|March 10, 2000
Dear Dr. Irene,
In the past several years I have had a problem with "sneaky
anger" people. They make plans with me, most often they
initiate the suggestion, then they make plans with other people and don't
tell me until the last minute, if they tell me at all. They
"forget" to show up, or go with someone else as if we had never
made any plans. I never do this to people and I was wondering if
this is modern behavior or if there is some motive to it? This is not modern behavior - in fact, this is an age-old
problem! It happens too often to be an accident yes, although they make it appear that someone or
circumstances beyond their control are responsible. Yes.
The old getting-away-with-it technique!
I felt I wasn't important to them
or they must be trying to get rid of me so I backed off and avoided them. GOOD! To my surprise, they came after me,
bringing little presents, being nice. Yes.
When I tell them that I feel let down and disappointed and I don't like
being stood up, they become indignant and act like I am victimizing them. Yes. Sound familiar? This is exactly what the abuser does
to the victim who confronts them. But I am the one who has
been let down and I know they do not like it when someone does this to
them. Yes. I don't know what to
do or say. Apparently, you knew exactly what
to do. What is this behavior supposed to accomplish besides making
me very angry? Nothing. It's not done on purpose.
But if your friends don't get it and the back-and-forth cycle continues,
you may want to consider making these friends more peripheral. Note: I am
not suggesting your friends are up to no good or are abusive. You may
simply have different ideas, values, or expectations of each other. Bottom
line: their behavior bothers you.
Thanking you in advance, Mahrah
You bring up a very
interesting point about human nature, and the social pecking order.
Some people are
very nice to others all the time, no matter what. These people have
codependency traits: they seek to please. Others are more predatory and
take advantage when they find people who let them get away with it. We
"test" each other all the time, to see how far we can go. This
is not "good" or "bad," it is just the way things are.
We test each other to find out our limits.
When you were
putting up with your friends' mis-behavior, they learned that you would
tolerate switched plans, whether you were calling them on it or not. Try
to understand, your friends did not wake up in the morning and say to
themselves, "OK, how are we going to dis Mahrah today?" But by
not backing off, you were essentially saying "It's OK to treat me
Once you backed
off, they came after you - because they never wanted to hurt you in the
first place. You just were not taking care of yourself, and its not
their job to take care of you! Look at it this way: Some people prefer
making semi up-in-the-air plans. It's up to you, not your friends, to
determine what best serves your purpose.
abuse can be seen as pecking order continuums, with most people falling
somewhere in the middle.
We allow ourselves
to be stepped on in far more ways than we realize, and we will step on
others in far more ways that we realize. Even "nice" codependent
types step on those who let them (this is what passive-aggressive
anger is about). And predators (abusers) allow themselves to be
Your question is
pertinent because it addresses the codependency-abuse issues this site
focuses on. My underlying philosophy, which is repeated over and
over and over again, is one of personal responsibility & self control: It is your job to take care of
yourself. If you don't like how you are being treated, put a stop to
it by changing your own behavior. That is what you did with your
friends. And it worked!
We need to take
care of ourselves in all life areas: with friends, family, at work,
school, etc. The most difficult place to do this is with matters of the
heart. It is amazing how many people who have their life together in all
areas fall flat on their face in love matters! The purpose of this site is
to help them learn the skills they need to care for themselves there too.
you for asking this question. My very best wishes, Dr.