Shitty People

The world is full of them.

They’re at the store, schools, post office, even at church! Nowhere is safe. Drivers soon rather push you into a ditch than let you merge (at least in Phoenix). Upset? Here’s a middle finger if you honk the horn. When I go out into the world, I have a certain set of expectations for the general populace to fulfill. And, when they don’t meet those criteria, I get frustrated. They leave trash in parks, throw cigarette butts out the window, and cut in line while the other patient people of the world appropriately wait their turn. How offensive can another human being be? Pay attention to the public next time you are out and determine for yourself.

landfill near trees
Photo by Leonid Danilov

Humans are disgusting.

People will turn a pristine national park into a junkyard within a day. Remember when the government shut down for months? Or, for Covid quarantine? Dumps. There was no hesitation to throw the trash into the bushes. I took my family out a couple of times during the government shutdown, only to find piles of human poop outside the closed-down bathroom facilities. What is even more infuriating is the entitlement some individuals show. Like they have the right to destroy beautiful things, including my peace of mind. How dare they.

But, that’s the problem. I had set expectations that others are not even aware of. This struggle of maintaining a sense of peace when so many others were foolishly behaving in the way humans do ensued for years. This inner conflict kept me miserable. And, when others engaged in offensive behavior, I made it my mission to let them know. Because no one else would. Unsurprisingly, it did not change what they did. Those I scolded only became defensive and viler. And, I became resentful.

Much of my 20’s and early 30s proceeded along with this same attitudinal nature. This resentment building turned my behavior sour, and I soon found myself acting in the same negative fashion that triggered my resentment in the first place. I thought it okay to swear at people and behave as they treated me: disrespectfully. It never changed another, and it turned my internal serenity into an angry moral war zone. Constantly disappointed, always frustrated, my mannerisms reflected great lows of unhappiness. I had to change something since no one else would.

What I realized is: I was the only person suffering. While the rest of the world continued to function, I was the one bitterly sitting in the back corner pointing fingers. And, much of my behaviors became similar to those who I pointed fingers at. I hated hypocrisy. Yet, here I was.

That’s a sour pill to swallow at first.

man in black crew neck top
Photo by Govinda Valbuena

When you point a finger, there are three more pointing back at you.

I also hated that saying. Being of the mind I am, I never fully grasped its meaning. Maybe I didn’t want to, or maybe I desired to remain at a level of denial that kept me from understanding the bigger picture. So, once I stopped drinking alcohol and heard these fanciful sayings in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), I pondered their meanings. There truly is a depth behind each one.

photo of man pointing his finger
Photo by Rodolpho Zanardo

Come to realize, I held several cognitive distortions that kept me cycling through darkly filtered lenses that skewed my perception of reality. In short, my brain was dysfunctional. After the alcohol was removed, I was left to figure out my psyche and address the aspects of it that kept me in this toxic roundabout.

Core Belief systems are built up by individuals through life experiences and values taught during childhood. While each has various influences, no two are the same. Even in consistent environments, each person’s core belief system develops differently.

What are cognitive distortions?

Gray-tinted glasses. Events I witnessed filtered through my belief system, formed into distorted thoughts, which then impacted my feelings. Raised by a mother who could make the coffee table her enemy, I believed everybody was out for themselves. It was survival of the fittest, the strongest shall prevail.

I also held several contrasting beliefs. For example, I expected people should hold the door for me when they enter a building. Everybody did so in Oregon. So when I moved to Arizona and nobody did, I grew more irritated with the general populace. Time and again I became upset with some stranger that let a door slam in my face while I walked into a store, right behind. And, each reaction of negative feelings not only went unnoticed. I was the only person impacted. I then stopped holding the door for others as I went through them first. I figured if no one else cared, why should I?

Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

I never consciously examined such beliefs. My brain generated thoughts on its own. I assumed I could not control these. So, when I entered rehab, the first aspect therapists addressed was this faulty thinking tendency. They taught cognitive-behavioral theories based on how thoughts affect our feelings that in turn, cause behavioral reactions. If someone held the opinion that women should stay at home, raise children, not work; how will this affect that person’s feeling-state when a woman checks out their groceries at the store? Likely negative. Or, say that someone thinks all people should worship their version of God; a brutal and punishing higher power that uses fire and brimstone to control disciples. When that person comes across another with a different set of religious beliefs; one whose God is forgiving and extends grace to rule-breakers, the fire-and-brimstone worshiper will build resentments towards the other for their differences.

