Dealing with People Like Me

Advice for me, too

For the first time in a few years, I didn’t blog for a while. I’m not back because people were clamoring for me to write (in fact, no one said anything at all about it, which is perfectly fine). I’m back because I figured out some stuff about my mental challenges that I thought might be helpful for others. What prompted it was a lot of introspection I did after seeing some of these motivational posts in social media.

Oh yeah, Nikki? Really?

My mental issues tell me that no one wants to see the unmuted version of me. It’s been backed up all my life by folks telling me I’m too sensitive, too judgmental, too negative, too…blah blah blah. And thanks to having this extra-unpleasant “rejection sensitivity dysphoria” (RSD) deal, when I hear something that sounds to my extra-sensitive ears like a criticism or put-down, my limbic system kicks in and goes into defensive mode. That guarantees I’m going to overreact and piss someone off. Nope, no one really does want to see the unmuted version of me! Consequently, I do try to make myself smaller, to avoid subjecting other people to my unregulated self.

Break!

And this week, after being told how negative I was, I fell into a deep well of self-criticism. And when I asked for help and support, I felt criticized for not asking for it appropriately, and was informed that when people tried to help me, it made it worse. You can see how a downward spiral might ensue, even when I knew in my head that I was being criticized for basically being who I am, which I can’t change as much as I’d like to. Being told not to react to things that trigger me the way I do is like telling a tree not to have bark. Well, yuck to all that, right? (Note that I know the person I was talking to was not intending to be mean. This is just an example.)

So, I was wondering how I could have the reactions in my head that my mental challenge makes me have but mitigate it somehow. One thing I thought of was for people who are forced to talk to me when I have an RSD episode to not add criticism about my reaction on top of my reaction. For example, if I react to something by hearing in my mind that I’ve been told I’m the most negative person in the world, an unhelpful response would be, “No, I just said you were ONE OF the most negative people I know.” Yep, my mind heard an exaggerated view all right, but pointing out that I heard it wrong just makes me feel worse.

I wonder what would happen if the response was empathy rather than added criticism? What if my reaction was acknowledged, but not critiqued? I was thinking something like, “I know what I just said was hard for you to hear. Just remember I care about you, warts and all. Let’s look at what I was trying to tell you, not how it came across.” I feel like that would give me a chance to get past that initial reaction and be more realistic. Who knows?

Break

I have to acknowledge, though, that just like I have no control over reactions that aren’t conscious, other people can’t, either. That’s how people end up where they each build on each other’s issues until there’s some bad result. Talking to each other and trying to understand each other’s struggles is a good way to start, though.

I’ll keep working at it, but no, I don’t think I’ll be subjecting my unmuted self to many of the people in my life. It’s just too much for them, and I honestly don’t blame them one bit. Some people are hard to deal with, and I am one of those. That’s something I have to deal with!

(By the way, in my mind, I’m a cheerful person who laughs and jokes around a lot and has a lot of fun – I wish I could expose THAT version of me!)

It’s not necessary to try to make people you are fond of like you back!

In my heart, I know that the work I’ve done here at the ranch has been good for me. I’ve felt much better about myself as I’ve been finding the beauty in my surroundings, treasuring kindnesses I experience, and working to be as kind and caring as someone like me can be. And of course, hanging around with animals who help me so much has made life much better.

The main reason I write this blog is to have a record of the good things that come through my life, like the nature, the travel, the uplifting people, and the things I learn. It may just be me talking to myself and trying to convince myself that there’s good in this messy world, but it helps. So, I’ll still be here blogging about horses, dogs, birds, and flowers.

Here I am, looking happy because I’m able to ride Drew and he likes his new saddle and pad.

You get to react to what I write however you choose to. I’m fine with that. I’m prickly, so I’m going to rub folks the wrong way, make poor word choices, and look at things from my RSD perspective sometimes. Oh well, it’s me. Who among us isn’t prickly in some way?

Judgy Judgy Judgy

People are so darned judgmental. I know we’re wired to be that way, but why does it seem like so few people are even TRYING to let go of that? So many folks feel compelled to be all like, “I’m not normally judgmental BUT it affects me, so judge, judge judge.” In the past week or two, I’ve seen the effects of other people’s judgmentalism and compulsion to give unsolicited advice have hurt people I care about who are doing their best in their complicated and difficult lives (hey, isn’t that every single one of us?).

I find it easy to love everyone. What’s your problem, Suna?

So, here’s sort of a letter to myself, to remind me of my intentions. Writing them down helps. And, it might help some reader, even!

What Helps Me

I read a lot of Buddhist stuff, and a lot of my spiritual practice draws from that tradition. It’s helped me a lot as I walk my own path toward being less judgmental (just ask anyone who knows me, I have an issue with it, just like everyone else). Here are two things that help me, and they are things that can help you no matter what your spiritual beliefs are:

  • Breathing: By this I mean stopping whatever you are doing that makes you feel angry, annoyed, anxious, or worried and breathing deeply. If you concentrate on breathing from your core, you can’t also be worrying or judging. It gives your busy mind a break and helps you change your focus. This has worked for me for at least 50 years, so there has to be something to it! And I find it works with animals, too, especially horses. It really helps Apache. And no, it doesn’t have to be special yoga breathing, Zen meditation, or some fancy thing. Just breathing deeply and focusing on it works. The latest issue of Lion’s Roar magazine has great articles on this that would apply to anyone.
  • Lovingkindness: What’s that? It’s a Buddhist practice that boils down to sending positive energy/thoughts out to the world. You start with yourself, then your family, then your friends, then people you like, then people you don’t like/don’t know…eventually getting to the whole world. It’s like prayer, and I know there are several prayer practices much like this. One way to do it is just to repeat this, with broadening focus:
    May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain. May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain. May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain.
    I just like the idea of lovingkindness (metta). It really helps me focus on caring about fellow humans, even ones I may disagree with. Read more by searching for it!
In ranching news, Lee and I got some fish for the water troughs. Here I am trying to get a photo of goldfish.

