Yes, friends—it’s time for yet another installment of my curmudgeonly-styled commentary on the ailments of modern society. This particular installment has been a long time coming, indeed. Let me preface what I’m about to write with a few disclaimers: First, I am by no means an authority on appropriate behavior and do not pretend to be; after all, everyone who knows me knows that I definitely do not always behave appropriately. Pretty much every day, for me, is an exercise in trying to stifle f-bombs and dick jokes, so what I write here is really all in good fun—just my observations and opinions. Secondly, I’d like to warn that although what I have to say is certainly not aimed at any one person or group of people, I have a feeling that those who have wronged me by way of their dysfunction know who they are and what they have done. Though I would certainly savor the satisfaction of calling out individual people whom I’ve known to bombard everyone in their path with negative energy, what I’ve written below is truly and without exception aimed at a more general demographic of those who cannot find a way to grow up.
We all have problems; this is the stuff of life. Small problems, big problems—doesn’t matter. Having a painful or difficult past (remembering that pain is a relative thing) is one commonality that unites the human race. The distinction I’d like to make today however, is that some of us choose to confront, process, and overcome our personal demons, while others choose to ignore, cultivate, or hide theirs until all that unresolved emotion explodes in some fiery and ridiculous rampage. The danger in failing to work through whatever haunts you is that in most cases (other than making yourself look like a total asshole), that darkness seeps out of your words and deeds to infect the people around you.
When my father was fighting cancer, he was taught how to deal with the disease on a psychological level and to achieve a healthy balance of taking care of the illness as well as the rest of his life. It was through these teachings that Dad made the decision to get rid of the toxic people and situations in his life, surrounding himself only with those who were able to love him unconditionally and intelligently. My father truly believed in the power of positive energy, thinking that the cancer would not continue to grow so quickly once all the toxic ingredients had been removed from his body and his life.
Though the scope of my life struggles is vastly smaller than what my father faced, I, too came to a point in my life a little more than a year ago, where I realized the need to purge my life of all those people who could not manage to get their dysfunction under control. And I’m happy to say that, although I may not have imagined for myself years ago that I’d be living this life now, I am in fact living a healthy life and one that I am most proud of. I have a job that I love, friends from all walks of life, a successful and fulfilling writing career, and a thriving family that loves and cares for me. And in each of those realms, I know without a doubt that, should a conflict arise, I have surrounded myself with people who can handle that conflict like adults. At times in my life, it was the norm to have the people around me use addiction to controlled substances, eating disorders and the like to handle their emotions and to then explode in the above-mentioned fiery rampages. Every day brought a new crisis, and every crisis brought old pains to the surface along with new pains. I seemed to have a lot of people in my life who were in the habit of hiding and saving their emotions in secret until some seemingly minor event brought everything into the open all at once, leaving awake of destruction and hurt feelings.
On that note, allow me to discuss for a moment the contemporary behavioral plague of passive aggressive behavior in general. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell whether a person is engaging in passive aggressive behavior or if he/she is simply being an asshole. Allow me to clarify both the distinctions and the similarities: Say for instance that a coworker cheerfully agrees to refrain from a specified uncool act, then does it anyway. Is this passive-aggressive behavior? No, this is being an asshole. On the other hand, if someone expresses their negative feelings in an indirect way — instead of openly addressing them, this is in fact passive aggression.
People displaying passive aggressive behavior carry a lot of repressed anger from their childhood, now projected on the people around them. It appears as sarcastic comments, derisive opinions and blaming other people for their own shortcomings. Whatever it is, it almost always infects everyone else, and this is a bad thing. I especially hate to see parents afraid of handling confrontation like grown-ups, passing off disagreements or uncomfortable situations onto their children. If you do not have the balls to engage in conflict resolution (a necessary part of all healthy adult relationships, by the way) by—shocker—communicating openly, honestly, and calmly, then you should not be surprised to watch your children live out the same resentment-filled existence that you choose to endure. So please, for your children’s sake, for your own sake, or both, please go get some therapy. Do away with whatever social stigma you think might be attached to counseling and get some–it’s really not such a big deal to get a little help. And if you’re too much of a coward to face your pain then, at the very least, keep your dysfunction to yourself.
Whoa—apparently, I have some feelings on these issues. And I have good reason to—I’ve been through a lot and have worked really hard on my own emotional intelligence so that I no longer have to deal with such toxicity and, if I do, I know how to handle it in such a way that it no longer affects me the way it used to. But I do want to end this post on a somewhat positive note, and I’ll do that by saying this: there is incredible comfort in knowing that I can come to anyone—and I mean this—in my life with something I’m upset about, and know that we can work it out without fireworks. I am lucky to have an incredible group of friends who are all willing to handle both the good and the bad with tenderness and emotional intelligence. I am also really lucky to have a family who does the same. Sure, we might be a little too loud and a little too open about some things, but we also never let anything go unresolved. No one harbors resentment or anger, no one hides their feelings. And when conflicts do arise, as they always do, I know with total certainty that the conflict will not last more than one day and no one will do or say anything they regret.
Happily, I can now comment on how people allow their dysfunction to infect and affect those around them, from a distance. A very happy and healthy distance.