counseling, happiness, prosocialbehavior, psychology, self-help

Why Are People SUCH Jerks? Don’t Take it Personal!

“Why are people such jerks?” seems to be a wistful thought we all have contemplated from time to time. I know I have! Yet we often let other people’s “jerkiness” impact us far more than it really should. Oftentimes when people come into counseling, a significant portion of a session can be dedicated to venting/processing experiences regarding the “jerk or jerkS” in a client’s life.

Definition of jerk

1aan annoyingly stupid or foolish person was acting like a jerk
b: an unlikable person especially : one who is cruel, rude, or small-minded; a selfish jerk

It runs the gamut on WHO a jerk IS–it can be someone’s coworker, a person in one’s extended social circle, a boss, a family member. Jerks can appear in any realm of our life.

Clients will oftentimes wrap up a story they share with me about someone’s jerkiness with a, “Do you BELIEVE this?” regarding a person’s behavior or something that the jerk in question had the audacity to say. ACTUALLY, I do believe it–I have heard enough to know none of us escape people who get under our skin or act inappropriately. It is a common experience brought into the counseling room.

However, many people can adapt a jerk’s role in their life to what works best for them as to lessen the impact this person can have on them. Obviously, this is harder to do if the person in question is your boss or your mother. Other people get stuck in the indignant stage where they try to CHANGE the other person or start getting stuck in why someone is treating them so poorly.  Yet the more that people can recognize that the unhealthy behavior they experience from others is either unintentional or is more about said person rather than about them, the less they personalize the jerkiness of others and the less impact it has on them. A jerk’s way of being is usually about some flaw they have or distortion in their thinking. Unless you have done something significant, it is not about you.

I also think as you begin to recognize that other people’s bad behavior is about them, not you, you begin to depersonalize and detach from the rotten experience of dealing with a jerk (which we all inevitably will).

Jerks can be hard to understand. Who wants to conduct their life in such a negative manner? Especially since there is a lot of incentive for us to get along with others. For starters, humans are incredibly social beings who need positive, healthy relationships. In fact, there really would be no chance of society existing if people did not, by and large, cooperate with each other and get along.

Yet people often harm each other on purpose. As disgusting as that is.

Why is this? Why do people so often want to hurt and harm others? There are many reasons which I will go into below but for the most part, people are mean to others in order to feel better about themselves. A person who is a jerk gets to feel good at your expense.

SO, why are people such jerks?

I don’t believe most people are jerks. However, under the right circumstances, most people can act like a jerk.

Jerks are Noticeable

Often there appears to be so many jerks in the world around us, because the behavior of rude, obnoxious people tends to be more noticeable. One reason for this is probably the way our brains are wired—we are designed to pick up on possible threats to us and those we care about.  We are wired this way for survival. Another reason these people are more noticeable is that their behavior is often particularly hurtful and offensive.

Being a Jerk is often REWARDED

Perhaps the reward can be tangible such as a ruthless attorney being rewarded by making more money and developing a thriving practice.  However, it can also be rewarded with attention (albeit often negative attention) or escalation of conflict. It varies with each person what sort of reward is the end goal, although for the obnoxious behavior to continue there must be some sort of reward to the person exhibiting this behavior.

Why People Are Jerks

Intentional and Unintentional Reasons

1)Never socialized properly/lack of self-awareness. There are people who have poor social skills. They may not have been taught the proper social skills as children (ie MANNERS) or they may not have the experience with social interaction to have learned the skills. As a result, they may be awkward interacting with others. Some people may have little insight or awareness of how they and their behavior impact others. They might tend to be more concrete in their thought processes and don’t realize their behavior may be hurtful or rude. For example, a simple question such as “How old are you?” may not have much undercurrent of meaning but the person being asked such a question feels insulted.

2)Miscommunication. Communication is at the very least a two-way street. At any particular point, one person is conveying information and the other is receiving information. Problems can occur anywhere in the process. Ever hear the expression people hear what they want to hear? YUP. Miscommunication is when the individual conveying information makes errors in the process of communicating. Or selectively chooses what he or she takes in.

