Have you ever met anyone who was just nasty and mean? Most of us have. Such people remind me of dry drunks.
Dry drunks are alcoholics who are not drinking but they really, really want to, and this discrepancy between what they really want in their lives (a drink) and what they have in their lives (sobriety) makes them miserable. And they think that if they are miserable then it’s only fair that everyone around them should also be miserable.
These other people (let’s call them Meanies) seem to be on a dry drunk of relationships: They want a meaningful, needs-fulfilling relationship but they don’t have one. Do we need to wonder why? Their very meanness and nastiness make them about as appealing as a dead possum on the road covered in blow flies.
When we meet these Meanies in passing, we are usually able to slough it off and go our merry way. After all, there’s nothing I can probably do or say to them that will make their life any more miserable than it obviously is. I usually think –sucks to be you – and get on with my life, leaving them to wallow in their own pit of despair.
When we meet these Meanies in business situations, however, it is a different story, for several reasons:
If I am paying money for a service then I expect to be treated like I am paying money for a service. If I’m not appropriately treated then I look for that service elsewhere and pay someone else my money. There is an old business saying - Samson killed 3000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, and that many sales are killed each day with the same instrument.
Why employers stand for that sort of thing is beyond me. Perhaps the recession doesn’t really mean anything to them and they have enough money to not worry about employing people who destroy their businesses. And perhaps the Meanies are as mentally challenged as they are socially challenged, because no business means no money and, sooner or later, the boss is going to cut his losses and close the business’ doors (leaving the Meanies to complain and moan about being unemployed).
Another reason this is different in business is because good employees, employees who are bright enough to realize that being a Meanie to customers eventually leads to bankruptcy, usually don’t want to stick around and put up with the sort of abusive nastiness these Meanies create around them. Most people don’t like to smell feces and when they have to work in it, seek a job where the air is cleaner.
Of course, when the good employees are gone, the Meanies get the run of the place (although they will complain about having to do all of the work because there is no one there to help them). And when the good employees decide to go away, what’s left is – yeah, you guessed it – the Meanies (see the preceding paragraphs about what this means for customers).
The other reason this is different in business is because the good employees have to put up with these miserable wretches while at work. The good employees are just trying to do their jobs and be pleasant to the customers who pay their wages.
So, what are we to do if we are a good employee who has to deal with these Meanies and their toxic relationships on a daily basis?
Bear with me a moment.
Epictetus (a Stoic) is considered one of the fathers of cognitive therapy. Epi (as he’s affectionately known by us cognitivists), was once approached by one of his friends. “Epictetus,” said the friend, “I’ve been coming to your lectures for some time now and, I have to tell you, this cognitive stuff doesn’t really work.” Epictetus calmly and benevolently nodded his head, “Why,” asked Epi, “do you say that?” “Well,” said the friend, “I have a co-worker over at the market who’s a real a-hole, and I’ve been trying to use this cognitive stuff on him and it just doesn’t work. He’s still just as big an a-hole as he ever was.” Epi smiled his paternal smile and replied, “Philosophy is bounded by the skin.”
This means that it doesn’t work on other people. It only works for ourselves. Trying to get other people to be different is a form of power control (even when we’re trying to get them to change by being nice to them), and it doesn’t work. In the vernacular, it is what it is, and we are the ones who must either accept it as it is or become frustrated by it.
Mean people suck, as the bumper sticker reminds us, but there’s nothing we can do to change them. They will be mean and nasty or nice and friendly, depending on what is going on in their tiny, rodent-like, diseased minds.
The only way I can deal with it is by changing my thinking about the situation.
“But,” you remonstrate, “that isn’t fair! Why do I have to change the way I look at things? I’m in the right. They are the ones who need to change.”
Just so, but if we want peace then it must be us who changes our thinking. Philosophy is bounded by the skin. If I want my life to be different then I have to change my thinking about the situation and circumstances in which I find myself.
One way I may change my thinking about these Meanies is to, perhaps, think of them as sick. Instead of looking at these people as being mean, I can look at them as being sick, which, relationally, they most obviously are. If we were doctors, would we get mad at sick patients? When these people who are sick and in pain in our hospital wards become nasty and mean (just as surely as our coworkers are spiritually and emotionally sick and in pain), do we, likewise, become mean and nasty? Do we abandon them to their own devices? Or, do we realize that they are sick and that they speak and act from their pain and sickness?
People who are Meanies are, indeed, sick. They are miserable with their lives and can’t find a way to become happy. Their nasty behaviors have become so entrenched that they socially isolate themselves from the need-fulfilling relationships that they require by being the Meanies they are.
Of course, you may have noticed, Meanies flock together, but this flocking of harpies is not need-fulfilling. It is nastiness and despair feeding on meanness and misery. They suck each other dry like psychopathic ticks locked in a death embrace. If it actually fulfilled their needs then they wouldn’t continue to be miserable.
If you have to deal with this sort of wart on the pimple of humanities backside, and you can’t abandon the situation due to finances or other considerations, change your thinking. Epictetus was a pretty smart guy. Take a page from his book and be happy. Happiness is its own reward, and being happy is the best revenge against these miserable people. They will see your happiness (probably renew their efforts to destroy it) and (when they can’t) be even more miserable.
If you need to practice how to change your thinking, give them a call at Knoxville Center for Clinical Hypnosis. They can teach you how to use these cognitive restructuring skills to live a happier life and ignore the pusillanimous attempts of these miserable hacks to drag you into their life of hell. They are located at 9237 Middlebrook Pike at Rhama Center of Healing Arts.
Experiment with life. Nurture those you love.