It's clear from the comments on Controlling and Manipulative Behavior that readers got lost in the details of Aunt Bessie's ugly present instead of seeing the point of the post. It's not about that gift, it's about withholding information or lying to try and control what someone else thinks about you that is the trap.
We cannot control the feelings of another. No matter how hard we try we cannot be successful at that. It might look like it's working out sometimes but in the long run, it is a trap. Because we have no control over how another human being thinks, we have no way of controlling how they feel. Even though it's hard to see sometimes, those two things are directly related.
We also cannot control someone else's reaction to what we say or do. We may think we know how they will react but there is no guarantee that it will work. If we spend our time trying to be happy by making those around us happy, we can be sorely disappointed.
I know. I spent the first thirty something years of my life trying to make those around me happy. I protected those I loved from things that might make them feel bad. The result was not happiness for them or me. Those skills are not only NOT healthy, they are destructive.
My two oldest children grew up with a mother who taught them the way to happiness was by keeping those around them happy. If people weren't mad at you, life would be good. Despite therapy neither of those kids learned to put that behavior aside. They are not happy because you cannot attain happiness by trying to control how others feel.
Doing this or saying that to make someone else happy is time wasted. That doesn't mean that doing nice things for people is wrong. It means do nice things for people because it makes you feel good to do so not because of how it will make them feel. Let them be responisible for that part themselves.
The result of this is that you can let go when someone is not happy. I know in my life my husband is a very negative thinker. He can see the worst in the best situation. If I felt I had to keep him happy (which I used to do before therapy) I would feel like a failure most of the time. And, of course, feeling like a failure was pretty tough on my self esteem.
My daughter had brain cancer with resulting brain damage from her treatment. She went through an awful time feeling depressed and out of sorts over the changes in her life. Knowing that was not my fault was a huge thing for me. Teaching her how to deal with her feelings and her disabilities in an appropriate manner was fulfilling and gratifying.
Both things were about The Serenity Prayer for me. One of those things I cannot change is my husband seeing the glass half empty or my daughter being brain damaged. I can make sure both of their negativitiy didn't make me negative as well. I can help my daughter to see past her limitations. I do not tell either of them what they wanted to hear so that they would feel better. I did tell them both the truth, no matter what the cost.
The result has been that both have learned to deal with their own feelings and to pick themselves up when they get down. Lindsay has learned to control her feelings when they tip out of control and Dave has learned to let go of that half empty glass even if only for short periods of time. Lindsay has grown far beyond what the doctors ever thought possible and Dave has grown too.
Because I have not tried to control their feelings, a bond of trust has developed that helps when times get tough. That trust is also there with others in my life. My children,my grandchilden, my friends, all trust me. They know if I tell them something it is the truth. Even if it's something they don't want to hear they respect the fact that they can believe me and that I don't try to manipulate them.
Once I told a friend that she was getting bitter. The relationship she was trying to save was destroying what I loved about her. It was affecting her children as well. I don't think there is anyone else in this world she would have accepted that information from but me. She knew I had no agenda, no reason to hurt her.
At first the look on her face was shocked. It quickly turned to recognition. She knew that she could trust me to tell her even this difficult truth. She told me later, I saved her life that day. I never would have been able to do that had I still be living under those old family rules of telling people what they wanted to hear.
I know that this is a hard lesson to learn. It's even harder to put into practice. But I hope that you will hear it. I can assure you this practice of living your life telling people what they want to hear costs you in ways you have never imagined. It is just one part of controlling and manipulating behavior but a big one.
to be continued........
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