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November 28, 2015 / Brittany Hendrick

A favor to myself: I’ll put you on a shelf

I think I have sugrophobia.

Yup, pretty sure. It’s paralyzing. It makes me anxious, distrustful, suspicious, reclusive and wary of people. It makes me not want to make new friends. It makes me keep to myself, even in the workplace. It’s like viewing my life via slotted side-eyes.

What do you realllly want?

What are you realllly about?

Is the character you’re projecting realllly you?

Oh, I’ve been duped before. Who hasn’t.

I’m not talking about the “I loaned my friend $50 and he never paid me back” duping. Not the “Wow, I thought this guy really liked me and he turned out to be an asshole” duping. Those hoodwinks, albeit cloud-stirring, dissipate into a shoulder shrug. You “meh” and move on.

What I’m referring to is the brand of bamboozles that leave you confounded and chiding yourself for remaining available despite the red flags flying in your face, warning you to run the other way. Jarring, systematic, disabling deceptions executed by people you entrusted to do right by you, to have your back, to be a teammate and not a surreptitious adversary.

The first time I got duped hard, in my early 20s, I was too young to understand it could happen again. I thought duping drama was a rite of passage — something all young people must endure on the way to peaking Maslow’s Hierarchy (I also naively assumed everyone reached that zenith. LULZ).

Wrong. I’ve learned that you keep meeting the same person throughout your life. Same core interior, different corporeal exterior. This one, particular type of person pops up in my life every five years, it seems. So, it’s not like I have to deal with this kind of shit often. Still, a tiresome cycle that takes up a lot of my time and energy: from consorting to shedding to dealing with the aftermath of the person.

If you say you’ve never been euchred, you’re probably a scammer, yourself: an ingenious legend who thinks you’re so much smarter, more special and less indispensable than everyone else. Not to mention so in love with yourself: ecstatic on egotism, high on invincibility, drunk on narcissism.

Newsflash: 90% of your “audience” knows you’re not the wunderkind you think you are. Realllly.

Ever think, maybe the people you dupe aren’t ignorant? That the people you perceive to be suckers choose, ironically, to do the right thing by being tolerant and kind?

I’m not a sucker because I don’t know what’s going on — my intuition is well tuned (yet, I ignore my gut to gather evidence before drawing a fair conclusion). I’m a sucker because I feel sorry for people. It’s not the sarcastic, religious “I’ll pray for you” sorrow. It’s a real, equality- and ethics-based sorrow. Because I know what it’s like to be on the downside, the nadir of bad luck and circumstance, judged. The underdog who just wants an opportunity to be heard, hired, liked, loved, respected, understood or regarded by one’s peers.

Of course, some people out there have it worse than I do. I have a pretty good life.

But even suckers like me have a limit.

My generously lengthy tension rope broke two+ years ago. It has taken took me that long to figure out how to resolve the situation and get my life back under my control. It wasn’t easy.

The painstaking process flowed like this:

1.) Is it my imagination? Maybe.
2.) Am I overreacting or being too rigid? Maybe.
3.) Do other people treat me this way? No.
4.) Am I the only person who’s had an issue with this individual? No.
5.) Did I express my feelings and attempt to set boundaries with the offending person? Yes.
6.) Did the person listen and respect those boundaries? No.
7.) Is this person truthful and honest? No.
8.) Do family members and close friends think the relationship is troublesome? Yes.
9.) Do psych essays and journals suggest the relationship is abnormal, based on my particular grievances? Yes.
10.) Am I sure it’s not my imagination? Yes.
11.) Has my wellbeing improved since sunsetting out of the person’s life? Yes.

Now, I’m not a complete asshole, although I felt like one for having to walk away from the person. Then again, hanging around someone stuck on Maslow’s Esteem level (or lower) ain’t exactly fun times, especially when my antennae picked up on the person’s subtle inferiority complex nuances (disguised behind chest-puffing superiority, natch). Still, casting people aside goes against my nature. Besides, I leave room for fuck-ups and flaws in relationships.

