You can’t get away from the fact that every so often, sometimes in quick succession, you’re going to meet a real asshole or ten.
These come in two forms: one is the kind that you create. In actual fact the person isn’t all that bad but your image of them – what we call the projection – is based on your own previous experiences, biases and reminders of other people that have done you wrong. It’s hard to admit that you’re the problem sometimes but it’s always worth asking the question ‘Am I the asshole here?’. Through no fault of that person, you have interpreted their behaviour, seen it as offensive and judged them. Like an asshole. This is by far the most common type and the ways to deal with are multiple, personal and challenging. A subject for another time.
You have interpreted their behaviour, seen it as offensive and judged them. Like an asshole.
The other kind is the honest-to-goodness piece of crap. They create trouble either for the sake of it or because someone dared to stand in the way of their flight of fancy or goal. They take joy in seeing people suffer or they don’t even see other people as other people at all, just props that either help or hinder them. There’s no amount of personal soul-searching or reflecting on your own behaviour that will change that. There is one thing you can do to diffuse their power over you however.
The first thing is to admit they have power over you and that it needs diffusing.
The first thing is to admit they have power over you and that it needs diffusing. Whether its someone you know in social circles, a work colleague, a boss, a family member or a stranger on the street, they are making a power play whether they realise it or not and its working. How do I know? Because it’s having an effect on you. Once you’ve realised that you need to change the situation but here’s the thing: YOU CANNOT CHANGE OTHER PEOPLES THINKING. Even if you were able to change their behaviour, their tendencies would come out in different ways, maybe underhand, maybe hidden, maybe they’d go home and kick the dog. So, as always in these situations, the only thing you can have a shot at changing is yourself. This isn’t about blaming you, it’s about responsibility – YOU have a responsibility to YOU. So the thought process you can employ to disrupt the asshole effect is this: when you can’t understand the adult, look for the child.
When you can’t understand the adult, look for the child
All power plays, all destructive behaviour are based in early trauma. Sometimes people suffer terribly and never behave badly but this is because they don’t have the genetics. Genes can also be present – lets call it the asshole gene – without ever getting switched on by a traumatic event. Sometimes instead, the perfect storm of the right gene and the wrong experience can produce extreme human behaviour that is unpleasant, illegal or simply evil. Addiction, according to the great psychiatrist Gabor Mate is a the supreme example of this.
Everything from workaholism to full-blown substance dependency can be traced back to traumatic experiences in childhood. In his book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts Mate describes patient after patient who deal with the lingering pain of horrendous early experiences by self-medicating. Sometimes it may be seen as harmless by society – even celebrated in the case of addiction to shopping – or it may have an effect on mental or sexual health, as in the case of pornography addiction but its always an individuals way of attempting to heal inner pain.
Take Donald Trump for example. Many describe his behaviour as distinctly – if not outright definitively – asshole-like.
Which brings us to assholes. Addicted people can behave poorly towards others if they don’t get their fix but addiction doesn’t necessarily need to be present. Take Donald Trump for example. Many describe his behaviour as distinctly – if not outright definitively – asshole-like. He’s an incredibly divisive figure who likes attention, craves wealth and power and is thoroughly adept at throwing his toys out of the pram when he doesn’t get his own way. According to his autobiography he punched his music teacher at school after an unfavourable report. It’s easy to hate him. Now consider the child that he was. Starved of affection and attention, taught that everything was his to abuse, never having to strive for anything material and never taught an ounce of respect for women. He is a traumatised boy. Can you see the sad child in him? Can you try really hard to imagine him weeping in the dark hours for want of a single hug?
Now what about the asshole in your life? What traumas have they experienced? How have they come to expect the world to behave towards them? What dreadful sadness are they acting out? Look for the weeping child in the asshole adult and their power is diffused. They are displaying their weakness, not their strength. I get very upset when I hear about children being abused, neglected or not being treated with anything but the most profound love, so why would I forget those children that have grown up in world that they feel they cant control, a world without expectation of love and tenderness? They become our assholes.
Look for the weeping child in the asshole adult and their power is diffused