Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Power of Choice

I was writing about cutting people the other day ... I have embraced lately the practice (oh, such power!) of gently letting go of people whose behaviors might serve as triggers for me. When I look at it, it seems to me the ones I'm letting go are the ones who are persistently negative and/or are surrounded by drama. There are the rare few whom I think are just sick, evil people--folks with severe character flaws, or what the shrinks call "personality disorders." You know, the real narcissists, the borderlines, the antisocials, etc.

I've actually had to deal face-to-face with only one such severely flawed person (at least that I'm aware of). She was the meanest, lyingest control freak ever. And she didn't seem to have one whit of conscience. She rolled right over people, uprooting their lives, and then blaming them for being the suckers who'd believed in her in the first place. She was the President and CEO of a Silicon Valley start-up, went around telling people she had a PhD (it was even on her business card) when she was a college dropout, and basically lied to investors about having a product in development that would make them tons of money. She'd driven something like three such ventures into the ground already, but she always had a story to justify why things like that happened. "It's business, blah blah blah," and she'd fire off a million excuses, all of them believable to the person who didn't know her personally and who wanted to get in on the Dot.com Movement. People lost millions on her garbage company. (Thank God I wasn't one of them.) She was small potatoes enough that the SEC never came after her, but I feel pretty sure if anyone had gone over her books, they would've found example after example of misuse of funds based on her petty vendettas or personal desires to host a bang-up company party in Las Vegas with a rock star making an appearance (when meanwhile, the company was actually going bankrupt behind the scenes).

Her company has now gone utterly down the toilet, but I'm pretty sure she's up to her old schemes with some other venture, conning others out of their cash because, as far as I know, she's yet to suffer any real consequences for what she does. It also goes on because she badmouths everybody who could possibly blow the lid off her operations; her latest batch of "victims" are people who just believe her when she says it's everybody else who's got the vendetta. Moral of the story: beware the failed business owner who can't find a single former employee who has stood behind her over, say, more than a couple of years, and beware the failed business owner who packs her own Board with friends who know nothing of the actual business she's presiding over. And beware the former business owner who has streams of "disgruntled former employees" in her background.

I tried ONE time to fight back against a person like this. I wound up having my personal life grossly invaded by a subpoena, false accusations cooked up against me (ostensibly for "stealing company secrets" when I had done no such a thing, having worked for that company as a freelancer between jobs, helping them with a mailing project and not even coming near their phony technology--like an English major would understand it anyway)...all because she didn't like me attempting to warn people away from her. She was also pissed at me because she told people "I stole her girlfriend"...as if said girlfriend hadn't broken up with her before we even met and didn't have a mind of her own anyway. I had to hire an attorney to quash the subpoena (successfully) and go through a lot of headaches just to get this woman off my back. And pretty much all for nothing.

Because the fact was, I was trying to save people from themselves. Everybody I warned got sucked into her bullshit anyway. They wound up learning the hard way and reapproaching me years later with an apology. It was nice to be ultimately vindicated, but the experience itself had not been worth it to me. That's what I had to learn the hard way. Pick your battles. Don't try to control something you can't control.

So, what can I control?

I CAN control the types of people I invite into my life. Nowadays, if this woman entered my life, I would put out my hands and block her entrance into it. "Not interested! Find somebody else to play with."

I actually said a similar thing to somebody about a month or so ago when I realized they were just another one of those negative types, the energy sappers I've blogged about before here. I simply said, "I think I'll go find another sandbox to play in." And, I blocked them on Facebook and deleted a link to their blog on this blog. I want no part of them. My time now is only for the people I choose to have in my life--and they are the ones who add richness and depth to it, who aren't looking for an audience or a partner-in-crime to justify bad behavior, who aren't driven by an agenda to be a jerk all the time. It's true you are known by the company you keep--and my friends nowadays are healthier people, people who are full of love, people who are kind, people who give and take in equal doses.

Nobody's perfect; nobody is totally free of drama all the time. I don't have that expectation, and I sure as hell hope no one has that expectation of me.

But I reject constant negativity and drama and lies and all the bad stuff that comes with those things, because those are the things that make me want to drink. I understand now that even though those people might have a few good qualities, I can't save them and I can't change them.

The only control I have over them is my own power to choose. I choose to walk away and leave them to their own devices.


Shannon said...

I think we could all do more of what you're doing right now - we don't have to be in recovery.

I find that I just don't have time to deal with the "energy-zappers" any more. More often than not, they just want someone to vent to and are not really interested in changing what's wrong or taking control of the situation. So, like you, I'm choosing to distance myself from people that constantly radiate negative energy and seem to enjoy it.

Keep up the good work - it's tough!

Joyce said...

Hey Shannon, it really does make life much simpler. The big realization for me was understanding that the energy sappers aren't really interested in YOU at all. You just happen to be the person on the receiving end. It's a very one-sided relationship.