Don’t engage crazy, revisited

photo by Jill E. Williams

So, the toxic relationships post really resonated with people– I got emails, tweets, and Facebook comments.  And all of that discussion with people about their own toxic relationship situations revealed that a fair amount of time, maybe more often than not, people realized that there was a possibility that this was going to be a toxic relationship before they even got into it.  Despite themselves and their intuition, they got into the relationship/ friendship anyway.  They denied their own wisdom in hope, I imagine, that they were wrong.  And then, of course, they were right.

I say this without judgment because I’ve been there, done that, too.  And years ago, I noticed this tendency in me to know one thing and yet act in another way and I created a rule in my life.  The rule is don’t engage crazy.

A few years ago, I blogged about that rule because I had recently broken it and, in breaking it, had been POWERFULLY reminded of why I had made the rule in the first place.  Remember, life keeps handing you the lesson you need to learn (another rule of mine).  And so I relearned my lesson and have thus far been on the don’t engage crazy straight and narrow.  Talking about toxic relationships inspired me to go find the Don’t Engage Crazy blog post and update it.  Here we go:

The other day, I was telling a friend a story.  I said something along the lines of, “And I wasn’t going to engage because one of my rules is Don’t Engage Crazy.  You often can’t ignore crazy (because, let’s face it, the reason the person gets crazy is so that they are not ignored.) but you can certainly not engage crazy.”  And my friend stopped me and said, “You have a rule to not engage crazy?”

“Absolutely,” I said.  Because the truth is that if you engage crazy, your life is about to get hijacked.  And I don’t do hostage taking.  Nope, not at all.

Except for, of course, the reason I was telling my friend this story was because I had– though I knew the warning signs were there– engaged crazy after avoiding it with this person (not my friend but another person who I don’t know all that well because I have been avoiding what I thought might be a maelstrom of craziness if I plugged in) for more than a year.  I had dodged and dodged and dodged crazy and then stepped right into it when I wasn’t suspecting it because I got worn down (which is what crazy does, right, waits until you get worn down or undisciplined).  And it blew up in my face.  Because that’s what crazy does.  Explodes.

I called myself out on the carpet after it happened.  I licked my wounds, and then I reminded myself, “don’t engage crazy.”

Now, let me be clear.  This kind of crazy is the crazy making crazy.  The drama making, hysterical making crazy.  Not the a little left of center crazy for which, let me be honest, I have a big heart.  What I don’t have the heart for is the escalating, name calling, accusing, maddening, pot stirring crazy.  You know the kind.  Because that kind of crazy is just projecting its own unresolved stuff out onto the world.  And if you aren’t willing to resolve your stuff, if you aren’t willing to be self-aware and proactive, I am just not the best match for you. Not because I am so stuff less and resolved but because I think there is so much honor in the trying everyday and so projecting what I need to be doing, my own flaws, on someone else is just crazy making to me.   It’s not a fit, and I need to be honest about that.  It’s only fair to me and, to be quite honest, it’s only fair to the person who is doing it.  Why over-engaged when we really aren’t a relationship match?

So that is my gentle reminder today:  Don’t Engage Crazy, the kind of crazy that is bound to be toxic for you not long down the road after the honeymoon period is over.  Trust your intuition and side-step the situation.

You do not deserve to be taken hostage.

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3 responses to “Don’t engage crazy, revisited”

  1. Jamie

    Very nice post! I am often coaching my clients (I’m a counselor) to not engage crazy…and it is hard to avoid when the crazy is working hard to engage you personally 🙂 I think the hardest part for my clients (and for me, too, at times) is NOT ENGAGING looks much different from FIGHTING….fighting crazy IS engaging crazy.

    Good stuff!!!!

  2. Anna Guest-Jelley

    So good! This is a lesson I’ve had to learn time and again — it still pops up sometimes, but I’m learning to preempt slowly but surely.

  3. On Loving and Raising a Black Boy | Rosie Molinary

    […] one of us?  Her for asking this patronizing question or me to indicate it just wasn’t worth it; don’t engage crazy, he might have been telling […]

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