Something that I've heard many therapists say before is, because a lot of parents don't know how to appropriately and responsibly discipline their children, not only do they end up breaking their spirit before they become adults, but they can infect their natural sense of courage and inborn sense of creativity too. As a survivor of childhood abuse, I will wholeheartedly agree with that. Yet, if there's one thing that I would add to that insight is, poor discipline tactics (coupled with plain ole' lazy parenting skills) can also prevent babies, toddlers, children and adolescents from 1) understanding what different emotions are and 2) how to process them whenever they have them.
That's why, whenever I'm dealing with a client who has young kids, something that I recommend is they invest in a childhood emotion chart (like this one here; if you're an adult who thinks you need one, you can check out one here). Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to guard our heart, a definition of heart is "center of emotions", and I truly do believe that the more in touch with our feelings we are, the more we can understand which emotions we should nurture, which ones are helpful or harmful—and which ones are alerting us to when someone isn't an individual who needs to be in our close, intimate and sacred space.
That's exactly what this article is devoted to. Because our emotions are so precious, if there are six kinds of people who you should consider a threat to your overall emotional health and well-being, these would have to be it. Hands down.
1. Manipulative People
Manipulation is a form of control. It's one of the things that I deal with often when I'm counseling married couples. If you've got an overall sense of what manipulation looks and lives like, but you'd appreciate me providing you with some clear character traits, I've got you. Manipulative people like to guilt trip folks. Manipulative people play the victim whenever they are called out on their ish. Manipulative people rationalize their BS while many times deflecting away from accountability while trying to make you (or someone else) the cause of their poor decisions or offenses. Manipulative people will do things you want them to, ONLY when they desire to get something from you in return. Manipulative people are mad passive aggressive (you can check out an informative video on how passive aggressive folks get down here). Manipulative people "play dumb" in order to gaslight you (in other words, when you confront a manipulative individual, they might act like they don't know what you are talking about in order to shake your sense of clarity or confidence). Manipulative people live for playing mind games. Manipulative people, in a nutshell, are the absolute worst.
Chances are, you know at least one truly manipulative individual. Because they want to put you on a set of puppet strings, it's important to not get heavily invested in them on the emotional tip because that is how they are able to control you so well. And what if you're already married to a manipulative person or you've got family members, co-workers or other people you deal with daily who fit this bill? Boundaries. Firm boundaries are good. Purchasing the book Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life (and/or Boundaries in Marriage: Understanding the Choices That Make or Break Loving Relationships) can provide you with some a-ha moments to get you on the right track.
2. Opportunistic People
There is a particular guy who was in my life for many years. We had so much in common and our chemistry was so strong that I actually fell for him pretty hard. It wasn't until I realized that he was a total opportunist—not just with me but many others—that I recognized that a lot of his, how shall I say it, "participation" in our dynamic was more about what he could get out of me than actually wanting to be in my life simply because of who I am as a person.
Coming to this realization was pretty painful because it can be hard to accept that opportunists are basically chameleons; they will adapt themselves to whoever and whatever in order to get what they want. Then, once they've gotten what they need, they're out.
It was around this time last year when I penned the article, "6 Signs A New 'Friend' Is Nothing But An Opportunist". I wrote it so that you could know how to guard your heart when it comes to meeting new people (on the heels of that, also check out "Allow These Things To Happen Before Calling Someone 'Friend'"). Yet make no mistake about it, there's a pretty good chance that someone who you are already quite familiar with is only around to take advantage of what you have to offer as well. One way to test this is to reflect on how much they take vs. how much they actually give. If the former far exceeds the latter, I'm pretty sure you know what that means, right? And what you need to do in response to that newfound revelation…right?
3. Hypocritical People
Boy, if this year ain't been nothin' else—and it already has been A LOT—it's definitely a series of crash courses in race relations; especially when it comes to learning how, for example, many evangelicals see things. Personally, because I went to a "Christian" school that provided disciplinary action for interracial dating, had a Canadian economics teacher who would call his Black students "nègre" (which I believe is the n-word in French) and where two of the most popular students in the school had parents who had picaninny figurines all throughout their house (figurines that the mother actually named after a lot of us)—I know all too well how whites can say they love the Lord, that they "love" Blacks and that aren't racist…even though they are very much so racist people. Because their churches are segregated, along with their lifestyle, race relations and social injustice (check out "Social Justice Is a Christian Tradition---Not a Liberal Agenda") are things that they don't think much about. Until events like what's going on currently in our society happen.
