web analytics
February 28, 2015 / 9 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


When Parallel Realities Are Toxic


Kupfer-Cheryl

In a recent column I suggested that a crucial component of being in a successful relationship – whether a friendship, a marriage or in the office – was the ability and willingness to validate – if not necessarily accept – another person’s “take” on a particular situation.

I described a mindset that is open to and respectful of a “parallel reality.” Since no two people on this planet have had the exact same experiences, it is inevitable that people will view and subsequently react to an occurrence differently. I gave as an example the situation of a husband, a hardworking accountant, coming home late from work, fatigued and stressed out (it being tax season) and hearing his wife, a stay at home mother of three, complain how hard her day was with the kids – one threw up, one colored on the wall, etc. He wisely acknowledged she had had a rough day. He might privately think her day was quite mild compared to his – but he understood that from her vantage point, she truly believed hers was worse than his.

I pointed out that it is important to acknowledge people’s feelings, even though you might have reacted quite differently. For example, a child who lost a beloved, ragged teddy bear will experience a grief as potent as that of a woman who lost a piece of jewelry given to her by an adored grandmother. Smart parents will validate their child’s feelings and console him, instead of dismissing his reaction and telling him he’s a big boy and should stop crying, it was only an old stuffed animal and due for the garbage anyhow.

Even though you may not totally agree with a person’s interpretation of a situation, it is important that you realize it is his/her truth, and act in a way that respects it.

But not always.

In some extreme cases, you must not only reject a person’s parallel reality, but distance yourself from it lest it overpower and distort your own reality, and make you confused and create doubt in your self-integrity and competence.

Unfortunately, there are people whose reality is so skewed, so twisted and removed from that of the overwhelming majority, that acknowledging or giving any legitimacy to that “parallel” reality can disrupt one’s well being and even be life threatening. Sadly, there are people who, due to mental illness or being raised in an emotionally toxic environment, have a misshapen view of what is real, and in some circumstances people connected to them through birth or marriage should, to the best of their ability, remove themselves from their sphere of influence.

The yardstick for properly assessing whether someone’s take on reality is benign or toxic is the extent it negatively or positively affects your life – and their own.

For example, a teenager eating lunch with friends nibbles on a small salad. “I have to lose weight,” she insists. “I am sooooo fat.” This is her reality. She looks in a mirror and sees a fat person. If her friends see her as slightly chubby, then they can safely validate her insistence that she is “sooooo fat,” as their friend’s “reality” falls within the parameters of their collective one. However, if her friends see an emaciated, skeletal girl, then it is obvious her reality is distorted, and they must not support it. (What they should do is alert her parents, teachers, etc., who can get her professional help).

In this scenario, it is the girl herself who is at grave risk because of her distorted reality.

Tragically, there are men, women and children whose lives are being made miserable – even unbearable – by relatives, friends, teachers, colleagues, etc. whose view of situations is totally warped and bent. For example, there are individuals who almost always feel they are being slighted, or ignored or insulted – when there is no reason at all for them to feel this way. These toxic people constantly feel offended and their “noses are out of joint” and it is impossible to please them. There are individuals who chronically see failure or inferiority when there is no basis for it, and are super critical, quick to disparage, disapprove and censure. Often they destroy their targets’ self-esteem, a crucial first step to controlling and manipulating them.

Those with the bad mazal of being connected to these warped people are subject to relentless stress and distress, and may feel trapped or hopeless – especially if it is someone they can’t easily walk away from, like a parent or spouse.

People make the mistake of trying to placate or gratify a person who is impossible to please, who unrealistically finds fault with everything. They will wear themselves out, and ruin their mental and physical health doing so.

I remember trying to be friendly to a classmate everyone avoided. I complimented her on the blouse she was wearing. She turned to me and said, “You did not say anything about the blouse I wore yesterday or the one the day before and in fact this is the first time you complimented anything I wore. Does that mean everything I wore up to today was ugly? Are you telling me I have no fashion sense at all and today’s outfit was a fluke?”

I walked away feeling very sorry for her – life must be extremely painful and lonely if you take umbrage and offense at everything, even gestures most people would view as a positive one, not an insult. But I realized life as her spouse or child or sibling must be hell, always treading on eggshells, never knowing how the simplest word or action will be interpreted; constantly trying to placate, pacify, soothe, appease and mollify someone who will make you feel inept or evil, no matter what you do. The danger lies in the supplanting of one’s healthy reality due to the relentless infliction of the warped one.

A child constantly told that he is stupid, worthless, untrustworthy, etc., by the adults in his life (parents, teachers, neighbors) will eventually believe this view of him. Their parallel reality will supplant his; for example, he might have thought that he was smart, being a B+ student, but being repeatedly told he is not up to par because he is not an A student — like his brother — will erase that reality.

To the best of their ability, people should avoid or walk away from those whose skewed reality can harm them emotionally or physically. If they are not in the position to do so, they should try to minimize their exposure or attach themselves to those with a “real” reality. Since children are especially vulnerable, try to reach out to them and show them another point of view if you are aware that their parents are, by general consensus, dysfunctional human beings. In some situations, doing so is literally pikuach nefesh.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “When Parallel Realities Are Toxic”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
18,000 Iranian Centrifuges
Reducing Iran’s Number of Centrifuges Makes a Bomb More Likely
Latest Sections Stories
Niehaus-022715

One should not give the money before Purim morning or after sunset.

Mendlowitz-022715-Basket

The mishloach manos of times gone by were sometimes simple and sometimes elaborate, but the main focus was on the preparation of the delicious food they contained.

Astaire-022715-Countryside

One of the earliest special Purims we have on record was celebrated by the Jews of Granada and Shmuel HaNagid, the eleventh-century rav, poet, soldier and statesman, and one of the most influential Jews in Muslim Spain.

South-Florida-logo

Jews, wake up! Stop educating the world and start educating yourselves.

The lessons conform to the sensitivities and needs of the Orthodox community…

The program took on special significance as it marked not only the first anniversary of Rebbetzin Kudan’s levayah but also the 27th yahrzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, a”h.

It captures the love of the Jewish soul as only Shlomo Hamelech could portray it – and as only Rabbi Miller could explain it.

Erudite and academic, drawing from ancient and modern sources, the book can be discussed at the Shabbos table as well as in kollel.

I’m here to sit next to you and help you through this Purim with three almost-too-easy mishloach manot ideas, all made with cost-conscious paper bags.

Kids want to be like their friends, and they want to give and get “normal” mishloach manos stocked with store-bought treats.

Whenever he did anything loving for me, I made a big deal about it.

“OMG, it’s so cute, you’re so cute, everything is so cute.”

A program that started with a handful of volunteers has grown exponentially to include students from a wider array of backgrounds.

Tutor. Counselor. The doctor too,
Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with you.

More Articles from Cheryl Kupfer
Kupfer-112114

Divorce from a vindictive, cruel spouse can be a lifelong nightmare when there are offspring.

Kupfer-092614-Books

Not knowing any better, I assumed that Molly and her mother must be voracious readers.

Unpleasant happenings are quickly discarded if they do not affect us directly.

I have always insisted that everything that happens to anyone or anything is min Shamayim.

It is so hurtful to heighten people’s sense of inadequacy and guilt in a matzav that is already horrendous and difficult to bear.

Make no mistake: in the wrong hands cars are weapons of mass destruction.

Where once divorce in heimische communities was relatively uncommon, nowadays every family has a son, daughter, sibling cousin who is divorced – sometimes twice or even three times!

Many go about the business of living frum, observant lives, but they are only going through the motions.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/on-our-own/when-parallel-realities-are-toxic-2/2010/09/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: