Have you ever been around someone who made you feel incredibly uncomfortable? No matter what you said or how you tried to connect and please that person; your attempts were never quite good enough? Maybe it was a teacher, coach, or family member…but this person made you feel like there was something innately wrong with you at your very core?
I recently had a run-in with an adult who made me feel incredibly small. He was correcting me on the most minute of details…speaking over me…cutting me off and so on. This interaction took me rip roaring back to some unhealthy childhood relationships–relationships where I was constantly walking on eggshells. I was able to exit the presence of this person relatively quickly because clearly he was a bit unstable. I can now recognize–he was trying to throw me off balance to bring about his own stability.
Whether you currently live in connection with this type of living breathing personality disorder–or have in your past–let me try to paint the picture so we have no doubt who this person is in your world. Typically the person is a bully. They may not come across as overly brutish–they just present their thoughts and opinions as infallible. They may make overt or subtle derogatory comments about you or those around you. Biting sarcasm fills the halls of their home. Narcissism may be present. This person has an overly critical spirit and generally cannot see things in a positive light. Occasionally you might find yourself in his or her good graces…but this is rare. If you live with this person you walk on eggshells and play mental gymnastics attempting to stay in their good graces. If this takes place with a parent–only once you move away from home do you recognize the disfunction of the dance. And dance is too delightful of a word to describe the land mines you navigated on a daily basis. Those land mines left you feeling insecure…unsure of your standing in relationships…not just with that person…but so many others in your world.
I remember playing at a friend’s house who endured this type of home life. I remember being unable to say anything right . Often I would apologize profusely for simply opening my mouth…”I’m sorry,” I would say. “You are sorry,” the parent would reply.
We encounter these characters often in our world…the person that is always correcting us…making us feel small…insignificant. As we grow older and wiser we gain a bit more savvy–we are able to recognize the instability of the person with whom we are sharing space…and either extend compassion or choose a quick exit strategy. Instead of flight we may adopt a fight response and go toe to toe with the unstable person knowing that ultimately we refuse to take yet another beating of sorts. (Unfortunately, these are often difficult fights to win.)
No matter your story or your interaction with this type of person, it makes me so very passionate–I want to be a different type of person than those I encountered in my childhood. I don’t want to bring my mess in to the little lives under my care. In other words…I desire to break the cycle of dysfunction in whatever form it comes. Do I do it every time? No. Chris and I joke that we should set aside a small sum of money now for our children for their therapy bills because no one fully escapes the generational crazy.
But stopping to recognize this behavior–and the instability of those people in our past–gives us an opportunity to live differently. We can build others up instead of tearing them down. We can fall back on old tapes played from our childhood or we can break the cycle and speak words of life and love over our tribe.
Here is the strangest part of living a life while walking on eggshells: Even though we might not be around those mentors, teachers, coaches, or parents any longer…we often have embraced their voices as our very own. There is an inner dialogue with those unstable forces that causes us to become overly critical, or they create insecurity and instability in our thought life. We begin to be unkind to ourselves. How is it that we have escaped walking on eggshells in the presence of this person–and yet we have allowed their voice to still have a presence in our current thought life? Worse…we don’t always recognize that voice in our heads for who he/she really is…an unstable, insecure bully of our past.
Holy psychological layers batman.
Here is what I know. There is something very powerful about taking our thought life captive. About speaking to those voices and telling them to take a hike…just like we WISH we could have done as a child. Even better, is choosing to replace those lies and negative voices with a softer more loving version of Truth. We choose a kinder conversation in our head. What a gift when we are able to begin to embrace the voice of our Heavenly Father who says we are abundantly loved and cherished.
I love speaking truth over others…I love helping others lift the lies that they believe…placing a neon sign on negative self-talk. But I can only speak to this because of my own critical dialogue that has taken place for decades–post walking on eggshells. When I was recently in the presence of the personality disorder that I told you about…I realized he must have had an incredibly unhealthy childhood that was far harsher than he was being with me. I did not have anger toward him…just sadness. I saw the little boy he must have been–verbally torn down and beaten up. But it made me resolute–I refuse to bring that kind of toxicity in to my kids’ lives or the lives of those around me. Why then for a moment do I allow those voices in to my thought-life? (In that moment of self-reflection this blog was birthed.) Negative self talk for me has been quieted at times in my life and seems to resurface at unexpected and inopportune times. Often when I am most vulnerable those old tapes will become louder. I have made incredible strides in this area over the years–but an encounter with “Mr. Unhealthy” reminded me we are all in the process of being transformed and I still have work to do. We must be kinder to ourselves. We must not only replace negative with positive…we must flood our thought life with transformative truth.
Wherever you are today–I am with you. If you are in the presence of an unstable person…I would encourage you to find some distance. If you are embracing some of those voices you heard as a child and speaking them over your children I would encourage you to take note and begin to prayerfully start to break the cycle…TODAY. If you, like me, have adopted some of those voices in your thought life, you have a choice today in what you choose to think…and you can replace those thoughts with TRUTH. I recently stumbled on these delightful words and if I sat with them long enough and truly let them soak in, I would be transformed: May your soul soak them in as well…
You are Braver than you believe, Stronger than you seem, and more Loved than you will ever fully know!
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,
(Photo credit Gregory Knapp)