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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

What Now?

Years ago, before practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I relied heavily on friends, family, and loved ones to shoulder the burden of my grievances about all sorts of issues. At the time, I was oblivious about how my behavior was interpreted by others.

I thought that having people who cared about me meant that they should, must, or ought to be interested in my problems. After all, I treated them as I wanted to be treated by listening to their dissatisfaction with other people and life in general.

Though I’m uncertain from where my notion of using others as a welcome mat stemmed, this assumption was repeatedly reinforced by others who allowed me to whine, moan, bitch, and complain. That is, until one day when I was called out on the mess I was making in the lives of others.

I had a friend, who I’ll refer to as “Shelly,” whose proverbial doorway I’d darkened on many occasions. A romantic relationship would dissolve and I’d contact Shelly.

My employment with an organization was terminated and I’d contact Shelly. I got into a car accident and I’d contact Shelly. If I was dissatisfied with virtually anything to do with myself, others, or the world, guess who I contacted—Shelly.

To be fair, Shelly also confided in me about many issues. We called our behavior “venting.” However, looking back, I aired more grievances than she did. As well, many of my complaints carried more emotional weight than Shelly’s venting ever did.

And why shouldn’t it have been the case that I could wipe my dirty feet all over Shelly’s doormat? That’s what “true” friends were for—at least that’s the lie I told myself.

One day, after several years of removing accumulated soil from my shoes on Shelly’s welcome mat, some event I thought was significant enough to share with Shelly once again presented itself. Before dialing her number, I imagined that Shelly would offer unwavering support.

However, when she answered my call and I stated something to the effect of, “You aren’t gonna’ believe this,” Shelly responded with, “What now?” Her tone didn’t indicate an enthusiastic query about what I was prepared to say during one of our discussions which typically lasted no less than an hour.

Rather, the inflection in Shelly’s voice was interpreted as meaning, “Deric, you always have something going on and it’s exhausting!” I was so taken aback in the moment that I quickly retreated from my main talking points and excused myself from the call.

We wouldn’t speak again for approximately a year—during which I brooded over Shelly’s perceived audacity to deny me an opportunity to vent. “What now?” I asked myself, “No true friend would respond in such a way.”

What I now understand about that experience is that Shelly’s reaction wasn’t what upset me, because I disturbed myself about what she said. From an REBT perspective, people disturb themselves not by situations though by what they believe about these situations.

My assumption about Shelly’s statement was that no true friend would respond as she did. Using basic logic, here’s how my irrational belief was constructed:

Premise 1: No true friend is disinterested in my problems.

Premise 2: All people who support me are true friends.

Conclusion: Therefore, no people who support me are disinterested in my problems.

This is sound logic. However, the major premise suffers a logical fallacy known as no true Scotsman by using a universal claim (“no true friend”) that is falsifiable, because objective data does not support the assertion.

While it may be true that some or many friends express interest in the problems of others, it simply isn’t true that all friends do so. Likewise, it isn’t a valid claim that no friend expresses disinterest—as evidenced by Shelly’s response.

Hence, my irrational belief—though logically sound—was based on a false premise. This being the case, my self-disturbing belief was contingent upon an untrue claim.

Plainly, there was no reason for Shelly to endure yet another phone call during which I bitched about my problems. This was true no matter how emotionally connected I was to the expectation for my friend to treat me as I internally demanded.

Think about the amount of time I allowed to transpire after that call with Shelly and consider how during that time I accumulated more mud on my proverbial shoes. When Shelly reached out to me a year later, I made a mess of her welcome mat by dredging up her past what-now response.

Not only had I upset myself when she initially inquired about what I planned to tell her a year prior, I spent the following year making more of a mess of things. Then, when able to reconnect, I scattered sludge all over her doormat.

Is that what a “true friend” would do? I didn’t live by the rigid standard I set for others and it was unkind to treat Shelly in such a way. In fact, I now consider it insensitive to abuse the welcome mat of my support network by whining to them about my problems.

Of this, I’m reminded of the song “Runnin’” by The Pharcyde, as group member Slimkid3 states, “There comes a time in every man’s life when he’s gotta’ handle shit up on his own. Can’t depend on friends to help you in a squeeze, please, they got problems of their own.”

I have shit to deal with. They have shit to deal with. Therefore, what sense does it make to should all over my inner circle when people are dealing with their own shit? This is akin to not merely tracking mud on their doormat, though wiping shit on it.

Truly, I’m grateful for the practice of REBT so that I now understand how my behavior with Shelly didn’t serve either of us well. As such, I take that lesson and apply it elsewhere.

This isn’t to suggest that I don’t share negative details about my life with others. Rather, I don’t self-disturb like I used to. So when I discuss unpleasant matters, I also address what I’ve done to remedy these issues.

Unfortunately, not everyone to whom I’m close in my personal life understands the lesson reflected herein. Some people see the healthy boundary of an unwelcome mat and disturb themselves with irrational assumptions about its existence.

These individuals willfully refuse to tolerate discomfort associated with my helpful perspective in opposition to their own. For such people, I practice unconditional acceptance of the person while also reinforcing healthy boundaries regarding their unproductive behavior.

How about you, dear reader, do you experience any friends, family, or loved ones who routinely shit on your proverbial doormat? If so, do you disturb yourself about their behavior?

There may be no reason for these people to bring unwelcomed problems your way. Still, do you allow others to make a mess of your life, because you senselessly assume you must do so?

If you’re struggling with the narratives you tell yourself about such matters, similar to what you’ve read in this blogpost, REBT may be a useful technique for you. Let’s find out, because I’m here to help.

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


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