3)False Assumptions. When someone engages in assumption making, often referred to as “mind-reading” because they think they know what the other person is really thinking, they may sometimes react accordingly. For instance, the person who believes that the other person doesn’t like him/her may tend to interpret EVERYTHING the other person says as an insult. Reactions due to these assumptions may lead to more negative consequences such as the other person perceiving him or her as unfriendly jerk.

4)Self-protection. Meanness in the case of self-protection is due to a person’s inability to take responsibility for their problems and to do something about it. Healthier people among us try to recognize when they are mean, apologize and make amends, and try to make changes. Self-protection has many possible root causes to put on this defense. Low self-esteem being one. A person with low self-esteem may be hurting emotionally, and unfortunately, an effective way to feel better is to feel superior to someone else. So, there are a number of ways that this may occur—jealousy, passive aggressive escalation, projection, rationalization, the list goes on and on. People tend to be mean when their self-worth has been challenged and they are not feeling particularly good about themselves.

Sadly, insecurity drives much of the evil behavior in the world.

5)Controlling personality. Some people protect themselves by trying to control others. They are trying to create a comfortable world for themselves. In the process they may cause a great deal of discomfort for others and come across as a controlling jerk. People with controlling personalities can be trying to mitigate anxiety, struggle with a need to always be right, tend to be rigid in their thinking, and need validation of their negative world view. For some people who are miserable, validating or confirming their negative view of the world helps them to feel less miserable because they can feel good about their assessment: “See, people ARE only out for themselves.”

6)Reactive reasons. One of the most common reasons for meanness is due to emotional reactivity. In such situations the person may just be reacting without thinking through the impact of their reaction. Therefore, often their focus may not be for the purpose of hurting someone else although it can be. Also, the reaction can sometimes be quite severe and harmful. Therefore, it is included more towards the malicious end of the spectrum of why people are jerks.

6a)Frustration. When someone is frustrated with a situation, they may react in a manner to release tension. When this reaction is directed against someone else, it can be considered mean. For instance, a mother hits her shin against a piece of equipment in the garage and then yells at her son and blames him for stuffing the bin full of equipment.

6b)Denial. Another way of attempting to reduce stress is through denial. However, the process of denial can potentially be mean to someone else. You cannot accept the reality of who you are and how you act, and you slip into this defense mechanism.

7)Superiority. A person who struggles with feelings of superiority can lead to mean behavior that may not always be deliberate but can be very hurtful to others. Some people TRULY believe they are superior to others.

8)Mental illness. A person with a mental illness can be downright mean even if not intentionally doing so. For instance, a woman with obsessive-compulsive disorder who demands that her family engage in excessive cleaning of the house such as vacuuming IMMEDIATELY after they come into the house. If they don’t comply, she becomes very angry in her attempt to control them and lashes out screaming at her children and spouse.

9)Attempts to gain respect/attention. Some people confuse respect with fear. They believe that if they mistreat someone, they will gain respect. Other people are like the schoolyard bully–they never grow up and continue to hurt others in adulthood for the purpose of obtaining attention–even if it is negative.

10)Attempts to gain power. Power struggles exist all around us. We can see how making someone else hurt or react gives someone a sense of control over that person and allows them to feel more powerful. The attempt to gain power can be either direct and aggressive or it can be passive-aggressive. A real jerk way to behave!

To Sum Up

This was an overview of some of the many reasons a person acts like jerk. Unless you have done something tremendous, another people’s meanness is not about you.  Mind you, people who are mean will often find some minor thing that you have done to justify their meanness and blame you.

The main purpose of this post is to assist people in recognizing that meanness is often rewarded when the attack is successful. But it needs YOUR participation to be successful. In other words, if you feel bad about yourself, the meanness has been successful.

