Ask The Fox: How do I deal with someone who won't change?

For me, this is a relative I can't avoid in my current situation.

I could get mad at him. But…it won’t help. It’ll just make me more stressed, and it won’t register with him that he needs to be better any more than the thousand other times.

This is, unfortunately, life. Sometimes it’s family. Sometimes it’s a stranger. A coworker. There is usually an individual responsible for the specific thing that happened.

You can sit and mope about how unfair the world is. You can live in other people’s damage. You can keep reinforcing and projecting forward the generational trauma that led to your current misery.

Or. Here’s a cool idea. Take charge of your own responsibility in that chain of events so old no one remembers where it started and reduce your exposure to other people’s damage as much as you can, then learn to let the rest roll off as much as you can bear. Grey rock it when you have to, break the script and take the bait less each time, and work on carving out spaces to be soft and fluffy.

You can’t live as a rock, but sometimes it’s the only way through the fire. A little bit at a time. One minute, one hour, one day at a time. One conversation you direct to, at worst, a stalemate at a time. One time you refuse to follow the script and let the neural pathways that hold generational trauma go fallow.

The little changes really do add up. “If you think I’m bad, you should see my parents” is the best most people ever manage, but only because settling for not as bad is part of the script.

Most people opt to keep going one way or the other. So, since you’re in it, you have to decide how you’re going to deal with it. Living in trauma stinks. It makes you feel bad. It makes the people around you feel bad. It leads you to make choices that drive you deeper into the situation. There’s nothing good about it.

We are weird chemical machines who perceive our reality mediated through a slab of meat in our skulls and a weird alien biome in our guts that science is just starting to figure out. Everything you do and everything you think carves new pathways and strengthens old ones. That “two wolves inside” story is bullshit cooked up by a dead fascist to sell the faulty good vs evil narrative to his fringe cult followers, but there is something to the idea that you are who you act. The more you’re pessimistic, the easier it becomes, and the harder it is to maintain a balanced perspective. You don’t have to be happy, but you can stop punching yourself.

As I work on this draft almost two years later, I don’t even remember what got me so mad I started this article instead. I used to lose days to anger over little things like whatever it was. Change is possible. Sometimes it’s slow. My own change started in earnest in the 2010s and it’s only paying dividends in the chaos of the 2020s.

Make a different choice every once in a while. It adds up.