I was being interviewed for a radio show. The interviewer asked, "You know those people who are mean? Why do we keep going back for more?"
I said if someone is mean to you, the thing to do is tell them that what they did or said hurt you. That's your right. That's taking care of yourself. It's saying, "I don't like what you did, I don't want it in my life." Their behavior is clutter for you.
Maybe they didn't realize they were being mean, and will apologize, and change their behavior.
Or maybe they will say they were joking, or you are being too sensitive, or that you misread what they did, or ignore you, or they will turn it around and get angry with you. That would make their presence in your life clutter. Then the best thing to do is remove them from your life in the simplest way possible.
Meanness is abusive. It's emotional violence. If someone punched you in the stomach, you would not associate with them anymore. If someone hurts you emotionally and they don't make amends, then you take care of yourself by walking away.
The interviewer thought about it and wrote me an email saying, "I keep thinking of people I love who've been mean -- and haven't stopped when I pointed that out. I
thought I was past it, but of course you knew I wasn't. It also explains so much
-- my nails still bitten to the quick, for example."
I wrote back, "Often times victims of abuse from loved ones, both physical and emotional, often excuse their aggressors and blame themselves in some way. We say, 'I was hurt because I'm bad in some way.' Biting your nails is a way of hurting yourself. It's a way of punishing yourself for being 'wrong.'"
I continued, "The healing is your recognition that something is off about the whole situation. Your recognition that you were abused by others. That you are not safe with these people. That you need to protect yourself. This is a powerful point of change in your life. I'm very excited for you!"