Thursday, October 17, 2013

On Natural Responses and the Trouble They Can Get You in

I'm a bit of a literalist. I have trouble figuring out when what someone says isn't what they mean. Oh, I can follow jokes and idioms and all—if I realize they're figurative. I don't always do so. I also find it amusing to take things literally that are obviously not intended to be.

And when I'm confused, I naturally try to figure out where the disconnect is—but the problem there is that, I apparently sound snappish when I do so. So people hear me as snide, when I'm actually bewildered and trying to figure out what's going on.

People who know me (should) know these things about me. They're downright obvious. But somehow, some people—ones who have known me for years—assume that I can follow when they're joking or when they don't want to get the point of what I'm saying (even when I'm not the only one who can't tell the difference). And call me rude and picking a fight when I react accordingly. (Even other people who respond like me are later discussed along the lines of "What's X's problem?")

At church last night, one guy, grinning, was good-naturedly attempting to give me a hard time. I didn't even realize it until he said outright, ("Here I am, trying to give you a hard time, and it's not working.") Which ultimately led to an interesting comment from him that means people who don't even know me well are noticing, er, certain stressors that are likely contributing to my poor health at the moment.

It can be quite interesting to hear opinionated people who often give others a hard time complain when others give them tastes of their own medicine. (Then there are the times they assume "People should just know!" something. I ask how, and the answer is, "Common sense!", when that's obviously not the case, else others wouldn't be doing the thing being complained about, like allergy-free people eating all the special allergen-free cookies that were made specifically for some members of the congregation who usually cannot eat anything else.)

My natural response to a disconnect is to attempt to figure out where another person is coming from, but that gets problematic when the other person does not have a similar desire or care to understand me. I'm attempting to bite my tongue, but it's difficult, especially because I usually don't even realize what's going on, at first.

Example: I recently got accused of being selfish and was told (in order to not be selfish) to do something I had already done. (I had even offered more than what the accuser said I should've done, and my offer had been refused.) And all the further examples conveniently forgot that, um, the accuser had been offered a portion in those "selfish" times and refused. (And the accuser had completely forgotten the freaking health reasons behind what I was doing, because my diet is extremely limited, right now, and not doing what I'm doing is making me sick, much of the time.)

But the accusations only got so downright ridiculous (without the accuser realizing it) after I attempted to point out an error in the reasoning. (And that initial accusation started because something I said was interpreted to say something…other than what I said—and I only spoke up to begin with because I was asked after I gave a slight [unintentional] sigh.)

(There are multiple accusers involved in this. We're all stressed, if not downright ill, but I'm a convenient scapegoat for all of them—and I know it's not just me being hypersensitive, because even friends of the accusers are commenting.)

If I'd controlled my natural reaction to begin with and bit my tongue, it wouldn't have gotten nearly so stressful and infuriating. (I know from experience that going the "That's not what I said" route would've been worse. As it is, I have to be careful which questions I answer in conversations with them, because a good part of the time, they won't even remember that the question was asked and scoff at me.)

So at least part of the stress right now is technically my own fault. In some ways, it's actually helping to remember that, because it helps me restrain my natural responses.

But in other ways, it's not helping, because I still get scolded for doing things I'm not doing, or for not doing things I am doing. Or called "lazy" for not doing something that selfsame person had, months earlier, told me not to do. The saying "Damned if you don't; damned if you do" applies.

It isn't helped by them mistakenly thinking they're fantastic at reading me. For example, I get called crabby (always by someone who is themselves crabby). I give them a look of "You think?", which they insist is me disbelieving that I'm crabby.

Oddly enough, other people—even ones who don't know me well—read my expressions just fine.

And I'm kinda stuck here, at the moment. (Long story, which involves mixed signals, theology, and attempts on my part to respect those involved.) God's given me a strong sign that I'm going to get out of it soon, but I don't see how yet. (Short version: too many medical bills…)

In any event, this is why I said nothing, last week, and why my posts have in general been very…news-focused, lately, rather than containing much meat to them. Because it's difficult to not go off on rants. Which would be uncouth/disrespectful, as well as blow things out of proportion. (Even as stressed as I am, I can tell some of the things bothering me wouldn't be a big deal at all if not for all the other things behind them.)

I'm pretty sure this post itself crosses some TMI lines, but I'm doing so for a point, and I'm trying to be polite and respectful about it. You've probably been able to guess who these people I'm speaking of are, to me, and one of the Ten Commandments does apply.

When someone else reacts badly, to what extent is it your responsibility, and to what extent is it theirs? At what point is it appropriate to say, "I've done all I can"?

And at what point does "emotional abuse" start, anyway? I mean, sure, if you look at a list of signs of emotional abuse, almost every point can be checked off, and other people have been commenting obliquely on it for years, but surely that's me blowing things out of proportion.

(That last one was sarcasm, by the way. When I'm tired, stressed, and frustrated, I can get caustic. I also cry, which is annoying. Typing this up has resulted in a headache and the use of several tissues.)

I don't say all this to complain. But this is what's going on with me, right now. (Some of it, at least.) And I thought it brought up a case in point for an interesting discussion:

What do you think of the line in Romans 12:18 between personal responsibility to "be at peace with all men" and the caveat "as much as in you lieth"? Or about the line between honoring your parents and how Romans 12:18 applies to psychologically abusive situations? Does emotional abuse even exist?


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