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December 28, 2020

4 Ways to Stop Dysfunctional People from Leaving their Sh*t on our Doorsteps in 2021.


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Author’s note: Use of the word sh*t is abundant in this article. It’s not meant to offend, but to convey the message of how to keep others’ sh*t off our doorsteps and create boundaries.


A few Fridays ago, I broke down in utter exhaustion.

I sobbed like someone had died but it was more the fact that I felt like I was holding so much and had finally had enough of all the sh*t. As I reflect on this year, I am astounded at how many difficult people and difficult engagements I have had to deal with in an already challenging year.

I am sure there are many of us that experience these moments in our lives when we go, “What the f*ck is wrong with people?” I find that I am often left questioning if it is me. After all, we live in a society that somehow believes that we attract everything that comes our way. I couldn’t disagree with it more. We are certainly not that powerful, and often, thinking in this way leaves one feeling broken and damaged. Are we the dysfunctional ones?

The truth is there are many dysfunctional people that we will have the misfortunate to cross paths with in our lives. They include family members, friends, bosses and colleagues in workplaces, people in schools and other educational settings, spouses, and partners, as well as other romantic relationships.

These interactions can often leave us on a rollercoaster of emotions that overwhelm our internal resources to cope with all this crap. We might feel like we lack the resilience, tenacity, strength, and courage to keep going. The constant battles can lead us down a path of insanity, and we often feel our inner capacity to deal with these challenges, stretched too thin.

We are not alone. There are many people who feel this way, more often than not. We are too busy blaming ourselves to realize it, which further alienates us. I have had the misfortunate in all areas of my life to interact with some really skilled deflectors. They are skilled deflectors, as they will leave us with the following:

>> Second-guessing our actions and even our motives.

>> Overthinking what we did wrong in the interactions.

>> Ruminating over what we may or may not have done wrong.

>> Feeling guilty and remorseful that we may have done something.

>> Apologizing more often than the other does.

>> Making excuses for the actions and words of the other people, therefore, becoming overly responsible.

>> Continuing to maintain these exhausting relationships at our own expense.

Dysfunctional people are ingenious blame shifters. They never have to accept responsibility or be accountable for their own sh*t. They can leave it at someone else’s doorstep. They can walk away and enjoy their holidays and festivities in peace. Lucky them; unlucky us—who are gifted with their sh*t.

Well no. We are not going to let them leave their sh*t at our doorsteps anymore. No thank you. It is theirs and we will gladly be standing at the doorstep with a shovel in our hands saying, “There you go sunshine, pick up your sh*t from my doorstep, and please do not feel free to return with your pile of crap.”

It has taken me many years in my own therapy, many decades of allowing others to leave piled poop on the doorstep of my life. Trying hard to shovel as much out as I could. Feeling at times crippled by the stench. But something certainly does happen when we commit to doing our own inner work. 

We cut the strings to these master puppeteers who have had us dancing to their tune. We connect with our own inner dragon. And let me tell you, we can learn to use the fire in our own belly to burn the bridges between us and them. We are more powerful than we think. When we switch that power source on, we become smarter and more skillful interacting with these blame shifters.

Yes, we will still cry at times. We are human and these are draining interactions that take a lot out of us when we stand at our doorsteps with a shovel handed to them. But it certainly is a significant step to take in gaining distance from the smoke and mirrors they seem hell-bent on offering. The fog can lift. The way forward will become clearer.

Here are my learnings from my own therapeutic journey of disarming the powerful hold that these skilled deflectors seem to exert on our lives:

1. Know what’s your own sh*t and what’s not:

If they blame us for being devious or incompetent, it is usually their own stuff that they are attempting to get rid of. They usually do this with people they feel will accept the label. They read us well. A trait or characteristic that we seem to gladly accept as ours, not theirs. So they call us selfish. In psychology, we learn that people do not project into a vacuum. They aren’t silly when they push their sh*t onto us. They know we will accept it. We might hold some issues around our own competence, selfishness, guilt, sense of responsibility that makes us vulnerable to accepting the projections. Learning what your hooks are is a crucial step in not allowing the projection to be accepted. “I am not responsible, you are” “This is not my sh*t, it is yours”

2. Grab hold of your own sh*t and don’t lose it:

It’s amazing how these skilled operators can provoke us and push us into corners where we lose our cool. I have found that in my more naïve interactions with such deflectors, I would often just lose it. They thrive on this. They get to say you are crazy. They increase the cycle of conflict where you are always the one losing your cool and they stand there looking victimized. They might even get apologies from you because you feel so guilt-ridden that you lost it.

I can’t tell you how many times I lost my cool in interactions and paid the price for it too. What I have learnt is to feel my anger but to use it to set clear limits. I no longer give them the satisfaction of getting under my skin. When we do this we regulate a powerful emotion, like anger, and access our wise mind in dealing with these deflectors. Keep your own sh*t intact. Trust me nobody needs that messy sh*t show.

3. Take responsibility for your own sh*t:

Dysfunctional people are draining to be around but their trademark is a lack of insight into how they create their own dysfunction. They never look within themselves or attempt to seek assistance in unpacking how they create the drama they find themselves in. Instead, they blame others. They backpedal and they pull out tricks and magic shows to absolve themselves of any blame and responsibility. What stands in the face of these blame shifters is our own ability to take responsibility for our own actions, responses, behavior, and emotions in the situation.

Personal responsibility gives us power and control. Not abusive power but a beautiful, securely attached power. We are no longer victims. We have choice. We no longer accept the crap that does not belong to us. We take care of our own crap and nobody else’s. Bingo presto, we are anchored. We have stepped into our own power. I focus a lot more now on things I can change and do not spend my energy on things I cannot. Deflectors won’t change. They continue to deflect. That’s okay—it’s really boring when you see it for what it is. When we accept responsibility for what we can do to change things, we have rich varied options at our disposal.

4. Fight the sh*t:

Please do not misunderstand me. I do not mean you fight like they do. We might not be fighters but we certainly should fight. I do not believe we need to play dead or be doormats. If someone wants to leave their sh*t at our doorstep, we can use our dragon powers. We just need to be smart. We follow the rules. We address issues. We are proactive in knowing our rights. We become skillful with legal aspects when the sh*t is legally destructive in nature. We rest in our self-assurance in what is right and true; we tell others in no uncertain terms what our expectations are. We are authentic, not revengeful. We use our resources wisely.

Wisdom is a bloody awesome resource to draw from. I will share with you that it is a balanced approach to living amongst the dysfunctional. We know all the sh*t there is to know about the situation and we confidently and measuredly make our moves. When we are in tune with our inner wisdom we no longer have to suffer.

The world is filled with dysfunctional people. We are not attracting them. They are providing us with opportunities for us to grow in our skillfulness and our powerful wisdom. Once we move past realizing that we actually have the choice to not accept their pile of sh*t, we can begin the powerful discovery of our inner resources and smarts.

As we stand on the brink of 2021, we can always be assured that some dysfunction will be there to meet us. But we can certainly step into our well-regulated anger and our powerhouse of inner knowingness and we can take measured steps in addressing these dysfunctional people in our lives.

We can care for ourselves deeply and not abandon ourselves.

We can free our ruminating minds.

We no longer need to self-sacrifice.

We are no longer available to the things that make us feel like sh*t.

We can leave safely from dysfunction.

We are dragon hearted beings who can firmly say, “Please don’t leave your sh*t on my doorstep.”


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