My suggestion is DO not participate. Recognize that unless you have done something that clearly hurts someone else, you are not the cause of the meanness. Likely you will see this person act nasty to many people—you are just one of many. Pity or feel sad for jerks whose experience of the world is small, negative, and limited.
One definition of the word mean is “small.” Mean people live small, think small, and feel small—the smaller, the meaner. They are likely to experience the consequences of their meanness and won’t live very happy lives.
  Focus on living your life and don’t get involved in the pettiness of mean people.

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If you opt to live your life consciously, you’ll find that a story acknowledging your hero’s strength to not be impacted by the meanness of someone else feels truer than one depicting you as a victim of someone else’s dysfunction. You’ll see that whatever your physical size, you really are a bigger person than any jerk out there.

If you find you are struggling with a jerk in YOUR LIFE and would like to schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

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counseling, defense mechanisms, emotionalimmaturity, forgiveness, happiness, humility, prosocialbehavior, psychology, self-help

Conflicts and Grudges: How Counseling Can Help You to Move On

Conflict is an inevitable part of life. There is no denying that.

Many people come into counseling because of an ongoing conflict in their life that is causing them great pain.

Are you someone who is able to resolve conflict? When conflict is mismanaged it can cause great harm. If you are not comfortable with your emotions or able to manage them during times of high stress, you will not be able to resolve conflict successfully.

An unresolved conflict can eventually harden to a pathological grudge if you are unable to confront and process your OWN feelings.

I recently worked with someone on processing deep rooted feelings of a long-standing grudge towards her father. Watching someone process through a wide range of emotions–from love to hate and everything in between is fascinating work. It really takes courage to confront the more vulnerable feelings under all the layers of anger and resentment.

If a person is feeling vulnerable the quick fix is just get angry.  Feeling sad, anxious, or vulnerable? Nothing is quicker to restore a false sense of power and control like anger!

Yet there is substantial collateral damage to our anger especially as it relates to our relationships. As a clinician, a grudge signifies to me a person who is not comfortable being vulnerable or losing that false sense of control. 

A little vulnerability is a GOOD thing. Being able to be emotionally open takes great courage. It takes strength to process one’s emotions and come out on the other side with a better understanding of yourself. Good emotional health is just as important as a good physical health. I have always believed releasing emotional toxins is JUST as important as cleansing your body of physical toxins.

I have found when you fail to process your emotions and experiences, you create triggers and emotional wounds within yourself. This can manifest in anxiety, depression, anger, sadness, rage, etc.

As a culture, we place much importance on measurable intelligence through grades, tests, degrees, income. Yet we do not focus enough on building emotional intelligence—being able to recognize your triggers, manage your feelings, or be cognizant of how you treat yourself AND others.

Emotional intelligence is vital to be a well-rounded person.

The truth is some of people’s biggest wounds are from childhood–towards their parents or others who have hurt them. People carry these wounds into adulthood, impacting how they are able to manage their relationships with others. Childhood wounds are easily triggered in adult relationships.

Your level of emotional intelligence comes into play when you eventually get into conflict with others.

Let’s be honest. Most (healthy) people do not enjoy conflict. Most of us know it is a part of life and while we may not enjoy it, we can understand why it is necessary. We accept that being alive means sometimes getting hurt and sometimes hurting others. It is best to move on and not waste much of your time OR energy on relationships that at the end of the day do nothing for you.

Grudge holders cannot do that. They believe their is strength in holding a grudge.

There is a reason the saying goes refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and waiting for SOMEONE ELSE to die. Grudges are irrational in their very nature. You hurt yourself thinking you are in actual hurting the other person.

Grudges arise from unresolved conflict. The truth is conflict is inevitable but if the conflict resolution process cannot successfully play out, this can lead to a grudge.

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Holding onto a grudge is essentially holding onto stress. It is also about disempowering yourself. You may be waiting on an apology or for the other person to do right by you. Yet when you are waiting on someone else to act, you are giving them person control over you. You are allowing that person to still effect your well-being long after the initial hurt has passed.

To a grudge holder, they feel holding a grudge gives them power when in actual holding a grudge is disempowering.

The fact is we ALL have been hurt by the actions or words of another.  But if you don’t practice forgiveness you are the one who pays most dearly.

