Saturday, 9 May 2015
I came to a horrible realisation yesterday.
I’ve been trying to work out a comprehensive list of situations where establishing and enforcing boundaries may not work for my upcoming second booklet <<insert suspense here>>. Some ought to be obvious; for instance, if you don’t have the willingness or means to enforce consequences, your boundary-setting attempts will be useless. Things become a bit more complicated when (sub)cultures cross; for instance, what is boundary setting in your group may be a gross insult in mine, causing things to escalate, seemingly inexplicably.
This still left me with an issue. There are people who are constantly smacking their faces into closed doors. They are routinely presented with clear, consistent boundaries, which they ignore. They end up bearing the consequences of their actions. And then they do it all over again. They seem to be stuck in a circle, repeating the same drama with different people, and never learning from it.
Now, some of it may be down to bloody-mindedness. If you feel righteous about the way you are and the way you behave, you may be completely unwilling to change or to curtail your behaviours. Enter groups like the Westboro Baptists, who genuinely believe that they are in the right and the world is iniquitous for not seeing that.
Some of it may be down to masochism. I know people whose hobby is getting someone to pound on them – and I’m talking literally. They get their kicks out of being mistreated, for whatever reason. Until those kicks stop, they will continue to engineer situations where mistreatment comes their way.
However, neither of these explanations covers some of the people I routinely bump into and end up avoiding like the plague. People who don’t feel good about themselves, who do not enjoy suffering, yet keep fucking up, over and over and over again, despite getting clear and consistent instructions on how to avoid that.
I think that’s the key issue – the consistency of it all. It got me to thinking about what the world looks like when your behaviours are just consistently too “off” for people to tolerate for any length of time. When all you see are people losing their patience with you, time and time again. When everyone eventually ends up snapping and throwing you out of their lives altogether. When this is, literally, all you know, all you’ve even known. When this becomes your “normal”.
These people are the chicken bones in the throat of life (I’ve stolen that from Marc MacYoung, credit where it’s due). They are so incredibly, consistently infuriating that they end up believing that people being infuriated is a normal state of affairs, so they don’t read it as a warning. You can scream your brains off at them and they won’t get the message, because that’s “just what people do”. In this society, smacking people upside the head is not allowed – and, even if it was, for this sort of folks it would end up happening so routinely that it would soon become “normal”. The next step is then a shunning (firing, divorcing, avoiding, depending on the relationship). But that won’t be seen as a consequence, because it’s just “what always happens”.
These people are apparently incapable of looking around and learning from other people’s good examples. I don’t know how they rationalise other people’s experiences to themselves. The fact that most people can get along with each other most of the time should be an indication of where “normal” lies, yet they remain oblivious. The only way I see for anyone to “fix” this would be to explain to them, clearly, that the problem isn’t with the world, but with them. You’d have to show them what’s normal and explain to them what they are doing that is stopping them from achieving it. You’d have to make them understand and accept that the common factor in all their recurring problems is them. Essentially, you’d have to pretty much disembowel their already-damaged egos.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t fancy that job.