Sunday, 16 October 2016

Do Not Listen To A Word I Say (Just Listen To What I Can Keep Silent)...

"Do not listen to a word I say," the Manic Street Preachers sang, on a track taken from their 1994 masterpiece, The Holy Bible.  "Just listen to what I can keep silent."

I've recently realised that I'm much too good at keeping things to myself.  

It sounds like a positive thing; I can be trusted with secrets, I don't upset my friends by telling them I don't like their outfits, for example and I am not someone who's going to criticise your life choices (unless they're, you know, really bad).  

But it's not all positive.  In fact, there are times when keeping things to myself is a wholly bad thing.  Because, I'm not likely to tell you if you've upset me.  I'm much more likely to brood on it, internalising my feelings until it starts to feel like my stomach is trying to eat itself and I forget what sleep actually feels like.  And that, my friends, is not good.  In fact, doing that to myself is, I've realised, a very bad idea indeed.

The fact is, we're all capable of phrasing things so that they don't upset the people who need to hear them any more than is absolutely unavoidable.  Unless we're genuinely terrible people, we know that if we don't like a dinner someone has prepared for us, we say "I'm afraid I'm not keen on this" or words to that effect, rather than: "This is vile, you clearly don't have a clue how to cook."  So, why is it so much harder to make a tactfully phrased comment when someone has upset us?!

I need to learn that when someone says or does something that causes me emotional pain, it's absolutely my right to say so.  I don't have to scream and shout, but there's nothing wrong with saying: "I didn't like the way you spoke to me/treated me and I'd appreciate it if it didn't happen again."  After all, if someone is a real friend, the last thing they'll want to have done is upset me, surely?!  They won't overreact by my telling them I was hurt by them?!

I guess the problem is, people have overreacted, before.  Massively.

Too often, we live in a world in which people feel they can speak or do as they please, but when they're called out on it, they take offence.  Just look at Donald Trump, for crying out loud; he's a man used to getting away with whatever he likes, but when his disgusting behaviour is rightly highlighted as being wrong, he goes on the defensive.

Other times, people take perfectly valid comments on their behaviour as massive personal insults and they play the victim.  This has happened to me, where I've been well within my rights to say "can you not speak/behave that way towards me, please?  I find it really hurtful," and the other person has responded by making out that I've deeply wounded them and I should apologise.

Gaslighting, much?!

One thing I've always tried to do is accept criticism.  If someone tells me I've hurt them unintentionally, my response is always to apologise and try to ensure I don't do it again.  But I've encountered so many people in my life whose go-to response is either to get angry and defensive, or to wail and cry and make themselves the victim in the situation, that now I'm stuck in a place where I all-too-often feel that I genuinely can't say anything to people who've upset me, especially if it's obvious that they've done it without meaning to.

And sure, in some ways, that doesn't have to be a problem, particularly if it's not a big upset.  If you're aware that a person has perhaps just chosen their words unwisely in a face-to-face conversation, where you don't always have the time to consider your responses before they come hurtling out of your mouth, then it's fair enough to write it off.  We don't always have to say something, because sometimes we can rationalise that there was no malice meant.

But there are times when someone will say or do something and, even if it wasn't done with any cruel intentions, it hits a vulnerable spot within us and we know we're going to take it to heart.  And, of course, there are times when people do things and it's not entirely unintentional, too.

In those instances, we shouldn't feel as though we can't speak out.  We shouldn't be surrounding ourselves with anyone we can't be open and honest, with.  Honesty is a key requirement for any kind of relationship, be it friendly, romantic or family-based.  

If we're feeling hurt or angry and we internalise those feelings, it's only going to lead to further negativity down the line.  Whether that's because we make ourselves stressed and ill by bottling things up, or whether it's because we eventually can't keep it in any longer and snap at someone long after the event, the end result is still the same.  We're going to feel worse.  They are probably going to feel worse.  Trust me on this, because I've been on that side of it, too.  

So. I'm making myself a promise.  If someone has hurt me, or made me mad enough that I brood on it and can't just write it off, I'm going to try harder to speak out.  Not to yell at them, or cut them out of my life, or anything drastic like that, but just to tell them: "Hey, that upset me."  

It's got to be better than keeping everything bottled up, right?!

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