Forgiveness is to embrace peace, hope, gratitude, and joy for YOU and YOUR mental well-being, not the person who you were hurt by.

In forgiving another person, you are taking away the power the other person wields in your life. It has nothing to do with getting another person to change his or her actions, behaviors, or words.

Unfortunately for a grudge holder forgiveness is not part of their repertoire.

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Just as haters are gonna hate, grudge holders are gonna grudge. Think of the Donald Trumps of the world—not only are they going to be SMUG about it, these personality types have a way of making their outright defiance a central part of their personality, wrapping themselves in self-righteousness. Grudge holders tend to be simplistic thinkers and childish. Remember as a kid, when you saw the world and people as good or evil? A person who can’t let go has never developed past this level of thinking.

To me, nothing was pettier than watching Donald Trump’s grudge against John McCain play out even after the poor man’s death. But at the heart of ALL grudges are pettiness and ego.

No matter how you slice it, it is not a good look. It means you have not developed a better way to cope with a trying life situation. It is an ineffective way of coping. It may be important to get yourself into counseling to process out those feelings and move past the hurt. A good clinician can help you take a more balanced approach in your thinking.

Do you ever ask what makes some people move on and other people hold onto a grudge for dear life?

I find people who hold grudges like the identity it gives them–of victim. Of someone who has been wronged.

I find grudge holders tend to be black and white thinkers—people who see people as ALL good or ALL bad, right/wrong, with them OR against them. Black and white thinkers cannot see people or life in a complex, more nuanced way. Often, they are what therapists refer to as “splitters.”

Grudge holders tend to think they are justified and their mistreatment of another is well-deserved and appropriate. Grudge holding is a very self-righteous state of mind. Grudge holders tend to like to PUNISH. Most times, both the grudge and the anger are disproportioned to the perceived wrong

Grudges tear families apart. Ruin lifetime long friendships. Destroy the people who keep them going because if you are holding a grudge that strongly against someone you are certainly not allowing peace, love, and happiness into your lives.

Grudges are not healthy. Yet being at the end of someone’s grudge is a whole other different beast.

The issue that can arise with being the target of someone’s grudge is that you may begin to think you did something wrong even when you didn’t I have seen this play out in counseling where clients begin to doubt themselves because of someone’s extreme reaction. Experiencing the ire of someone’s grudge can be extremely painful—grudge holders can be no holds barred when they want to release their rage.

If you feel you are in a never ending conflict, I recommend getting yourself into counseling. It can help you process these feelings and perhaps create a new perspective on an old problem.

If you find you are struggling with conflict in your life or are the target of someone’s grudge, here are some ways counseling can help:

-A therapist can help you learn to recognize people who can turn into grudge holders/people who like to manufacture conflict. People who are spiteful, judgmental, bitter towards others tend to be grudge holders (does a certain leader of the free world come to mind?) If they behave like that towards someone else, it will be your turn eventually. Learn to be cognizant of risky people who run in your circle.

-Counseling can help you process painful truths. Remember people who hold grudges may be unable to see their own role in the situation or face the pain they caused. It comes back to being able to be vulnerable. Grudges are typically about harmed egos after all and protecting those fragile egos. Know that a grudge holder will lie, connive, and do anything to protect and elevate their image at your expense.

-Counseling can help you accept the grudge holder’s perspective.  There is no right or wrong when it comes to perspective. Reality is different for all us–our thoughts color our perception and some people think faulty thoughts. As a counselor, I bear witness to this EVERY DAY. To a grudge holder, YOU ARE THE BAD GUY.  That is just how it is–it does not matter how irrational or outlandish another’s perspective is. Knowing this may help you accept the end of the relationship (do you really want relationships with people who view you as a bad person?)

-On the other hand, counseling can help you to be open to a reconciliation. Down the road, a person holding a grudge against you may decide they want you back in their life. Try to keep an open mind—see if this person is truly capable of hitting restart on the relationship. While change is unlikely we should never give up hope people can change for the better.

