Have you ever known EXACTLY what the solution to someone else’s problem was? Have you offered your expertise because you wanted to be helpful and show how much you care and had them reject your advice or blast you for taking it upon yourself for trying to give them unasked for advice? Have you felt hurt, angry, rejected, and devalued because by rejecting your “fix” to their problem, somehow, that made you feel stupid for trying and then decided that they were in the wrong? Then, because you were feeling rejected and invalidated and you needed to feel better again, you decided to share your experience with others to have them tell you how right you were and that the other person was unappreciative, obstinate, sick or crazy to ignore your good intentioned advice?
You don’t have to give me a show of hands, because it is something I think we have all done at one point or another in our lives. I know I’ve been guilty of it. When I used to do these things with other people, a few things were going on. Now, I’m not saying these are the same things happening when other people do this, but it’s a possibility.
One reason was I felt overwhelmed and out of control with things happening inside of me and in my own life. It was sooooo much easier to look at other people’s lives and clearly see what was going to happen next if they continued on the same path. I call this the Horror Movie Syndrome. You know that the young, nubile, clueless PYT is going to get whacked in a heinous and bloody way the very moment she pops on the screen. Then, as she walks toward the door with the eerie light seeping out from under it and the ominous music gets faster and louder, crescendoing as she slowly opens the door and shrieks in terror. You just want to jump up, go into the screen, and jerk her back as you are yelling at her to stay back and telling her what a dumb bimbo she is. I am in the movie theater to escape and get my mind off of what’s going on in my world. It’s obvious what’s going on and I want to take control over something and feel effective, intelligent, and in control of something. But, invariably, just like I have no control over the character on the movie screen, I don’t have any control over the other people in my life who could stay alive and flourish if they would just listen to me and follow my advice.
Often it has happened when I see someone I love and care about deeply heading into the same kinds of directions and encounters that hurt and wounded me so terribly. This happens with parents and children, but it also happens with friends, partners, and from kids to parents after the kids hit adulthood. It’s the Do As I Say (not as I do syndrome.) When I was somewhere around six or seven years old I remember coining the rhyme:
Monkey see, monkey do, monkey get in trouble too.
I had seen my step-dad do something playfully wrong, maybe shake the water off of a plate instead of properly drying it or something silly like that. I started to do the same thing but was sharply told it wasn’t ok to do. I didn’t understand why, I just felt jipped and unjustly chastised. I didn’t understand why he could do something that I would get in trouble for.
Finally, many of the times I’ve offered my unsolicited advice and expertise on how another should handle a relationship, parent a child, or choose a different life path are coming from a place of self-exalted arrogance because I’ve been educated or trained, gone through the classes, learned the lingo, and memorized the theoretical concepts as well as because I have been there and done that and know what works and what doesn’t. I call this Back In The Day Syndrome. You know what I mean, when the stereotypical television mid-late lifer starts lecturing the “kid” and regaling them with the object lesson about how things were done and handled better or more effectively back when they were young.
I also know how I feel when it happens to me
I feel defensive, diminished, invalidated, rejected, fearful, anxious, sad, hurt, and angry. It makes me want to close myself off, withdraw, and hide. Mostly, I get tired of feeling like the person who is trying to fix me hasn’t really heard me or taken the time to see me . . . ALL of me. I feel like the things I have done well or efforts I have made have not been seen or validated. I feel like I have been judged as inadequate, incompetent, or ignorant.
I had a conversation with a long-time friend last night who used to offer me her well-intentioned advice and expertise on how to live my life. What she told me was so unexpected and so very much what I needed to hear at the moment.
A few years ago you told me to knock it off. I’ve really been grateful for that, it basically revolutionized my personal interactions.
I had forgotten about that. Now I remember that because she was someone I valued and considered a strong friend and support person, I somehow mustered the courage and strength of self to tell her how what she was doing made me feel and requested that she not give me advice or try to fix me unless I asked for her help, because, despite what she had to offer, I was doing what I was capable of doing at the time and was aware of the things that needed to be done, but I needed to do my life, my way and have her just accept me as I was in that moment and listen when I needed her to listen and pray when I needed her to pray. Ultimately, that’s the kind of friend we all need and we all need to be.