First off, this post is not about physical back ailments, so I apologize if you came here to read about disk failures or arthritic conditions. The back pain I want to talk about is the pain from having to look back and watch what you say or do because someone else explodes or behaves badly (and blames you)!
You probably have people in YOUR life who expect you to “Walk on Eggshells” (i.e., you have to be careful what you say because they explode if YOU say the wrong thing) – and it causes you grief!
Not only do you have to be careful what you say or appear to say for fear of negative retribution (often explosive) – you have to plan/rehearse/replay what you might say in your head to hopefully avoid a similar outcome. Even then, with careful planning, explosions invariably occur “because of what you said or did”. Think about this for a moment along with Einstein’s definition of insanity:
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
So, if makes sense that if you constantly try to do something different (such as saying things in a different way) and you get the same explosive results, maybe the result has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.
People who expect special treatment from others are the prima donnas, narcissists, sociopaths, and bullies of our society and invade our work, play, and homes. If you love someone who does this, you might feel responsible when they explode (especially when they blame you) or treat you badly. (This is a classic model of abuse: the abuser blames their victim for inciting the abuse.)
Personally, I am at a point where I realize that the “walk on eggshells around me” person is simply unhappy in spite of or regardless of me. It seldom matters how nice or kind or careful I am because the explosion is not predictable. (I once asked my ex-significant other what words I to avoid so he would not react badly because it didn’t seem to matter what I said. His response was “you think you are a good communicator – figure it out!” The truth was that no words from me could change his behavior – only he could. )
People who use verbal outbursts to get their own way may or may not realize their responsibility for their own behavior. Or they might have always gotten away with blaming their firework reactions on others! Why change what works if it gets them what they want?
Is there an alternative to “walking on eggshells”?
When bad behavior is rewarded it continues. Imagine a child screaming and ranting in a grocery store and the parent rewards them with candy to shut them up. The same thing happens when grownup children rant and get their own way in board meetings or at home. Bad behavior is like an addiction – and if we reward the abuser for outbursts (by giving in) we are enabling the behavior to continue. Easier said than done especially when the other person is a spouse, a boss, a family member or a friend. It is easier to avoid them or to give in to keep the peace.
I fell for this too many times in my lifetime and today I avoid these people when I can, and if I cannot, I work hard to realize that I am not responsible or a trigger for their outbursts. Still, no one including me, wants to be covered by verbal diarrhea or hit in the face with fireworks – and then be blamed for causing it.
Can you identify with these “walking on eggshell people” I meet or hear about from others?
- At work – I used to work with a guy who huffed and puffed and got red when anyone challenged his authority as a self-appointed expert. Sometimes he even exploded in a room full of people! I am grateful I no longer have to work with this person. He eventually named his company after his first name (narcissistic), brags about his religious devotion, yet continues to huff and puff and literally explode when anyone disagrees with him. He is over 65 so one would think he’d have met his match by now, but executives and peers simply watch him pontificate and back away before the fireworks begin.
- Parents – I see parents everywhere who bully their children into complicity using religious guilt, coercion, and downright manipulation (“if you loved me/us you would think/feel/act the way we tell you to”). Parents who are bullies create submissive children who can grow into embittered adults. While their physical presence is temporary (child rearing years) their damage can be lifelong. Parents whose behavior creates a “walk on eggshells” environment with their adult children often lose the very respect they “demand.”
- Spouses/partners – If you have/had a spouse who tells you that they only said xxx because “you made me say it” you know what it is like to “walking on eggshells.” Should you dare to suggest that their responsibility for fireworks they ignite themselves, you might be “down the river without a paddle” so to speak. I can tell you from experience that life can be grander without such a “partner.”
- Children – We have the chance to influence a child’s behavior to a certain extent (personality weighs heavily here) by not allowing or rewarding tantrum-like behavior. Even when corrected at an early age, there are plenty of adult children who use explosions and then hold their parents to blame long into adulthood. I believe that we need to teach children accountability and consequences for bad behavior at a young age.
- Friends– I have written about the types of friends who explode or behave badly when they do not get their own way (Do Mean Girls Grow up?) – and my solution is to walk away and find new friends. On rare occasions when I confronted the person, it had a good outcome, but more often it led to even worse outbursts. These days I follow the advice of a New York friend who encourages me to say “Next” and move on to the next friendship.
- People we do not know – It is painful to witness someone verbally abusing another in public. I do not believe that it is ever warranted to yell at another adult unless it is to alert others to a threatening situation or assault. I see this happen all the time and I never know what to do. When it is an adult verbally abusing a child, I often step in or alert a storekeeper for advice, but when it is adults involved, I am at a loss… I do not want to become a victim by confronting the offender, yet I do not want to show that I accept the behavior by complicity.
If “walking on eggshells” causes (back) pain why do we comply?
Is this an isolated situation confined only to me?
If you have found something that works instead of walking on eggshells, would you share them with me so I can also share them with others?
Wishing you a stress-free week of happy times!