-Therapy can help you to appreciate this person’s ABSENCE. Move on. At some point, you must accept things will not change. Some relationships are beyond repair. Be honest–do you really want someone in your life who thinks so lowly of you? Life is short. Surround yourself with people who appreciate ALL THE GOOD you have to offer.

-Lastly and most importantly, remember it takes much more energy to hold on to hate than to forgive. Counseling can help you put your energy into positive emotions like love, kindness, openness and not negative toxic emotions like resentment and hate. Focus on all the loving relationships in your life.

Counseling is a great avenue for processing negative emotions and gaining a more balanced perspective. If you are struggling with an ongoing conflict in your life, a good clinician can help.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

counseling, goals, happiness, prosocialbehavior, psychology

Get Over Yourself: Why You Need to Free Yourself of Self-Importance to Live a Happy Life

 

I am NOT that important.

The show WILL go on WITH or WITHOUT me….that is fact.

And it liberating to know this. The truth will set you free!

Is it me or do people seem more self-important than ever lately? I feel this plays a role in the high state of anxiety our society lives and breathes in. Being self-important is a sure-fire way to be high-strung and easily triggered. It takes A LOT of energy to keep yourself at the center of the universe (I am exhausted at the mere thought).

The truth is nobody is watching you. Nobody is spending all day thinking about you. Very few people even care about you except for close family, friends, your significant other. Why such a seemingly harsh statement? Because you’re not that important (trust me, nor am I)! It is a tough but important message to hear if you want to be happy and emotionally healthy.

Self-importance can become a source of tremendous angst and unhappiness. Self-consciousness can create an obsession with how we appear to others, what they think of us, and with our image.

I have counseled people who are paralyzed by their self-consciousness and pervaded by self-important cognitions. When a person is self-conscious, they think as though they are on stage, and the audience (ie other people) are scrutinizing their every step.

Being self-conscious can limit our ability to enjoy the moment and express ourselves fully.  Cognitive behavioral therapy is really helpful in overcoming such a faulty thinking pattern.

Moreover, a colleague of mine recently shared a TED talk with me on freeing yourself of self-importance as a precursor for living a happy life. I copied the link to the TED talk above and found it to be an interesting talk to invest the 17 some odd minutes in.

Basically, the bottom line is you need to “get over yourself” if you want to be a happy person.

Usually when we hear the expression get over yourself we think of a self-absorbed jerk who is being inconsiderate of everyone around them–acting as if they are MORE important than others.

Yet we have ALL seen self-importance in action. It is the mother at the airport standing with all her and her children’s bags in the middle of the moving sidewalk, oblivious to those behind them who may need to pass. It is the person in the waiting room loudly chatting on their cell phone completely ignoring the NO CELLPHONES IN WAITING ROOM sign. The driver leaning on her horn because someone in front of her remains stopped when the light turns green—to allow a pedestrian to finish crossing. The colleague who takes credit for all apparent successes and blames others for all failures. It is the friend who talks twenty minutes nonstop about themselves without asking you how YOU are.

These scenarios are increasingly common in our day-to-day life. Yet can you recognize when you are in fact the offending party in said scenarios?

Getting along and getting ahead requires playing well with others, either in cooperation as friends, family, spouses, teammates, and coworkers. Yet many people struggle with doing just that. Our day-to-day life is filled with thoughts about what others may be thinking, what others may be doing, trying to figure out WHY someone said this or did that.

Yet how often do you ask yourself what effect YOUR words and actions are having on those around you? Healthy relationships require that you do just that. We are, by default, the center of our world.  Yet self-importance leads us to focus on how other people’s words and actions affect US, but fail to pay mind to when we are in fact the offending party.

Ask yourself how often do you:

~Worry about what other people are saying/thinking about you?

~Feel stressed that your problems are unique and NO ONE else struggles like you do?

~Obsess about your perceived shortcomings–looks, financial, success, grades, etc.?

~Induldge in over thinking—on a variety of topics?

Ask yourself honestly. How much of your day is spent focusing on YOU?

