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when I am confused, overwhelmed and assuming responsibility for their feelings? By problem person I am referring to someone who uses bullying and manipulation when they are unhappy with me.

Until recently I have been a little confused by the concept of acceptance, misinterpreting it to mean passivity. Encouraged to see the problem is always with me and my reactions, I have allowed other people to treat me horribly in the name of acceptance. Finally I am learning not to be a doormat, not to endorse other peoples’ bullshit.

As a recipient of someone else’s bullying and manipulation I have a choice about how to deal with it. (If confused about what qualifies as such behaviours I check with my sponsor/ fellows.) My misguided instinct – directed by fear – is to self-justify, over-explain, reassure and metaphorically stroke their hair. I want to be liked. I think I need their approval. I am afraid of hurting them. In actual fact to respond this way simply encourages more of the same. To respond at all provides them with ammunition and invites another response/ attack.

I’ve been taught now that the best practise is to ignore, however, for me this feels alien, challenging, and like I am being ‘mean’. I end up consumed with guilt, erroneously taking responsibility for their emotional state. What I need to do is abandon the mean-nice sliding scale, as it not absolute, it is relative. The ‘right’ thing is not to be measured by the imagined reaction of the other person, as often the ‘right’ thing precipitates a ‘negative’ reaction eg. saying no to more candy invites tantrums and tears from a toddler.

What needs to be utilised is the ‘God’s will’ sliding scale: which of the options available gets the job done with minimum pain?

To respond with self-justification would be futile, as seen above. To cut them off with explanation, detailing their ‘faults’, would also be pointless and invariably lead to more resentment on their part. I have never ever welcomed home-truths coming from someones else so why would they? The third option is to ignore completely. Whilst this may of course insight anger on their part, I am effectively saying “This is not acceptable”, thus ending the contact. To engage at all would be to perpetuate the interaction.

In Al-anon, a slip can be preventing someone from seeing the consequences of their actions. By responding I would be tolerating bullying and manipulation, deepening their belief that they are in fact right to behave like that. To cut off without explanation is therefore ‘right’ in this situation.