Did I really say that there are no difficult people? Amazing as that may sound, that’s exactly what I said. What about the obnoxious ones or the know-it-alls? What about the people who won’t stop talking or those who create constant emotional drama? Can there be any doubt that extremely passive and withdrawn people are impossible to be with, as well as those who make a hobby out of attacking anyone and everyone?
While all these characterizations certainly represent interesting challenges, it is my position that none of these traits are the final determiners of whether someone is difficult. The ultimate test is your capacity to be open to the full range of possible responses that you are potentially capable of. Your capacity to respond with great flexibility depends on where you are in relation to the five movements of life; moving toward, away, against, up and down. It is the life task for each of us to learn all five of these movements, and use the one that bests suits a given situation with a particular person. Too often many of us robotically select the same movement, regardless of what the situation call for.
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An example of this occurred in a state hospital where several therapists were trying to get a patient who talked in word salad -- mixing isolated words together -- to make sense. After a short period of time, each doctor gave up frustrated and exhausted as the patient continued his word salad rhetoric. Then another doctor who had been listening to this stepped in, but in contrast to the others he made no attempt to get the patient to make sense. Instead, he totally joined in the word salad style of relating for hour after hour with the patient. Finally after five hours the patient turned to him and said “When are you going to make sense, Doc?” All the other therapists were shocked that this patient, who they declared as a totally difficult and impossible could respond like that. In truth, it never occurred to them to join his behavior
Before proceeding further let me share with you the nature of the five movements:
Moving toward - This consists of moving toward someone and expressing a particular need, such as “I want to be with you” or asking for something such as “Can you hold me?” It would be hard to take care of yourself without this movement.
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Moving away - This involves moving away from someone and creating a physical space for yourself, where you can support your limits and take care of your own needs. “I need to be alone right now,” “That is all the time I have to listen.” Without the freedom to do this, you will build up resentment and fail to take care of yourself.
Opposing - In order for your “yes” to have meaning, you need to have the ability to say “NO”, so that you are able to define your boundaries when you are presented with something that doesn’t fit you. “It is unacceptable for you to smoke in this room.” Many people who are pleasers do not have the option of this movement, so they need to suppress these feelings.