Ever expect your partner to anticipate your needs without telling them? Then get angry when your partner did not meet those needs? How did that work out? If this scenario sounds familiar, you have engaged in one of the most popular thinking errors used by those in romantic relationships. Expecting people to know what you want or thinking you know what other people desire is called mind reading. No one has this ability yet, despite all the tarot cards in existence. You will not know unless you ask what thoughts circle in another person’s mind. Likewise, unless I verbalize to my husband that I want a day off and babysitter for my birthday, he will probably buy me a gift card for the tool store. Because that is what he would want.

So, don’t put yourself through unnecessary misery. Clarify with others what you want. Speak (respectfully) to set boundaries for behaviors, and ask for what you need. Likewise, do not assume to know what someone else wants. Ask them. You probably will find yourself far off base.

You can’t judge a book by its cover.

While my mother displayed every thinking error known to man (sorry mom, but we’ve had this convo), I discovered early that she was wrong about a great many things. I learned to converse with others to gain the necessary information for relationship building. I also found that the people she so viciously judged were in fact, kind-hearted individuals with good intentions. Unfortunately, for mom, her world is still dark, cold, and scary. No one can change that. I’ve already tried. But for me, I discovered a greater beauty in life when I opened my mind to a different perspective-one that sees people as humans. All humans possess a variety of characteristics. Humans label these as good or bad whereas they are just aspects that serve in certain situations to gain favor, or work against desired outcomes in other circumstances. A workaholic will excel in a career, yet struggle at home to connect with his family. The key to happiness is to identify and understand one’s characteristics and to judge where these attributes can be used to maximize occurrences to positive effect. I suck at fixing mechanical items, so my husband does the auto repairs. I master meal planning and preparation, however, and so I do the cooking. Husband is not allowed to grill. The last time the expensive steaks caught fire, I banned him from any cooking duties.

We are human.

I was so angry about those steaks.

They were like $10 a pound.

Beating oneself up for making mistakes is a pointless endeavor. Because we all fuck up. Shaming others for messing up is a form of abuse, especially if no one teaches the other how to behave differently. Would you talk to your child or sibling the way you talk to yourself? This question often catches my clients by surprise, as their replies are “no.” But they do not put themselves in the same category of humanness as they do loved ones. So, in this sense, I encourage a softer approach for oneself and compassion for having lesser traits. Everyone does-whether admitted or not. Never making a mistake is a classified disorder. Admit it or be diagnosed.

Treat yourself with acceptance, for everyone brings a great many traits to the table. And, everyone also brings a saddlebag full of old luggage and horseshit. It’s about timing and resourcing. Poop is a great source of fuel. Not everything is useless.

So, how should I deal with shitty people?

You may ask. I extend others the same compassion I had to learn to do for myself.

We all possess characteristics that are offensive to others. We also possess great talents, and everything in between. I choose not to personalize them. Instead, I contribute those characteristics as human tendencies that most people are unaware of or attempt to improve. If their behaviors deeply disturb me and I deem it worth mentioning, I do so in a manner that respects their value as a person. I state the event, the impression made when I experienced it, and my feelings about it. So instead of telling that idiot at the grocery store counter to STFU and move along, I now express my observance of his delight in storytelling and of the many others in the line. I make a statement that I have many tasks to complete ahead of me, and that I feel irritated by the slowness of the checkout process. Even still, these are my feelings and the gabber is not responsible for those.

We choose how to react.

Others do not make us feel feelings. In this manner, I don’t offend the other and I get my idea across. I also remember that I am not the only person in this world who needs to get shit done. Some have less than I and actually enjoy socializing with others.

What I want to say: Hey jackass, no one cares about your rock collection. Move along. What I end up saying: I see that you enjoy conversing with others, that’s a trait I admire. However, this line looks pretty long! I do not think this is a good setting for a lengthy conversation. I am irritated by this wait. I sure hope I can get my errands done by closing time!

%d bloggers like this: