Exploiting Understanding

One of my good qualities is that I’m very understanding. Depending on the circumstances, I will admit that I’m sometimes TOO understanding.

As my loved ones well know, I have an ear, shoulder, hug when anyone needs any/all of those things. I have always maintained that it doesn’t matter what I am going through in my life; if anyone needs me, I’m there. I appreciate that people hold back, thinking that they’re adding to my burdens, but I don’t see it that way. I WANT to help others, as much as I possibly can.

And then there’s the part where my understanding becomes the card that some people always play in any given situation. If you’re anything like me, you’ll recognize the sort of dynamics I mean. There are times when I feel that certain people dismiss my feelings with the casual [unspoken] assumption that “of course” I will understand why my thoughts and feelings are secondary. Only, it seems more like an indirect order: “You’ll just have to accept what’s happening, because you can’t change it.” I almost feel like they should give me a dutiful pat on the head, as they’re saying it. “Good ol’ Carol. She ALWAYS understands.” {pat, pat}

What they’re REALLY saying is, “SOMEBODY has to be the understanding one, because I sure as HELL won’t compromise.” In order for someone to continue getting their desired outcome, someone has to lose. Boom, someone plays the “Carol ALWAYS understands” card, followed by the “EXTREME buttering up” card, so that I’ll feel bad if I actually do stand up for myself. And, based on history, my role as “the understanding one” has spanned many years by now. I believe it was a product of being the youngest in my family; being at the bottom of the totem pole meant being “too young” to have a say in most situations. Additionally, I was always the shy, quiet one (introverted!) which, perhaps, made it easy for everyone else to dismiss me; they knew I wouldn’t challenge anything.

It doesn’t feel nice to wonder if my feelings really matter. I am an understanding person because I don’t want to create conflict or awkward situations. I want my loved ones to feel uplifted in my presence, secure in the knowledge that I would never intentionally cause anyone pain. Yes, I realize it leaves me completely vulnerable, but it gives nobody license to take advantage. No, I won’t change who I am, but I also reserve the right to launch self-preservation mode, if necessary. My understanding can be limited if it’s almost always expected and, if I reach a point of feeling exploited, my tolerance drops to zero.

Compromise.

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