Tolerance isn’t always healthy

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you can't be so healthy that you won't be bothered by ill treatment

If you’ve had a complicated childhood chances are you’ve been told you’re too sensitive. Maybe you’ve been called a worry wart, a crybaby, impossible, annoying or been told, “I’ll give you something to cry about!” You may have learned how to swallow your hiccoughing tears, ignore your terror. Maybe even now as an adult you face eye-rolling or ridicule when you try to speak up for yourself.

I’m sorry that happened.

Maybe you’ve tried to get stronger (and if you got through a childhood like that, you’re already strong) and learned to steel yourself before visits and holidays. You’ve learned not to respond when you get told you have “no sense of humor” because you don’t laugh at the name calling and so-called teasing. You’ve tried to ignore the boundary crossing for the sake of peace and quiet. You’ve learned to go along to get along.

But you get frustrated with yourself. You know it’s just like that; why do you let it get to you so much?

Listen. You can’t be so healthy that you won’t be bothered by ill treatment. In fact, just the opposite.

The dysfunction is NOT in your inability to tolerate casual cruelty. The problem is NOT that you can’t learn how to laugh at yourself. Your intolerance of dysfunction is a sign of your resilience. It’s healthy to recoil from being treated badly.

So then you have to choose. You have to think about the benefits of tolerating poor behavior and the benefits of walking away. You have to think about what it will cost you to cut visits short and what it will cost you to stay. You get to decide. Not your family; YOU. In dysfunctional families that are committed to staying dysfunctional, the behavior is meant to get to you. It’s meant to maintain the status quo. You may not have a say in how your family functions, but you do get to decide how you participate.

For most of us this is a process. We have to feel our way to our boundaries. We have to see what the fall out is and decide which is more difficult, which hurts our hearts more, which causes us more emotional fall out. And while we figure it out, we need support systems that understand that before we can heal any relationships with our families, we need to heal the relationship we have with ourselves. That means not repeating the same messages — that we are too sensitive, that we need to be more tolerant, that we need to stop “letting” their behavior get to us.

Find your healing community — the friends, support groups and therapist — that helps you stand up to dysfunction, to hold your limits and welcomes your inability to tolerate what is intolerable.

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