful, selfish, narcissistic, demeaning, dishonest and damaging words and behaviors. So I have learned a few tricks that work for me.

  • I don’t attempt to reason with them. Arguing with someone who is mentally ill is like arguing with a 3 year old. They neither have the capacity to recognize their patterns, nor are they willing to. The deep rooted beliefs of being right or a victim, as well as the ongoing blame, finger pointing and accusations of others is a part of their being. It will not change, no matter what you do or say and no matter how much evidence you will provide.
  • Don’t expect an apology. Apologies are rare or are never given. The reason is that they honestly do believe that they are not to blame and therefore don’t deserve the consequences to their actions. Their reality is distorted and it all makes sense in their head. You are always at fault or hurt them first. When there is an apology it tends to be shallow and superficial and was given because they felt cornered or were forced to apologize.
  • In some cases their behavior is obsessive, compulsive and swings wildly from you being an awesome person to you being the biggest jerk that ever lived, followed by an array of excuses for their behavior (there goes the blame again).

So what to do and how do you deal with such people without losing your compassion and going crazy? Since there is no arguing and nothing that you could ever say or do to change their behaviors, you will have to simply limit your exposure to a manageable level. Do not go into deep conversations, don’t trust them with anything personal (anything you say can and will be used against you) and when they start going off to the dark side, simply walk away, hang up the phone, delete the email and stay away for a while. Don’t get roped in if they obsessively try to get a response or rise out of you.

A relationship with an abusive personality type has to be taken in small doses. Otherwise, their craziness will suck you in and before you know it, you start engaging on their level and become like them! You can be compassionate and understand that they are not OK in the head, but it doesn’t mean you have to take the abuse or the negative consequences their words or actions have to your life.  If you have a choice, walk away. Don’t do it in an angry way (like I have before); sometimes the best way is to simply walk away quietly.

Finally, realize that intellect and mental state are not the same. Remember that some extremely intelligent people were serial killers and bat shit crazy. People with personality disorders can be smart, but that doesn’t mean they are healthy or functional!

Above all,  you must have compassion and respect for yourself. If you cannot do this, neither will others. Life is short. Don’t waste time on those who make you miserable. You can be compassionate and wish them well, but you do not owe them love, friendship or your presence, if they cannot contribute to your life in ways that make you a better person in the future.

Because of my upbringing, I cannot risk being around toxic people. They can and will undo everything I have learned and worked on and that is a price I am not willing to pay.