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On second thought

Post by Maggie McGuire on Jan. 21, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
January 21, 2011 3:00 pm

An advantage we writers have is to be able to speak from different sides of a perspective. Sometimes, we comment; sometimes, we agree; sometimes, we object. Sometimes, we even change our minds.

Let me revise a previously stated view.

Sometimes estrangement in a relationship can be the right—and healthy—thing to do.

Shortly before Christmas, I posted a blog—in the wake of an untimely death of a loved one—that urged forgiveness, reconciliation, burying the hatchet (not in each other), and goodwill toward others. I quoted: “Death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to families. Estrangement can be worse.”

I still believe those words…unless you are in a relationship with a toxic personality. We’ve all known them: blaming, complaining, or draining. Or all combined.

My ancient (don’t ask how long ago) training in psychology and counseling pushed me to re-educate myself on this frustrating and complex subject. Patterns in my loved one’s family and my own pushed me to, once again, dive into the research of human dynamics. I re-learned the following:

• We cannot change other people. We can only change our own perspectives and reactions.
• Others change only when they choose to. Not because we want them to.
• Setting and keeping clear boundaries is hard, but very important.
• Distance, i.e. healthy detachment, from toxic others is sometimes the best resolution.

My blog posting may have implied forgiveness and reconciliation “at any cost.” Unless it’s a two way street, it won’t work. Harmony should not come at the cost of one’s own self-esteem.

Sometimes the troublesome other is so entrenched—and unaware—that no coping mechanism we use will make it bearable.

Ultimately the decision rests with each of us. Sad as it is, a self-imposed “time out,” after all, may be the right and life-affirming decision.

That, too, is coping.

(Thanks to Mark Goulston for ideas from his article “When People Are Poison.”

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