Dear Drama Observers,
During my internship after graduate school, I had the opportunity to work on the locked unit of a psychiatric hospital. For those old enough to remember One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, this unit housed similar patients—those we sometimes use the word “crazy” to describe. However, most people in psychiatric hospitals are there for things like depression, not craziness… But, in this unit, there were psychotically delusional patients who truly were a danger to themselves and/or others. Hence, the unit was locked.
I remember the unit staff telling me that every month when the moon was full, patients always seemed just a tad crazier than usual. I have no idea whether or not such an assertion has been verified empirically; I suspect not, but they swore it was true.
Maybe it’s the alignment of celestial bodies, but it seems that dealing with arrogant people is the subject most often discussed in my office recently. This week, I had back to back sessions with two different women with eerily similar stories. Here’s a quick synopsis:
- I caught my husband in a sexual sin.
- At first, he was excessively remorseful.
- He spoke with a counselor who encouraged his involvement in an anonymous group for sex addicts.
- He’s attended the group and “worked the program.”
- He’s received accolades from said group for being so courageous to “face his issues.”
- Meanwhile, at home, he’s become an increasingly worse version of himself. By that, I mean that he never apologizes for anything he does wrong, or if he does, it sounds like, “Okay, I’m sorry but…”
- He equalizes responsibility by saying, “Well, you do the same things.” And if he says something deeply hurtful to me or the kids, he acts as though the offense never occurred, and then accuses me of being unforgiving if I talk about it any further.
- When we visited his counselor together, he portrayed himself as the person working hard to change and me as the grudge-holder who will never let things go.
- The counselor bought it.
- I felt like I was in The Twilight Zone.
For years, I’ve written and spoken about the qualities one needs to relate to others in a reasonable manner. I call these abilities “muscles” because muscles get stronger when you use them, but atrophy from disuse. The first one I discuss is humility, that is, the opposite of arrogance. The husbands in the above example lacked the humility needed to function normally in their marriages.
Here’s what I’ve said about humility both in my book and in the seminars I teach.
The first muscle needed to handle wrongness well is the humility muscle, which gives a person the ability to acknowledge potential personal wrongness. When reasonable people use this muscle, the stance is, “I could be wrong, you could be right. Let’s talk.” Reasonable people, who have healthy humility muscles, can handle being wrong if being right requires sacrificing the truth. They believe, though perhaps reluctantly, in the maxim, “Truth is your best ally.” It may be painful to acknowledge wrongness, but they’ll do so because being truthful has a higher value to them than being right.
Unwilling to allow for the possibility of wrongness, unreasonable people (manipulators) will sacrifice truth if being truthful means being wrong. They’ll even lie to avoid being wrong. In fact, some manipulators revise truth so routinely that they delude themselves and come to believe their own revisions. The stance taken is, “I’m right, you’re wrong. End of discussion.” They can be arrogant, inflexible, and never wrong about anything. That’s why “you can’t reason with an unreasonable person.” Your attempts at reasonableness won’t work because they’re not interested in reason; they’re only interested in winning, or in being right.
The following statements may reflect an atrophied humility muscle:
- He refuses to admit wrongness even when proven wrong.
- He doesn’t listen to or consider contrary opinions, either from you or from others.
- He holds his positions rigidly with little flexibility.
- He’s “often wrong, but never in doubt.”
- He audaciously lies, rearranges information, or alters history and appears to sincerely believe his own revisions.
- He skillfully persuades others to believe the revisions.
- He rarely, if ever, apologizes. And if he does, the apology is qualified (i.e. “I’m sorry, but you . . .” or “I’ve told you I was wrong. Can we now move on?”)
- He consistently emphasizes your mistakes and errors.
- He wrongly ascribes to you dishonorable intentions and then attacks you for having them.
- He distorts the meaning of your words and won’t allow you to correct the misinterpretation. In other words, “he hears what he wants to hear.”
I have no idea if it has anything to do with how Jupiter is aligning with Mars, but this arrogance theme is starting to wear thin.
Till next week.