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The Way Others Treat You

Is there a particular way others treat you that leaves you frustrated and confused?  Let's look at a few things you can do to get some clarity and relief.  

Over the years I have heard the following as descriptions of the painful ways people have experienced others treating them:

  • Like I don't exist

  • Like a servant

  • Like I am going to bite them

  • As though I have the plague

  • As if I have it all together and they don't

  • Like I am a saint or somehow too holy

  • Like I am fragile

  • As though I am always the one in charge

  • As if everything I do is just for show

  • Like I don't belong

Not being seen for all of who you are is painful.  You are a complex ever changing being with longings, feelings, deep experiences, and unique expressions and contributions.  One of our most basic needs is just to be seen and recognized by those around us.  When you consistently experience others misperceiving you and then treating you accordingly, you either collapse in hopelessness or fight back in anger.  Often you find yourself alternating between the two.  Your sense of self takes a beating in this situation and it's hard to gain the footing you need to reflect on the situation and get support.

Blaming others for treating you a particular way and trying to get them to change, is an attempt to preserve a sense of self when your resources are low.  Unfortunately, it's not effective at creating lasting change.  If someone changes his or her behavior in response to your anger and/or pleading, the change won't last and toxic resentment will build in your relationship.

If you are facing a situation like this, the first thing to do is resource yourself.  In this context, I am using the word resource as a verb: Re-Source.  You can think of Source in a spiritual way, reconnecting to Source through meditation, prayer, chanting, & other spiritual practices.  You can also think of re-sourcing as all the ways you access support; like friends, healthy self-care, nature, creative expression, etc.  When facing a stressful situation, it's important to examine the resources you have in place and notice if they are truly resourcing you and whether or not you want to change or add resources.  

Creating more resource in your life allows reactive impulses of self-preservation to calm because your sense of threat has lessened.  With more resource you are able to reflect on difficult situations, set clear boundaries*, and name your part in it without self-criticism.  This is how lasting change occurs.

In reflecting on how others treat you, you might begin by asking, how you treat yourself in the same way.  For example, if others treat you like you don't belong, ask yourself what you do to contribute to a sense of not belonging.  Your list might contain a few items like this:

  • When I enter the room, I avert my eyes and speak only if someone speaks to me

  • I tell myself I'm not important to these people

  • I tell myself it's not okay to express my opinion or ask for what I want

  • I don't take time to find out what's been going on in the group

  • I don't get curious about other people's experience and ask questions

  • I just free associate and say whatever is on my mind without tuning into to the group vibe and direction

  • If I see a small group talking that I would like to connect with, I don't approach them but rather wait to be invited.

  • I share by noticing what is being done wrong and give my advice

As you reflect on the way others treat you and make your own list, it's important to think about the things you don't do as well as the things you do.  For example, if others treat you as though you have it all together, you likely avoid doing things like asking for support and sharing your struggles.

Remember all these things you do and don't do that yield painful results, were at one time adaptive and may still be, in part, adaptive responses to difficult situations.  It's essential to have compassion for the you that developed these behaviors.  Change that arises from a sense of acceptance and compassion, supports a whole, integrated, thriving you.

Another way to discover what you do to contribute to the way others treat you, is to find someone that complains of being treated in the same way and observe what he or she does.  Many years ago, I was working as a volunteer in a group that did healing and leadership programs with youth who were labeled "at-risk".  At the end of a week long workshop, the volunteers were paired with one youth to be his or her mentor for the coming year.  When I got the name of the girl I was paired with, I asked how they had chosen her for me.  The response startled me, "You two are so much alike."  I didn't see it and asked how.  Thankfully this person shared honestly, "You are both loners, you are off on your own a lot."  This was the beginning of me seeing all the little things I did to contribute to a sense of not belonging.  Since then, I've continued to watch for my own behaviors in others and notice the impact it has on me and those around me.

Of course, observing people who are getting the results you want is also helpful.  Even more helpful is asking these folks questions that reveal an internal process.  Ask about the feelings, thoughts, habits, beliefs, and perspectives that allows that person to do the things you would like to be able to do.

In all, you can find four practices named above for getting clarity and relief regarding the way others treat you:  1) Re-source so that you can enter compassionate self-relfection  2)  Ask yourself what you do or don't do to contribute to the dynamic  3)  Observe others who are similiar to you and study what they do or don't do  4)  Ask others for feedback and the impact of your behavior and how others see you


Start small in this practice by choosing just a single instance in which you were confused or frustrated by how someone treated you.  Begin with empathy for the feelings and needs that came up for you in that moment.  Clarify a request you could make of the other person if you are in a future similar situation with him or her.  Next, allow your mind to trace through the events of that day which led up to this interaction.  Ask yourself, "What did I do or not do that could have contributed to the difficult interaction I had with this person?"

*Boundary setting is essential for surrounding yourself with those who treat you in the ways you want to be treated.  For articles on boundary setting go here:  span style="font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(17, 85, 204); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">[str]=boundaries&yt0=Search

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