The thing is about self-importance, in its many different forms of expressing itself, is toxic. It pollutes the energy of those who need to feel self-important, as well as anyone and anything they interact with. Most other people, don’t appreciate being made to feel less than, will become defensive or take offense at the energy spewing out at them.

Being authentic doesn’t mean you don’t take care of yourself or look out for your best interests—of course you must. But you do this with an attitude of grace and softness rather than aggression or antagonism.

Empathy is at the cornerstone of emotional intelligence, but so is the ability to regulate our thoughts and behavior so as to have a positive effect on our own lives AND on the lives of the people we love and care for.

Daniel Goleman said, when we focus on ourselves, our world contracts, as our problems and preoccupations loom larger. But when we focus on others, our world expands.

We all have moments of  frustration, anxiety, and angst. But did you ever notice that all those situations have one thing in common? You.

At extreme levels, self-important thinking can lead to paranoia, a belief that others are thinking about you, talking about you, and paying attention to you when they are not. I often gently point out to clients that MOST people are worried about their own daily to do lists, families, obligations, etc. The truth is most people’s thinking is centered around them, not you. Most people are busy living their own lives–they neither the time nor the energy to devote to people who have little effect on them including you.

Ask yourself often what it is you want to contribute while you’re here, what impact you want to have on others and the legacy you want to leave behind.

If you want to be happy, don’t dwell on yourself so much.  Self-importance reduces our ability to go with the flow, while putting stress on our relationships. Viewing everything through a “how does this reflect on me” lens is unfair to others. People may begin to avoid us or keep conversations short with us.

If you really want to “get over yourself” once and for all, practice a daily gratitude practice. Embrace humility and being humble.

Take yourself LESS seriously. LIGHTEN UP.

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If you find yourself relating to this video or blog post, counseling might be a great place to process these emotions and figure out a better way to live and let live.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

counseling, happiness, prosocialbehavior, psychology, self-help

Are You An Emotional Vampire?

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As a counselor, I hear often hear stories about emotional vampires and their antics. I credit this to the fact people often are driven to seek out professional counseling when certain relationships in their life are driving them crazy. Making them miserable. Ruining their days. Even worse, sometimes ruining their lives, particularly if it a boss or another person, who has direct control over their life.

Emotional vampires are the people in life who are habitually draining to interact with. The difficult person. The whiner. The victim. The non-stop talker. The narcissist. The drama king/queen. The person void of empathy. The complainer. The martyr. The anger dumper. The controller. The person who makes everything a competition.

None of us escape these personality types. They are in every profession, every family, every social circle.

These folks are quite simply exhausting. They need constant attention. They can bring down the mood of any person they interact with. They often seem to lack any sort of self-awareness (or other times they ARE aware and quite frankly don’t give a damn about how their behavior impact others).

All emotional vampires suffer from low self-esteem, but not all people with low self-esteem are emotional vampires.

As a person who works day in and day out in the mental health profession, I find enormous respect for the art of relationships, especially understanding what makes them work or fail. In all successful relationships, whether with romantic partners, friends, families, or co-workers it’s vital that each person honestly examine his or her behavior and be willing to discuss it and change.

The real question is: ARE YOU AN EMOTIONAL VAMPIRE? We all think we know ourselves well, but psychological studies show otherwise. In fact, most of us are somewhat off the mark with how we view ourselves versus how other people experience us.

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If you are wondering if YOU may in fact be an emotional vampire, reflect HONESTLY on the following:

