Tuesday, December 31, 2013



"Use it up. Wear it out. Make do. Do without."

The point is: don't be wasteful. Be resource conscious. Get maximum use out of a product or item before discarding or replacing it.

Generally speaking, this is pretty good advice.

But have you ever known someone who approached relationships with this mentality? I have. Trying to engage with someone who operates with a "reduce-reuse-recycle" mentality is exhausting, frustrating, even heart-breaking.

These relationships absolutely suck the life out of you. It's like going from being someone's favorite snuggle blanket, to the rag they use to dust furniture or wash their dirty car, to the forgotten bit of trash crammed in the dark, cobweb-filled corner of the closet in the garage. Before long, you feel completely worn out, used up, and taken for granted.

Of course, the obvious way to not have your soul sucked out by these exhausting relationships is to avoid them. If you discover that someone is a "joy sucker," that they drain you emotionally and bring nothing to the table but drama, strife and negativity, scratch them off your friend list. Life's too short and too precious to waste it on people who take-take-take and who are so small-minded that they can't see past their own noses. People who have no thought for the needs or feelings of others - who needs them?

Except that sometimes, these very people are the people closest to us. They are people we love. A relative. A co-worker. A neighbor. Yes, relating to them is exhausting, but no, we don't want to be rid of them. We are committed to loving them in spite of the fact that they drain us of energy and enthusiasm.

What do we do then?

One approach to dealing with such people is to refuse to play the complaining game. You know the scenario: Lena always has some little negative comment to make about what you're wearing, the way you've decorated your house, how dry the chicken was at dinner, that she'd rather have chocolate cake than the apple pie you're serving, etc. Or she feels compelled to recount to you all the offenses she's suffered that day - the driver that cut her off on the interstate, the server who got her order wrong at McDonald's, how long she had to stand in line at Wal-Mart, the co-worker who talks too loudly and gets on her nerves, etc. Or she creates stressful situations for herself, then expects you to help shoulder her self-induced anxiety. When Lena begins the all-too-familiar litany of what's-not-right with the world, nothing you can say or do will fix her problems or make her feel better. She doesn't want to feel better. No, she wants to revel in her afflictions.

When someone like Lena begins a swamp fest around me, I try to change the subject completely; or, if that doesn't work, I just put my brain in neutral and let Lena vomit while I contemplate the scenery outside the window or doodle around in my head with ideas for tonight's dinner. I do NOT encourage or acknowledge her complaints. No sympathetic looks or sighs. No commiseration. Nope, I'm just not going to join in the drama if I can help it. I don't know if these strategies help Lena any, but it makes it possible for me to be around her without being drug into her muck pit myself. I just don't want to be part of her festival of negativity.

So, what advice can you give, Dear Reader, for dealing with folks who are emotionally draining? How do you cope with the "reduce-reuse-recycle" types in your life? How do you engage without letting yourself feel used up or burned out?

I'm sure I'm not the only one who could use some help in this area, so don't be shy about sharing helpful advice!


Anonymous said...

The negative souls fit into the same catagory as the "brain pickers"and solicitors. The phone rings,"helo,I represent the firefighter of outer Slabovia. CLICK. Yep. Cutoff without a word.
Responding to them only encourages them. DAD

Suzanne said...

Egads! Don't call me Lena.
At this moment I am sucked empty.
I want to be upbeat, cheerful, encouraging, positive, Godly, and peaceful 24/7/365. Do you know someone that can share some of that with me without running empty themselves?

Camille said...

Oh, Suzanne, I hope today is a restful, re-energizing kind of day for you! Being mom to a houseful of kids and wife to a busy husband can be such exhausting work, especially over the holidays. None of us can be upbeat and encouraging 24/7 - we all need time to refuel, and we ALL have those times when the grump monster comes out in us. (Some people, though, seem to let him set up camp on their shoulder and make a habit of letting him direct their thoughts and words - blech!) Praying for sunshine and rest for you today. I love you. :)

Alix said...

Don't laugh, I see a therapist for things like this! Two things he suggested - that work - are to a) limit the amount of time you spend with them so they don't drain you and b) only interact with them in an environment that you can control. The idea being that you can politely leave or excuse yourself if it becomes unendurable. His more difficult, long term solution for really hard cases is not to interact with them at all - or very, very minimally. I have one person that falls into that category. For a while, it felt really rotten on my end, but, after realizing how much stress and anxiety was taken away, I understand that it's a lot healthier. And, his "permanent" solution is to figure out what you are doing to attract people like this and do what it takes to stop attracting them. They are much easier to NOT deal with - and they are unhealthy.