All of this shows up a lot whenever the topic of politics comes up. Just recently, a friend of mine was telling me about a friend of theirs (who is bi-ethnic, by the way) who was going on and on about how Trump is a "man of God" and we should support him because of that. I said to my friend, "Isn't it interesting how Obama was considered to be the antichrist by so many of the same people who think Trump is a Christian?" Trump. The man who, when he was asked what his favorite Bible verse was, he couldn't come up with a single one. Trump. The man who teargassed protestors in order to take a picture in front of a church even though the church leaders didn't want him to. Trump, the man who, even though the Bible says, "Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy" (Psalm 72:4), he is doing any and everything BUT that. (Let's start with "Trump administration still wants to cut food stamps" and "Trump Administration's Harmful Changes to Medicaid". Ugh.)
A hypocrite, by definition, is someone who says one thing and does something else. A part of the reason why so many people of color—Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans—are currently in harm's way in this country is because a lot of folks apply one set of rules for one set of people and something totally different for others. A wise person once said, "I am cautious of people whose words and actions don't match their words." While all of us tend to do hypocritical things from time to time, an all-out hypocrite is a walking contraction, most of the time. They can't be trusted because of this. Guard your heart and mind in dealing with this type of individual. Not some of the time; all of it.
4. Emotionally Cryptic People
This will probably be my shortest and most potent point. What in the world do I mean by "emotionally cryptic"? Those are the people who you never really know where you stand. Why is that? Because they don't know either. They don't express their true feelings. They are hesitant to say anything that you can hold them accountable to and for. At the end of the day, it's like they totally get off on you playing a guessing game about how emotionally invested they are in you. The really sad part about this is, they are mysterious and ambiguous on purpose because they want you to remain in a state of perpetual confusion so that you'll be too puzzled and baffled to call them out and leave them alone. If someone immediately came to your mind, build up some walls, sis. They absolutely DO NOT have your best interest at heart. Pretty much ever.
5. Inconsistent People
I can't remember if I shared it on this platform or not, but a few years ago, when I decided to assess why I kept going through some of the same kind of drama in my friendships with women, I had to accept two things. One, that I had envy issues with some of them (due to how they looked or how guys perceived them to be). Two, a lot of them were emotionally unstable and highly-inconsistent (a few eventually went to therapy to figure out why). Those two things are a HORRIFIC combination if you're trying to maintain any kind of healthy relationship. One day, we'd be all good. The next day, either I'd be low-key jealous or they would be in a mood that I didn't see coming. It would result in emotional roller coaster rides that were not only unfortunate but borderline toxic.
Once I put some real effort into to getting my self-esteem together, it caused me to take ownership for where I was contributing to the drama and then set some healthier boundaries in my relationships. As a result, these days, when folks are hot-and-cold all of the time, I tend to put some space between us.
Inconsistent individuals will have you out here walking on eggshells, constantly censoring yourself and feeling more like you are babysitting someone instead of hanging out with a true peer. Matter of fact, the older that I get, the more attractive consistency is to me, even if someone consistently does something I don't necessarily like. At least I know what I'm dealing with at all times and prepare myself, which is something that I definitely can't say for folks who are totally unpredictable who are always catching—and throwing—others totally off guard.
6. Non-Committing People
In some ways, I saved the best for last. Do you know how much heartache would be spared if many of us emotionally distanced ourselves from people who are commitment-phobes? I'm not just talking about when it comes to romantic relationships either. I've had friends who will make abstract plans, not commit to an actual time or place, and then shoot blanks—over and over again. I've had bosses who would claim that they would take my job performance seriously enough to promote me but wouldn't actually say when I could expect to see any chances—for years on end. Hmph. Don't even get me started on family members who have not kept their word and broken all sorts of promises, a billion times over (hence, "Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members").
The reason why the word "commit" is so important, in pretty much any type of relational situation, is because it speaks to building trust between two people. It's about doing what you said you would and the other individual being able to fully rely on you because of it. People who honor their commitments are not only mature individuals, they are people who show that they respect whomever they are making a commitment to, no matter how big or small the commitment may actually be. If you've got people in your life who you can't realize depend on or believe, while you might not be able to banish them from your world, definitely keep your emotional defenses up to some extent. Non-committers are chronic disappointers who can really hurt your feelings. The good news is they only can if you let them, though. For the sake of your emotional safety, please make sure that you do.
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