Sunday’s Homily: Emotional Manipulation

Sometimes people will go out of their way to bait you into an argument simply so they can feel superior. Don’t allow them to manipulate your emotions and control your reactions. ~ Springwolf

Passive Aggression

Control Your EmotionsBeing passive aggressive is a method of showing aggression in an indirect manner. Such as making negative comments in a general manner that is not specifically directed at someone, but is intended to put down or denounce what a specific person said. In other words, it a cowardly way of insulting someone and baiting them into an argument without doing so face to face.

This happened to me recently. In responding to a question on an IMM Ministers forum, I made mention of living in balance by implementing your spiritual beliefs upon your physical path. Walking Your Talk© so to speak. It’s not enough to believe you are spiritual if you don’t apply those beliefs in your every day life and respond to others accordingly. Another member responded to the same question and for some reason felt the need to say “it has nothing to do with balance” and continued to make his point which seemingly had nothing to do with what I had said.

So why add that statement to his response? Why put in a comment that was seemingly directed at my reply, since I was the only one who had, up to that moment, made a comment about balance? To me it had the purpose to bait me into a confrontation or to denounce my view because he doesn’t agree with anything I say on this forum. Being one of the very few, if not the only pagan minister on this forum, there are a few members who consistently attack my comments and perspectives. Not that this is unusual or uncommon in general. If you’re going to put your Pagan hat on and wear it in public, you’re going to get negative comments from time to time. I’m used to this. But it is disheartening to know that this kind of immediate bigotry toward  pagan perspectives can occur on a forum that’s designed for spiritual ministers and specifically fellow ministers in the same organization. To me, it’s a bit hypocritical.

Some times this is a method people use to bait you into an argument to prove to others that you’re simply an angry negative person and that your views are invalid as a result of your emotional expression. It’s a method to manipulate you into an expected response so they can feel superior and righteous. As the line in the movie Roadhouse goes: “It’s two nouns combined to elicit a prescribed response.”

Control Your Own World
Now most of the time you can walk away from people like this. It’s really not worth getting into an argument with them and wasting your energy. You’re not going to change their mind and any attempt you make to educate their misconceptions will only fall on deaf ears. So why waste your time and effort? Why allow them to win the battle in controlling your emotions? They can’t fight with you if you don’t walk onto the battlefield. Walking away is sometimes the better part of valor. Or “Knowing what battles to fight is the real sign of wisdom” – Springwolf.

But sometimes you can’t walk away. How many family holiday dinners have you been to where someone in the house uses their passive aggressive ability to bait you into an argument? You can walk to another room, but often times they follow you, or bring the same subject up again later in the day when you’re back in the same room with them.

On the other hand, what do you do when you’re a member of a forum, online or otherwise, that you truly enjoy and with very few exceptions, enjoy the other members, their thoughts and perspectives? Do you allow the nay-sayers to control your actions and run you off? Do you call them out and fight them face to face? Do you react in the same passive aggressive manner?

It can be hard to decide what to do and how to react. Each situation is different. Each person you interact with is going to be different. You may not respond to Aunt Gladys in the same way you’d respond to your sister. How you feel that day, or what you have going on in your life will also have an impact to how you respond and react as well. There are so many variables in these situations, that coming up with one common response to fit all of them simply isn’t going to work.

Control Your Own Response
If you can walk away, do so. If this adversary is someone you don’t need in your life, then cut them out of it. You don’t have to keep negative people in your world. You decide who you allow into your life. Sometimes saying goodbye is the best thing you can do for you! Don’t be afraid to let go of negative relationships, no matter how long they’ve been part of your world. We all grow and change. How you grow and the direction you change your path to is up to you. And sometimes that means closing old doors so you have room to open new more positive ones.

There are a few things you can do if you can’t walk away. Whither it’s a family member you can’t avoid 98% of the year, or someone at school or work that you have to interact with, there are a few things to keep in mind when situations like this occur.

First, never respond out of anger. If you allow their comment to make you angry, you’ve already lost the battle. Walk away and calm down before you respond. And if you can’t walk away, simply say nothing and take a deep breath to regain control of your own emotions. Don’t let them bait you into responding the way THEY want you to. Rise above their pettiness, regain control of your reaction and think through how you want to respond.

If everyone in the room has to wait 5 minutes while you calm down, then so be it. This is YOUR timetable and your clock; they can’t control that unless you allow them to. No one can MAKE you open your mouth and speak, if you don’t’ want to. Take the time to calm down first! I remember a meeting where a manager was putting down a co-worker in a passive aggressive way. The guy being attack, got up and said excuse me. He was obviously very angry, but he controlled his reaction by walking out of the room. I found out later from talking with him that he went to the bathroom and washed his hands. He regained his composure and came back to the meeting. He said he learned this trick from a former CEO. Getting up and walking out puts the attacker off guard. It throws their plan of fighting into unknown territory and puts the control of the argument back in the hands of the “victim”. And he was right. He returned and calmly responded to the insults which put the manager not only off guard, but made him look like a complete out of control, out of the know, idiot. The victim won the battle. You can do this too!

Secondly, ask yourself ‘why did that statement make me angry’? Now you may not be able to do this in the heat of the moment. But it is important to ask yourself this question, even if it’s just for next time. Be honest with yourself. This could be a lesson for you to learn from and improve your inner thinking.

Did you get upset because you need their approval? Are you looking for them to validate your views and because they didn’t you felt angry or hurt? Looking outside yourself for validation is a very common problem many people (if not all people) face. Especially when the situation involves family.

Did it make you angry because they constantly attack you for your beliefs that they don’t agree with? What do you care if they don’t believe as you do. They’re not living your life. They have a right to their opinion equally as much as you have a right to yours. You don’t want them trying to brainwash you, which is understandable. So don’t let their words affect you and brainwash you into the response they’re looking for. You control that, they don’t.

Did you become angry because they dared to challenge your authority or reputation? They can only do that if your authority or reputation is over inflated in the first place. We all have something to learn, even us “experts” don’t know it all and face challenges every day. If that bothers you, then maybe you need to look a little deeper within yourself about who you really are and why you’re doing what you’re doing. If it’s for the accolades, then maybe you need to re-evaluate your passion.

Sometimes the Divine Universe leads us to challenges like this to help us learn our lessons as a reflection of self. What you don’t like in someone else, look in a mirror. Often times it’s an exaggerated reflection of something you don’t like about yourself. And yes, that can be a very annoying perspective. Especially when you’re essentially saying you act the same way as the person you’re having the conflict with. Your first response is, don’t compare me to them, I’m nothing like them! Well, yeah you probably are; even if it’s on a much less level of expression.

Use these encounters as an opportunity to stop beating yourself up and to learn, expand and grow stronger. Become a better person, by allowing yourself to admit you’re not perfect and have something to learn. Don’t be the hypocrite your adversary is trying to make you into. Rise above the petty aggression and develop the character of self that you want to achieve and acquire. Believe in yourself! Allow yourself to learn from your spiritual knowledge, beliefs and perspectives.

When you can apply your spiritual views and concepts to yourself, you learn to control your world and the responses you express in it. You become the victor, because you walk the higher line of compassion and peace!

© 2012 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Spring’s Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


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