My Own Hard Work against Being Judgmental

I know I’ve had pretty harsh feelings and thoughts about people who differ from me, whether politically, educationally, culturally, or philosophically. Sure, I have every right to think I’m correct, since what works for me does work for me. But, I know darned well I’m a product of many things:

  • When I was born
  • Who raised me
  • How I was educated
  • The people who surrounded me as I grew up
  • What I’ve read (or watched), and not to forget this one…
  • How I’m wired genetically

The last one has been hitting me hard lately. I’ve done enough reading on how our minds and bodies work to know that about half of the people in this world see the world one way, and the other see it another…and these boil down into the various dichotomies that have been around throughout our time as humans. Right now it’s liberal vs. conservative in the US, and other things in other places. But it’s there. And it isn’t going to change.

So, for the last few months I have been cutting back on my participation in the divisiveness in the US that’s not helping anyone. I’m going to keep my beliefs, but I’m going to haul out the lovingkindness and remind myself that people who do things or think things I disagree with were raised differently from me, have had different life experiences, are surrounded by a different subculture, and most important, are wired differently from me. This does not mean I can’t get to know them, be friends, or learn valuable things from them. I’m DOING this, dang it.

I know that there will be judgments aimed at me as I try to be more open, because my efforts aren’t exactly being replicated all over the place right now. So, the next thing to work on is not being hurt by judgments thrown at me. I guess these efforts go hand in hand. The past few years, where I’ve lived in a town where I don’t fit in, live with people with vastly different points of view and life experiences, and have not hesitated to share my thoughts have been great practice in not letting other people’s opinions hurt me.

From Jack Kornfield’s version of the meditation.

That’s not easy! I get hurt sometimes! But, at least I know that just because others look at me one way, it doesn’t mean I’m bad…just different. The key is to take the nugget of truth or valid criticism to heart, and reject the negative attitude or intent. We CAN learn from people who aren’t always kind to us or agree with us without absorbing the negativity. I’ve got a ways to go, and I’m glad I have role models who are further along with this than me.

But, I can take my breathing and use it to help me get back to a good place, and send lovingkindness out to everyone. That will keep me going as I learn, screw up, learn more, and find new ways to screw up. Now, doesn’t that sound just like a life well lived? It does to me.

An Invitation

Let’s see if we can all work to be less judgmental and more understanding that we can’t walk in other people’s shoes or know all their backstory. Can’t hurt. It might help.

Things That Puzzle Me

To be honest, a lot of things puzzle me these days, and I assume you’re probably puzzled a lot lately as well. Some of these things are fun or funny, and some are testing my ability to not be judgmental of others (and ya know, sometimes people seem to be begging to be judged; still I try not to do it). And some of it brings me way down. Sigh.

The first thing is this. It’s a fun one. What is going on with these mud daubers? Is this love or death?

What is going ON with this threesome? I can’t get it out of my mind.

There’s been a lot of mud dauber drama around the house, anyway. I see lots of hornets attacking the blue-black mud daubers, but there are usually just two of them. What a way to go!

On to the Rant

Next, I see so many people with huge logical inconsistencies in the things they say and post on social media. How is this not an issue for them? I was going to write some specific instances, but I decided that I don’t want to get involved, because of the next thing that puzzles me…

Why does everything have to be politicized? Health and safety precautions to protect ourselves and others now signify which political “side” we’re on? Why? I’m sorely disappointed at how people are labeling each other as fearful and irresponsible. Let’s look at a butterfly now and breathe.

And facts. What the hell has happened to those little gems? This whole business of not trusting science and verified facts confuses me a lot. Of course there is always more to be learned, but this doesn’t mean that historical event X never happened or gravity doesn’t exist (we don’t exactly know what gravity is, by the way.

And black men! My word! My heart is breaking and I would start hugging every black man I see, but that would not be good at this time, and at any time that would be sort of weird. Nobody deserves to live life judged guilty just for being born. Shame on us.

Ah, a buckeye. That brings some positive energy in.

Honest, I respect people’s right to view the world from different perspectives from mine. I am not telling anyone how to think, as much as it’s tempting sometimes. I guess I’m just disappointed. And puzzled. And confused.

I’ll tell you exactly how bad I feel about other human beings right now. Last night, I dreamed that some kind of bomb went off and I watched a man fleeing a nuclear blast. I thought, “Well, he can’t escape that, but at least he won’t have to deal with the mess the survivors are left with.” I think my subconscious was reflecting what I consciously don’t want to admit, which is that there are times when I’d just rather not be here than to watch society disintegrate before my eyes. It’s so painful.

Debbie Downer, signing off. Going to look at nature so I can feel better. How are YOU coping?

What’s Wrong with My Age?

Sometimes an article floats by on Facebook that really makes me think. Yesterday, this article on the perks of aging that no one talks about did that. The article talks about a woman named Ashton Applewhite, who has been writing about aging and ageism for a while. She spends a lot of time blogging, writing books, and speaking about what is and isn’t ageist. I guess someone has to do this, especially in these times when it’s considered a good idea to point out every instance of every -ism that you come across and try to make whoever made the mistake feel very, very bad for their ignorance or innocence (I may have issues with this, but it’s off topic).

That’s right. 61. Not 16.

In between lots of ads, the article makes points that may be new to my youngr friends, but are obvious to me. For example, my favorite: when you get to a certain age, the amount of f***s you give about other people’s opinions of you diminishes greatly.

Continue reading “What’s Wrong with My Age?”
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