I admit my annoying habits and patterns. I’m horrible at keeping in touch with people, and I usually have to be chased down if they want to hang out. I’m not always punctual. I’m “schifi” (As my family calls me. Sicilian; short for schifioso, schifiati, or some variation, to mean picky, or fussy.). Sometimes I’m socially awkward. I talk about subjects too much at length. I emote with my hands and sometimes hit people and objects by accident. I laugh loudly. I quote movies and TV shows. I overstay my welcome at parties… and pretty much any other social event. I could be a little stick-in-the-muddy because I don’t like to get drunk or high. I err on the side of caution more often than not. I overanalyze things. I can be too sensitive. I’m laissez-faire about too many things and then unbending about others. I italicize foreign words in my writing. And so on.

But here’s one thing I don’t do: I don’t manipulate people or their situations. People aren’t my playthings; they aren’t chess pieces I shove around in order to make things go my way. That’s not where I get my energy. That’s not what makes me feel good about myself.

Needless to say, I don’t do well with people who conduct business that way. Their behavior is bullying. It’s abusive, creepy, unsettling, suffocating. You confront these people, but they don’t listen, they don’t reason, they won’t relinquish control even in the self-interest of personal edification.

They don’t care about anyone’s needs but their own!

Like the irascible Gregory House, MD, always said: People don’t change.

So, it was up to me to make changes. But how?

Intuitive Me knew what to do: extricate myself from this person. Moral Me didn’t want to do it. Logical Me needed psychology, science, proof. I wanted to ensure myself to execute things the “right” way, for the right reasons. I turned to what I know best: research.

My workplace website turned out to be the perfect springboard. I was overjoyed by my findings. What I mistakenly thought I had been enduring was pure passive-aggressive behavior is actually called relational aggression.

Finally, I had a diagnosis, a name for this person’s weapons administration — one of the poisonous elements in the offender’s tincture of insecurity, neediness, and control.


Edit: I forgot to include this other workplace article which described my situation to a T. Nothing sends me running the to the hills faster than insecure, always on-the-offense people who take out their internal bullshit on those who are self-assured. It’s not WHAT a person says that bothers me; it’s the ATTEMPT a person makes, the intention behind it — especially when it happens in front of other people.

You want to denigrate my character in front of a live audience? How gauche. I mean, that’s cool. I’ll even let you get away with it — on the front end, at least — because I know that no mass of cutting comebacks will magically solve your emotional dysregulation. I choose my battles judiciously; why should I expend energy on futile missions. And I’m not descending Mt. Maslow just to be a jerk in return, and for naught.

Public putdowns against others are unattractive. No one is paying attention to your maw anyway. And everyone knows it’s classic, textbook projection — a reflection of how you feel about yourself. Tear down another person to prop up yourself. That’s some weak shit.

My philosophy is that it takes real aplomb to reject dumb games not worth playing. I just want to do my thing, be my individual self, and feel relaxed among my peers without the portentous threat of a malcontent coldcocking me with insults and mean-spirited sarcasm. I can take good-natured roasting like a champ, so I know the difference between a joke and a jab. Patterns, people. Patterns.

So, the devious digs (both public and private), the dodgy lies and their sloppy cover-ups, the wheedling, the conniving, and all the soul-sucking situations I withstood grew to be too much for me.


 

Still, despite these articles, I required supporting documents. What drives relational aggressive behavior? How do I handle this properly?

Psychology Today was a comforting resource on narcissism, how to spot and stop manipulators, jealousy and resentment, covert aggression, toxic friendships, and even more narcissism. PLoS One rounded out the big picture and provided direct scientific affirmation (the site’s search function isn’t very good. I can’t remember the search terms I used to gather evidence, and I didn’t bookmark it).

I read each article with “Check. Check. Check. Check. Check.” running through my head. Everything I suspected, every red flag, every anxiety, every head-scratching “Da fuq…? Whut…? Naw, that can’t be…” was confirmed. My gut, solidified. I felt validated.

Validated, but not relieved.

Why?

