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September 21, 2022

“Committed to Misunderstanding” discusses the difficulty we face dealing with toxic individuals in unhealthy environments.

Photo by Khoa Võ on Pexels.

Many of us who come out of toxic relationships seem to encounter that person fully committed to misunderstanding us. It can be maddening, as we, so often, contort ourselves into accommodating pretzels to appease a volatile situation, while trying to stay safe mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Why do “they” do that? The short answer is that they are disordered. A more complex, ambiguous, and dissatisfactory answer may, perhaps, be found in these possible explanations.

They Don’t Know Any Differently.

“They” can be committed to misunderstanding us because they don’t know another way of being.

“Ignorance is bliss.”

That can be at play here. Does that mean ignorance gives a person a free pass to abuse, cause chaos, and harm? No.

Still, many disordered and toxic people have been entrenched in intergenerational patterns of maladaptive behaviors: addiction and abuse being the most prominent.

We’re often bucking against systems that have been in place and perceived as normal for decades or centuries.

“We always drink like this.”

“That’s just how we do things in this family.”

“Do you think you’re better than us now?”

And… we’re shut down, shamed, ridiculed, ignored, and forced to endure their ignorance, no matter what form it takes.

Knowledge is uncomfortable and painful. It’s often a place of most resistance, which is so much less fun than the “least resistance” of the unhealthy dynamic insisting on its status quo.

But, when we acquire knowledge, insight, and distance from these entrenched and toxic behaviors, it, indeed, IS a situation to which we can answer “yes;” we DO know better. There is a better way than abuse and addiction. There is a better way, like choosing honest communication, a refusal to protect predators, even if they are “blood,” and displaying an appropriate and boundary-aware expression of love.

Knowledge changes things. How we live and love, who is in our lives and to what degree. Sometimes, there needs to be a no-contact concerning some people. Sometimes, we need to leave everything and everyone we know. Sometimes, it’s limited contact and access.

And, almost always, we need to arrive at the conclusion that we must give up hope “they” will change. That hope is now “toxic hope.” Possessing it can be great for a sick system, family, system, or any other kind of interpersonal exchange.

But’s it’s harmful, sometimes life-threatening, if not soul- threatening, to us.

We need to know THAT now, with every other bit of knowledge we have required.

They Don’t Feel Any Differently.

“They” are committed to misunderstanding us because they don’t feel any differently… and they don’t want to, either.

Many of the toxic people we have encountered and endured don’t want to feel at all. Self-medication, obliteration, and dependable denial can be the protective mechanisms that keep someone from “feeling.”

Feelings are rough. They are painful. And again, often, not fun, “path- of- least- resistance” kinds of things.

Toxic people usually don’t want their feelings disturbed. They like ‘em nice and easy, reliable, controllable, predictable. They like how certain feelings reassure identity, security, power imbalances, and appearance issues.

They Don’t Want Any Differently.

“They” can be committed to misunderstanding us because they don’t want another way of being.

Too simplistic?

Well, the concept of “want” has complexity built into it, especially when dysfunction is a staple of an environment. “Want” in such an atmosphere relates to the status quo. Disordered and toxic people, within abuse and addiction, often “want” to keep things going as they are. It can be a life filled with pain, chaos, and disease, yet the “want” of people within this system has to do with keeping the familiar consistently going. The “want” is about not disrupting that familiar, that sense of “status quo.”

It’s fraught with negativity. It can be miserable, but the people involved know what to expect. The punch to the face. The blackout drunk. The violent rage. The instability, prompting a constant “walking on eggshells” existence. Everyone knows what that looks and feels like.

And the people involved often also know and fear the wrath, the upheaval, and the retaliation that can threaten any “challenge” to the status quo. It’s scary, and part of why people don’t go near changing the environment.

We, however, being removed, however we are removed from that toxic atmosphere, have arrived at a place and a mental state that has us “wanting” other things than this way of living. Maybe we got out. Maybe we have enough distance, therapy, education, and perspective to see what someone IN that toxic environment cannot see or want for themselves.

Like the old saying goes, “We can lead a horse to water, but we can’t make it drink.”

True. Sad, but true.

So, “they” are committed to misunderstanding us, and our different wants, because it threatens all “they” have known in their harmful status quo.

Where Lies Our Commitment?

What are we committed to understanding? What are we going to do with the answers to those questions?

The priority and the healthier option can be understanding ourselves, our issues, our weaknesses, and then, acting accordingly in dealing with them in a constructive manner. We can choose sobriety, anger management, therapy, learning communication skills, and facing truth with unflinching focus. That’s hard; it takes work. It’s painful. It’s a lifelong endeavor. It’s imperfect.

Where lies our commitment?

What does that look like?

What do we understand that to be for our lives?

How does it differ from those important, but toxic individuals in our lives?

Are we committed to examining and answering those things for ourselves, even if we are alone in doing so?

Copyright © 2022 by Sheryle Cruse


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