  • Are you self-involved? Yes / No
  • Do you think before your speak? Yes/No
  • Do you feel like you are often the victim? Yes/No
  • Do you believe your problems are not your fault?Yes/No
  • Are you a black and white thinker?Yes/No
  • Are you often negative? Yes / No
  • Do you gossip or bad-mouth people? Yes / No
  • Are you critical, and/or controlling? Yes / No
  • Do people often tell you to calm down? Yes/No
  • Do you feel that people often don’t (or can’t) understand you or your problems?Yes / No
  • Do you become easily overwhelmed? Yes/No
  • Do you feel that there are many barriers in your life which you have no control over? Yes / No
  • Do you struggle to control your emotions? Yes/No
  • Do you often ask for help from others and/or feel like few people are willing to help you?Yes / No
  • Do you feel like you often don’t receive the attention or appreciation that you deserve?Yes / No
  • Do people avoid you or glaze over during a conversation? Yes / No
  • Do people often complain that you don’t listen to them, when in fact, you feel like they don’t listen to you?Yes / No
  • Do you feel like most other people have lives that are much easier than yours?Yes / No
  • Do you fight with close friends and loved ones often?Yes / No
  • If so, is it usually their fault?Yes / No
  • Do people suddenly drop contact with you with no explanation and refuse to communicate with you again?Yes / No

If you did answer “yes” to at least half of the above questions, chances are you are an emotional vampire.

The remedy for these draining behaviors is to start shifting your perspective. Counseling can be a great way to begin the journey to becoming a better version of yourself.

Journaling about this can also help. Ask yourself, “Is there a particular trigger that creates the situation? If so, then how can you avoid the trigger? How can you become aware of when you fall into this attitude?”

Ask yourself, who are the people in your life who give you energy and who are those who drain you. If you are surrounded by people who are energy vampires, their negative qualities may begin to rub off on you. Figure out who in your life is positive and mood enhancing to spend time with. Make an effort to develop those relationships.

One caveat to the topic of emotional vampires is personality disordered individuals. The sad truth is there are pathological people with personality disorders–these people are more often than not incorrigible.

Luckily if you are reading this, it is unlikely to be the case that you are in that category. 

If you find you are struggling with these types of behaviors, it may be helpful to give professional counseling a try. Counseling can lead to a happier and healthier you which will greatly benefit you…and the people around you!

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

 

 

counseling, goals, happiness, humility, prosocialbehavior, psychology, self-help

Are You a Good Person? The Litmus Test

Do you think you are a good person?

The mere fact you are choosing to read this means you’re wondering if in fact you are.

I find most people view themselves as “good.” Not perfect, but good. Most of us would be hard-pressed to find someone who does not regard themselves as a “good person.”

Yet how many people do you know that acknowledge the darker parts of their personality? Or their shadow self as Jung called it.

In short, the shadow is the “dark side”. Many people do NOT recognize the darker components of their personality.

Because most people tend to reject or remain ignorant of the least desirable aspects of their personality, the shadow is largely negative. 

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The problem with viewing yourself as wholly good, without acknowledging your shadow self, is it can lead to unhealthy ways of coping.

As humans it is important to feel we behave and act in a manner that reflects our self-image. How can you stay congruent with your identity, if you view yourself as a good person, in absolute terms, when you inevitably do wrong? This leads to justifying bad behavior. It leads to distorting the truth and repressing emotions we do not have the courage to face.

When people view themselves as wholly good behave badly, they find ways to justify their behavior to themselves (and others) as to maintain their self-image of being “good” and keep cognitive dissonance at bay.

The truth is none of us are good people 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We all are fallible, we all have moments of weakness, we all act out of character (this is distinct from people we may encounter with poor character who act this way over and over again over the course of our relationship with them). No one who walks among us does not behave badly from time to time. It is part of the human condition and part of why conflict is so common in our relationships.

Being a good person is a value many of us in all likelihood hold dear (narcissists and sociopaths excluded).

Yet how do we know for sure if we are in fact a good person? “Good” is a very relative term. There is no universal truth that defines what being a “good person” is and looks like.

Some people think they’re “good” because they don’t intentionally go out and harm others, and others believe they are good because they do superficial acts of kindness for others.

Yet if you believe yourself to be a “good person” program, consider the following questions:

Are you a good person if you hurt people but your intention was not to do so?
Are you a good person if someone tells you that you are causing them pain but you disregard how they feel?
Are you a good person if you constantly speak ill of others?
Are you a good person if you lie on your taxes? Lie to your spouse? Lie to your children?

