Posted by fxckfeelings on July 1, 2013Share This Post
Cruelty is the byproduct of both excessive involvement and a lack of involvement; a calm person who doesn’t care too much would rather nap than be abusive. As such, you’d think the best way to improve bad behavior is to straighten out the level of caring, which is the subject of many plays and stories, often on Lifetime. In reality, caring usually doesn’t change, so the best way to stop mean behavior is to measure it against moral standards and practical consequences, and then stop it, regardless of whether you’re overly sensitive, insensitive, or just overdue for a nap.
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I never understood why I hated my mother or why I couldn’t let go of my anger before she died, though I knew it bothered her. I remember resenting the way she made a big deal out of my good looks when I was growing up, and liked to show me off to her friends, but was otherwise pretty sarcastic and tough. I don’t usually get mad at most people because I don’t get that close. I know she came by her toughness honestly, because she grew up poor and worked hard all her life. I’m basically a loner except for my husband, who is really my best friend. Now, as I get older, I find myself thinking more about her and wondering why I was angry, and am still angry, and why it bothers me.
Sometimes toughness comes from not caring and sometimes it hides caring too much; there’s a reason why so many guys in prison, among their many tattoos, have ones that read “MAMA.” In your case, your pain at feeling misunderstood and mis-appreciated by your mother suggests that you cared a lot and wanted something from her she didn’t and couldn’t give.
Understanding that your mother didn’t have it to give won’t necessarily make your anger go away, however—real life not being science fiction, knowing the true name of something, be it a problem or a person, isn’t good for solving problems, just more efficient Google searches.
If you want to stop being an angry person, you’re probably expecting too much, which will make you more angry and give you the right to act nasty. Yes, you’re probably right: you owe your anger to your mother, both because she couldn’t give you what you needed and also because she had sex, you were the offspring, and she gave you her angry genes.
So, instead of asking yourself whether making peace with your mother’s memory will make the anger go away, ask yourself whether it’s right to act nasty, regardless of how angry you feel.
It’s your call, but let’s assume for the moment that she couldn’t help her personality, didn’t know how to be a better mother, but was a good parent in terms of trying hard and being responsible and reliable. If that’s true, then you were wrong to be nasty, even though you had good reason to be angry. You might not want to admit that now that she’s dead and you can’t apologize, but if you’re really a chip off the old block, then that apology might’ve gotten testy, anyway.
If you agree that she deserves an apology, however, regardless of how you feel, it will help you to try writing one. Of course it won’t make her feel better and, in the short run, it may make you feel worse. What it will do, however, is put your values into action by denying you the right to punish someone who doesn’t deserve it, obliging you to give respect and appreciation where it belongs, and stopping anger from controlling your actions.
Ultimately, you’re writing an apology for your own benefit; even if you’re not as tough as you think, facing this regret will make you tougher where it matters.
“I may never be able to remember my mother without anger, but I will not allow resentment to cloud my understanding of her limitations or push me into being a jerk.
I wish I could get my Asperger brother to see that he causes a lot of trouble when he shows his contempt for our two secretaries at the business we run together. When they gab about their personal lives, he’s absolutely right about their faults—they’re not too bright and they’re always complaining about being mistreated by their boyfriends—but they’re loyal and good-hearted workers, we don’t pay them a lot, and his nastiness forces me to waste my time apologizing and smoothing their feathers. When I ask him to be nicer, he tells me they deserve it and life would be easier if they quit, and then we get into an argument about whether we need them or not or whether they’re really as annoying as he says they are. As you can tell, he’s the sort of guy who doesn’t care whether he hurts anyone’s feelings because he doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him. I need to get through to him before he gives me a major personnel problem or gets me so mad I say something I don’t want to say.
Don’t waste time arguing with your brother about whether your employees deserve to be treated contemptuously; given that he has more than just a “A Touch of the ‘Tism”™, you know that, neurologically, he’s virtually incapable of tact. He’s never going to understand that it’s not good to treat people badly, just that he enjoys arguing. Try to teach him about what’s appropriate and he’ll just wear you out when that’s energy you’re going to need to calm down the secretarial pool after his next bout of logorrhea.
Instead, face him with the consequences of his actions, both inevitable and optional. Inevitably, his actions waste your time and energy and create inefficiency in the company, especially because you don’t think it’s worth dealing with the hassle of firing these women. In any case, because you think his actions are wrong and wasteful, you want him to stop, period.
Optionally, you can exercise your right to refuse to discuss his actions with him in any way other than to tell him to stop and discourage him, through your own actions (like shutting him out when he misbehaves), from continuing his bad behavior. You can also find tasks in your job description to dump in his lap that will compensate you for your trouble.
Draw your energy from what you believe is right and not from anger, because anger seems to stimulate him. If, instead of arguing with him, you convince yourself that you’re right, then you can let him know where you stand and do whatever you think is necessary. Your intention, after all, is to defend his interests as well as yours against the unconsidered nastiness of his contempt. Also, you know he’s missing a screw, specifically the one that would stop him from dissing the dumb for fun. You’ll be more effective then if you announce your intentions with firm friendliness and then let your actions do the talking.
Tell him you think there’s no justification for deliberately hurting other people’s feelings, regardless of what he thinks, and he should stop. These employees meet your performance standards and you have no intention of firing them, so his being mean is basically a good way to get your business sued. He’s causing harm to everyone, including himself, for no purpose other than to express his feelings.
With respect, spell out the moral and emotional arithmetic that he lacks the equipment to do himself. With luck, he’ll get the message, or at least get an office with a soundproof door.
“I would like my brother to learn to shut up about his annoyances, but I know his love of arguing and provoking is stronger than his ability to listen and think. I will lay out my reasoning without argument or anger and make it clear I will respond negatively if he continues.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname