We all know people who are extremely negative. They are always complaining about one thing or the other. They feel sorry for themselves. Like the world is treating them unfairly. They can be really draining to be around.
This post gives some ideas to what we can do when we face these negative problem people.
The post is made on request from my friend who asked:
What about negative thinking? My colleague is always negative. I tell my boss that I don’t want to work with him because of his negative vibe. He is always F… this and F… that… just really negative
In this case the persons negativity is directed diffusely towards everything outside of himself.
In other cases, the negativity is directed towards you as a person in the shape of blaming, criticizing and other types of verbal abuse. Just to give a few examples from my own experience:
How could you…? You should be doing this or that…! What have we done since you…? You are no longer welcome here and you are no longer part of this family. In time you will be nothing but a faint memory
Earlier I would defend myself and argue. But I have learned that I don’t have to accept the unacceptable or argue back or convince the other person that I am innocent or right. When we are dealing with other people and their negative distorted thinking we can detach. Detachment implies that we let go of our obsession with other people’s behavior – realizing that the only person we have any type of control over is ourselves:
When cruel words fly from the mouth of another person, drunk or sober… I have choices… I can refuse to discuss the topic any further. I can listen without taking the words personally; I can leave the room, change the subject… or explore other alternativesCourage to Change, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. 1992, p. 297
We have choices
With this solution we have choices. Like my friend who chooses not to want to work with the guy who is always having a negative attitude towards everything.
Realizing that we have choices is related to the term emotional maturity. When we are emotionally mature, we stay in our own hula-hoop. We know that the solution to our problems is to be found within ourselves instead of looking for others to solve them. We no longer need the environmental support that we needed when we were small children. In other words when we grow to be emotionally mature, we learn to have our emotional center of gravity within ourselves. This means that we are ultimately responsible for our own existence and that no one else can fill our needs. It also means knowing that what other people say or do is all about them and how their mind is conditioned.
When we are emotionally immature, we have our center of emotional gravity outside ourselves. We let our thoughts and emotions be affected by what other people say or do thinking it is all about us:
Taking things personally makes you an easy prey for those predators who try to send you emotional poison. They can hook you easily with one little opinion and feed you all their emotional garbage. When you take it personally, you eat it up, and now it becomes your garbage. But if you don’t take it personally, you are immune to their poison; you will not eat it.Ruiz: Wisdom from the four agreements, Peter Pauper Press, Inc, 2003, p. 34
Some of us have a very difficult time setting boundaries and not taking anything personally. We internalize negativity and take on blame and critique believing that everything is our fault. We have excessive amounts of fear and guilt. We believe we are unlovable, unworthy and not good enough. This implies that we have other underlying maladaptive schemas and coping behaviors compared to our offenders. These underlying beliefs and behaviors were developed when growing up in more or less dysfunctional family systems. Often, we are even unaware about the degree of dysfunction because it is the only ‘normal’ we know.
Where other people immediately would walk away from negativity, blame and critique, knowing that it has nothing to do with them. We engage. We feel as though we need to defend ourselves and we feel that we are coming from behind. Many times, we react in the same manners as we did as children because our schemas and beliefs get triggered by negativity and verbal abuse. The trigger situation floods our brain with unconscious emotional fear responses stored in our reptilian brain that overrides our cognitive ability to pause and respond in more mature ways.
This means that we need to practice contrary action knowing that we have choices as mentioned above. We can walk away. We can listen for a while and know that it is all about them and that it is not about us.
Of course, we also need to look at our part. Did we do or say something with the intend to hurt others? If so, we need to make amends for our part. But if the negativity and abuse continue, we need to detach emotionally and sometimes physically to protect ourselves.
We are all precious beings and we all have a right to be treated with kindness and respect.