So … you remember friend with the ex-fling who ‘joked’ about her being a size 14? Well, he’s been cementing his reputation as a total cunt this week by getting drunk and making more great jokes – this time about how, the morning after he slept with a girl, he drew a map to the nearest bus stop, gave it to her, rolled over and went back to sleep. That girl is my friend and they work together. It’s not like he was never going to see her again. But the deal breaker for me is that he regaled all her other friends and colleagues with this story on a night out – ok, he didn’t say it was her, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t something she wanted to relive. She was, understandably, pretty upset. But she didn’t let him know this, because this is her version of self-preservation:
When someone, whether it’s a guy, a friend, a family member or whoever, does or says something that hurts you, you *never* let them know that it bothered you because that would just add to how humiliated and stupid you feel. You might, after a time, rant to other friends about it, about how he made you cry, or why you wish your mum would just shut up for once, but on no occasion do you mention it to the person concerned. If it’s particularly bad, you might give them the silent treatment for a while, but the key feature of this approach, to me at least, is ‘Quick! Brush it under the carpet!’
Personally, I prefer approach No. 2. The only thing this has in common with approach No. 1 is that it sometimes involves the silent treatment, but rarely. More often it involves ranting and raving at the person who hurt you until both of you have lost the thread of the argument and are absolutely exhausted. Why do I handle things this way? Because just as my friend says it’s embarrassing to let someone know that they’ve got to you, I cannot internalize how much I hate myself if I think someone’s treated me badly and I’ve just gone along with it.
That’s the logical thinking behind it, anyway. The reality is more instinctive. If, for instance, I get a text or see something online that I don’t like, I immediately get pins and needles in my hands and feel like I can’t breathe. For a long time, I thought this was just me being melodramatic – I’ve since realised that it’s actually a mild panic attack, and as someone who suffers with anxiety and depression, I’m not sure why that surprises me. I’ll immediately fire back a text or an email with my gut ‘How dare you!’ response, because it feels like the only way to exercise some control over the physical reactions.
I should probably learn some relaxation techniques, but I’m far from ashamed of approach No. 2. Yes, it often backfires, but hopefully it sometimes also forces difficult conversations that wouldn’t otherwise be had (sometimes being the key word). I wouldn’t switch to approach No. 1 for the world.
How about you? Which of these approaches do you think works better? Or do you have a third way? Are you , *gasp*, capable of talking things through calmly?!