Friday, October 5, 2012

PowerLife 101: Your Friends. Right Or Wrong For You?

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Here you will read about some common human behavior. Understanding them will help you determine the quality of the relationships that you value in your life. The examples are not exhaustive. Instead, they are a place to start. Examining your relationships in the light of how people behave toward one another is an important step toward getting the best out of the Living PowerLife approach to health and happiness.The theme for this post is health through honesty.

You will be surprised, as was I, by just how much you will learn about yourself and what motivates you when you honestly consider each relationship that you value and why. When I first completed this step, I started with a shorter list of examples. As I progressed, I added more. I suspect you will do the same. For brevity, I have three main categories to get you started: A) People who find the discomfort of others entertaining. B) People who need to be with us to be real. C) People who gossip. I chose these three because most of our destructive behavior such as physical/mental/spiritual abuse, cheating, or lying fall under at least one.

Also Included are real-life examples from past relationships. I do not blame or want to embarrass anyone, so I have taken great pain not to reveal the identities of the people in my real-life examples.

Along with your list of behaviors, another way to determine the value of your relationships is to take an honest look at how you are when you are with each person. If you like how you feel, and how you behave when you are with them, try to identify why this is the case. Conversely if you do not like how you feel, or how you behave when you are with them, try to determine why. Understanding the why is where you will gain more knowledge about what motivates you to act. Understanding why will also reveal how healthy a particular relationship is for you.

 Physical/Mental/Spiritual Abuse

The first group is people who find demeaning others pleasurable. I call them potential, or actual, abusers because on some level they enjoy hurting others. 

Some of the people who use this type of humor like to call it dark humor as defined on The Free Dictionary website. For our purposes, dark humor becomes destructive when people laugh at the pain, discomfort, or isolation of those considered as outsiders. One real-life example  that I can offer for this happened in a social setting where everyone appeared to be jovial and at ease except me. 

I was attending a social event made up of about 8-10 men and women. I remember feeling very uncomfortable and was confused because everyone there was laughing, talking, and seemed to be having a very good time. It was not until I started really listening for themes in the conversation, that I realized why I felt so uncomfortable. The conversation for most of the night consisted of one person sharing rude and crude remarks about conservatives, church goers, people from the 'wrong' side of town, or anyone who was not part of their group. Each comment or story was followed by hearty laughs and little digs from the rest. 

My discomfort came from the fact that I felt pressured to go against my inclination and join in laughing and poking fun at people viewed as others. Perhaps a younger and weaker me would have ignored my discomfort and joined in the behavior. However, that was the beginning and the end of my social contact with them.


The second group is people who believe that they cannot be themselves unless they are around us. I see these people as potential or actual cheaters, because they hide or show who they are and what they think based on who they are with. 

The first time that I encountered this puzzling behavior was at least 10 years ago. Because I was reared in an ethnically blended family, I was an adult before I first encountered affinity groups. These are groups of people who come together around a common political or ideological platform. Affinity groups can also form around racial affiliation. This particular real-life example illustrates my experience with the us vs them mentality and a connection to cheating.

I was attending a conference that was made up of racially diverse women. There was a break-out session for people who wanted to meet as a subgroup they called people of color (POC). Not ever feeling the need for this, and because my outsider's view was judgmental, I decided to attend based on the fact that I fell in their POC category. I wanted to see what happened in these meetings. I wanted to learn about why so many people needed these spaces. I wanted to see if my outsider's view was correct.

The discussion topic, interestingly, was about why POC meetings were important. When I heard this, I came to attention and prepared to take lots of mental notes. My disappointment grew as each person shared their thoughts, and I felt even more perplexed. While I cannot include personal thoughts shared by any particular individual, I can give an example that was used to explain the feelings in general.The comfort level that many people had while in POC settings was described as one where shoes and pantyhose could be taken off and no one would be offended. 

I was surprised, and immediately felt even more out of place. First, I did not wear pantyhose. Second, I considered it poor etiquette to take off my shoes, let alone my underwear, in a meeting. Third, I could not understand why POC meant that general privacy or courtesy standards no longer applied. Fourth, being in a setting where 30 to 40 people took off their underwear was not something that I wanted to experience. Fifth, and for me most important, I wondered how anyone could trust members of a group who hid who they really were from the rest of society. During the entire discussion, the underlying tone was of us vs them where the us believed that they could not be authentic in the presence of the them because... The why was never made clear to me.


Group three is people who gossip. I see these people as potential or actual liars because they spread information about others without knowing if what they spread is true. 

Gossip is a behavior that is commonly indulged in our culture. The print and Internet media have gossip columns and entire television programs are built around spreading gossip about celebrities. So many exist because so many are interested. Indeed, some people are so involved in getting or finding tidbits on their neighbors or other people that they have trouble taking care of their own responsibilities and relationships. The following is a real-life example of how people use gossip to ostracize others, distract attention from their own wrong doing, or to harm the good reputation of someone.

At one time in my life, I was affiliated with a person (I am going to label this person leader. I am also going to use the pronouns they, them, or their instead of he/she, him/her) who, to outsiders appeared to be quiet, self-deprecating, righteous, and passionate for defending the oppressed. On first meeting leader, I was very impressed and happy about the prospect of being under leader's tutelage (I was a student at the time and somewhat naive about people). 

It was not long before I was part of leader's inner circle. Once part of that group, though, I began to see a different-real side of leader. This side was abusive, dishonest, very insecure, manipulative, vulgar, and demanding. Anyone who questioned their authority was quickly and firmly slapped down. The stage was set for the two of us to part ways. That time came when leader unexpectedly fired someone within the inner group. 

This person was there before me, and leader gave no information about why the person was gone. I knew that there had been tension between leader and the person fired, but did not know why. I did not want to know details, but I was also not comfortable with behaving as though the fired person had never existed. I needed the time, space, and guidance to process the loss of someone who had become my friend and colleague. Consequently, I met with leader to voice my needs. This is where I learned that gossip can be much more than a silly behavior engaged in by small-minded people with little excitement in their lives. 

Leader told me that they had first hand knowledge about the person they fired. Leader said that they could not talk about the secret knowledge because they gained it during a confidential conversation. Leader said that what they knew illustrated the fact that the person fired was unethical and unfit for the position they had. I had no way of knowing how true leader's accusations were, and really did not want to know details about the decision. 

As a student, I went to leader with a need for help to process an unexpected change, a need for space to incorporate that change into my growth process. My need was ignored and overshadowed by leader's defensive, self-serving response. Yes, leader failed as a mentor, but what I got instead was far more useful in the long run. What I got was a lesson in just how easy people can use the cloak of confidentiality or anonymity to spread damaging gossip about anyone they see as a threat. 

Why Bother?

This is important because the energy you keep around you and send out to others is the same energy that you invite into your personal life. Making an assessment of the relationships that you value most is difficult. You may realize that people you love, trust, or feel you cannot live without are actually not good for you. You may learn that you behave in destructive ways in your efforts to keep certain relationships. While difficult, the assessment is also a crucial part of living your power in your life. Once you go through this process, you will come out on the other side stronger, more confident, and more able to see where you are either being true to yourself or letting yourself down.

From my PowerLife to yours,


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