When a person repeatedly dumps his or her negativity onto others, they have learned a very dysfunctional coping mechanism. Have you ever noticed that afterwards, the person seems to feel better, while the one dumped on is left to clean up the emotional mess?
Let’s say they have some legitimate stress in their lives, as we all do. But by the time we are adults, most of us have developed healthy coping mechanisms that allow us to process stress in ways that are not harmful to ourselves or to others. We are, for the most part, living healthy functional lives. We process our feelings, think rational thoughts, problem-solve and move forward though the ups and downs of life. As Scott Peck has said in his book “The Road Less Traveled,” we understand that once we accept the difficulties of life, we can transcend or rise above them.
We have learned to take responsibility for our own lives and actions. This frees us from the dysfunctional pattern of blaming others for our difficulties or unhappiness. We do not victimize people with our anger or frustration. Instead, we “own it.” In other words, we tell ourselves, “This is my problem. I am the one having difficulty here. Therefore, it is my responsibility to either find a solution or to accept what I cannot change. Dumping my negative feelings all over another person is not an option. I can respectfully assert myself and ask for change, but I do not demand, intimidate, or manipulate.”
Most of us learn to be happy for the success of others. We build them up and don’t need to tear them down or “level the playing field.” We are aware of our own strengths and weaknesses and accept our worth. We don’t need to think that we are better than others in order to feel good about ourselves. Instead, we can cheer them on, compliment them and see their potential. We don’t pick others apart or gossip about them as a way of making ourselves look or feel superior.
Proverbs 4:7 (NIV) tells us, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” If you have learned dysfunctional coping mechanisms that are wreaking havoc on your relationships, I want to encourage you to choose wisdom—instead of dysfunction!