Do you ever feel envy or jealousy towards other people? Do you feel resentment towards the people in your life?

Are you honest with yourself?

Are you a good person if you steal from the government? On whatever level you may be playing the game…
Are you good person if you cheat–on a test, partner, or someone else? If you cheat your company?

When you witness poor behavior in others (lying, judgement, dishonesty, self-deception), can you acknowledge those same impulses inside yourself?

Are you a good person if you wish bad on others?

Do you express rage and contempt towards others?

Do you consider yourself a good person without accepting the darker parts of your personality?
Are you a good person if you are unaware of the negative emotions that arise within you through the day?

Do you believe it is wrong to feel hatred towards the people you love?

In terms of behavior:

~Would you give up your seat for a disabled person or pregnant woman on the train?
~Would you stick up for someone being verbally berated?

~How often do you help someone with extra bags?
~Do you donate your time or money to causes outside of yourself?

~Do you hold the doors open for others?

~Do you offer words of encouragement and kindness freely to others?

All the questions give insight into your character.

Are you happy with how your answer these questions? Do you find you can make excuses for yourself to justify your OWN bad behavior/character flaws but have the habit of condemning others?

I don’t believe that any human being is bad through and through or good through and through. We all have some of each inside us.  I do feel people’s character exists on a continuum–with character disturbed on one end and being virtuous on the other end.

The truth is some people have more good in them than bad.

The truth is some people have more bad in them than good.

It is important to know which person you are dealing with at any given time.

Maybe you’ve experienced this before: Dealing with someone who thinks he’s much nice or kinder than he really is. It can be hard to manage and maintain a relationship with someone who is not as good as he or she believes himself to be.

It can also be hard for people to maintain relationships with us if we are not a good of a person as we believe ourselves to be.

You need to be aware of the good AND bad in you. And others.

Viewing oneself as “good” explains a wide range of common defense mechanisms– denial, minimizing/justifying one’s own “bad”behavior, lying, becoming defensive.

The fact is our character is NOT set in stone—we are all capable of growing into a better person IF we are able to adopt a realistic self-image. We need to be able to look deeply into our shadow self if we want to move beyond the darker aspects of our personality.

We can see everyone feels justified in their own shoes. Every action that a person takes take, good or bad, they can always tell themselves it is justified  – otherwise they would not be able to perform the act in question at all.

We all want to be our best, but many people wonder if it’s actually possible for people to become better–themself included. The answer is a resounding yes. There are always ways to improve yourself.

Some general suggestions for a path forward:
1)Support others. Contribute to things outside of yourself–the larger community. Offer kind words and encouragement to the people you encounter. Consider how your words, actions, and behaviors impact others. Do not enable the bad behavior of others at the expense of someone else. Do good and good will come back. We all eventually reap what we sow.

2)Let go of anger. Think before you speak. Words said in anger can only be forgiven, not forgotten. A mindfulness practice can help you to lower your baseline feelings of anger. Much of anger arises from ruminating over the past–past injustice, grievances, pain from long ago. Stress can up our ability to lash out in anger. Consider adopting stress management techniques to your daily routine.

3)Take care of yourself–mentally, emotionally, physically. Exercise, eating well, meditation, seeking out counseling…all lead to building a strong foundation for living a good life and empowering yourself to be a better person.

4)Learn to set boundariesfor others AND yourself. We talk often about setting boundaries with other people but you should have your own set of standards in how you will or will not conduct yourself. Example–you won’t scream at other people, curse people out, threaten people, smear people’s names to others, steal, cheat, etc.

5)Reflect on the following questions (Forbes):

~What, or who, is worth suffering for?

~What can my most aggressive judgments of others tell me about myself?

~Are my opinions of others fixed, or do they evolve? Is that fair?

~Does my daily routine reflect my long-term goals?

~What do the things I envy tell me about what I want to give myself?

~If I could meet the best possible version of myself in an alternate reality, what would that person be like?

If you feel like you are struggling to become a better version of yourself, counseling can be a way to figure out a plan for your life, moving forward.

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To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com