Because then I had to slog through the tar pit of self-castigation and regret. Yayyyyy, the most fun step in any mental wellness reconstruction:

How could I have been so stupid? I should’ve listened to the people who warned me. I should’ve cut off things at the first hint of off-kilter activity. Why did I allow it to go on for so long?

I should’ve listened to my gut!

Famous last words.

Articles about moving on didn’t ease my guilt (MBG, I know, I know, but I was sponging up a lot of info).

Oh, the guilt. I lost sleep. I lost hair. I lost my hands because I wrung them right off my wrists. I doubted my decisions. My family had to keep reassuring me that I was doing the right thing, that I was OK. However, nothing assuaged me.

Finally, my endowment arrived… in the mail.

Both Self and Psychology Today magazines delivered the burst of back-up and closure I needed — all within the same publication month. It was as if the periodicals world read my mind.

To save length, I won’t go too much into detail about each article and only outline the overarching helpful details.

The Drama of Deception,” in Psychology Today, led me to realize the concept of sugrophobia (by the way, I don’t believe this is a real, medically accepted phobia. I’m using the term rather as a reference point.). I had never heard of the word until then. It is normal for me to mistrust and still desire to trust simultaneously. It’s not unreasonableness or pathological paranoia, whew! The article also finger-wagged that intuition is my best ally. Yes, sir! I can’t ignore my gut in the interest of being “fair” or “non-judgmental” or whatever the fuck else motivates me to abandon my intuition…

…oh yeah — feeling sorry for people. I really need to stop doing that with emotionally ill-equipped people; their ineptitude is not my problem. I think I enter situations with the idea that I can influence people positively, be an example for them… But we know it’s more “fun” for low-esteemed people to wield a malevolent magnet and TRY to drag people down with them than it is to be accountable for their actions. Key word: try.

Friends Forever?” in Self, mirrored my predicament and inner turmoil on what to do about it. The “shelving” system introduced by the author proved to be beneficial so much that I shared the concept with a co-worker who was having similar relational problems. He, too, expressed the essay’s usefulness.

The Mixed-Bag Buddy,” in an old issue of Psychology Today, further explained my unrest and justified my approach to the situation. (Yes, I keep back issues of PT so I can refer to them. Plus, the photography is genius and gorgeous.) I DID have chronic inflammation! I DID experience “drift” (e.g, mismatched goals). Details about my life WERE broadcast against my wishes!

Overall, it’s counterproductive to mollify the feelings of a person who repeatedly didn’t give a whit of consideration for mine, even when I mannerly asked for amenity. I did my due diligence. Now my emotional and physical health come first.

It took a lot of work, after /reboot, but I feel like my old self again.


 

p.s. Coincidentally, when I started writing this post, a term called ghosting popularized. Funny how this arrives after narcissism was the buzzword ad momentum. Sounds like the decrial against ghosting is Narcissus’s Revenge on people who get wise to his wiles. Boooohoooo.

Ghosting primarily applies to, or derives from, the dating world. Yes, I’ve been ghosted by suitors and even by people with whom I share a social circle. I find it more puzzling than mean-spirited. But, hey, you can’t force people to like you.

I’ll likely be accused of “ghosting” and being a shitty person in general. Remember, I did not arrive at my resolution lightly. Also, keep in mind, I’m adhering to the overwhelming advice presented to me — advice bestowed in light of malignant circumstances. I won’t be baited back into the relationship as a test to my “manners.” I can’t perpetuate an unhealthy cycle for the sake of etiquette or fear of what others will think of me.

The person’s behavioral patterns I fought to escape will likely continue in front of a select audience: history will be revised, gossip will be gabbed, sympathies will be sought, and social dominance lines will be drawn. Congratulations, you’ve made it to the 10th grade. You may pick up your head cheerleader uniform after class. Don’t forget to nominate yourself for class president and Homecoming Court.

If anyone subscribes to the gossip, they’re just as guilty and can exeunt stage left, too. I never gave a good goddamn about the opinions of weak sheep anyway.

“Bye, Felicia!”

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