How The World Screws Us Up

Common things people say and do that screw us up.

A therapist’s life can be complicated. We go to school and intern for years, we study, write and read a zillion books and articles, we do research and walk away with a bunch of extremely helpful knowledge about how to be happier, healthier, and a better person and family member. The fact that we aren’t allowed to tell every dysfunctional person we see out in the world how they can apply what we know to their life stinks. Why can’t we do it?

1. Counseling ethics dictate that we can’t pursue people for therapy. They have to come to us.
2. Appropriate boundaries for all of us means acknowledging that all adults have free will to do as they please, so long as it doesn’t cause damage or hurt others. Unsolicited fixing and advice is a boundary violation.

So, since I can’t say anything to anyone unless they ask, here is what my life can be like:

• A couple at the grocery store verbally lashing out at their child and I walk past with zipped lips.

• A couple obnoxiously bicker and make cutting remarks to one another at a dinner party while I glance down, digging my nails into my thighs under my napkin.

• Someone says something on television or in the media that I know will reinforce some wrong or misleading idea that will influence people negatively.

So, it can be difficult to know what I know and sit back and observe the things people say, but I can write about them in a blog so long as I don’t call anyone out. So here goes:

He’s so selfless. The person saying this means it as a compliment and I wince each time I hear it. The average person will deduct from this that is not OK to do for yourself, which is not true. In fact, it is necessary to put yourself first and to make sure you’re healthy and happy in mind, body, and spirit before you can start doing for others.

All that attention and love is going to spoil her. As far as I know, there is not an amount of attention, love, time and affection that is too much. Give all you can, whenever you can. The only issue here is to make sure your giving nature doesn’t create expectations, and you do that by setting boundaries with the people you do things for.

That’s selfish. I hate this word and think it should be removed from the English language as it also discourages lack of self-care. Selfishness is lack of consideration for others. To do nice or generous things for yourself is not selfish.

Well, that girl is one who follows her own drummer. When I’ve heard this, the speaker usually meant that the person was different in a bad or look-down-your-nose way, with the implication that if you are outside the box there is something wrong with you. This will encourages those who are different from the rest to feel bad about themselves.

She thinks she’s better than anyone else. This should never be said. Most people that are judged in this way are simply shy and introverted, and may even have social anxiety. They give off the impression that they aren’t interested in others, but the truth is it causes them such inner turmoil to interact that they just stay away. Anyway, it is a boundary violation to guess or assume what other people think or feel, or why they do what they do. Instead of assuming, why not ask the person themselves about it?

These patterns of communication screw us up because of what will be insinuated from them. People often don’t feel safe to let others know what they’re thinking, feeling or doing out of fear of hearing stuff like I listed above. My advice is to do be yourself, do what you want so long as it doesn’t hurt you or others, and forget about what about what society judges will say. I promise you that they don’t know what they’re talking about, anyway.