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Are You Walking on Eggshells?

December 18, 2017

Maybe it’s the alcohol or perhaps the temper. May it’s the sadness or even being late.

Things happen and people behave. However, in many such occasions, we pretend things are other than they are. We tiptoe, walk on eggshells, look the other way or assign strange or different meaning to what is. We pretend otherwise. Why?

Fear mostly. We worry about what would happen if the truth were known.

R.D. Lang was a Scottish psychiatrist, popular and controversial for his views on mental illness, causes and treatments. He wrote a number of books from the 1960’s to 1980’s which were as much philosophical as psychological or psychiatric.

Of the many things he wrote about, one concept that resonated with me was the one he called mystification of experience. It is from this mystification of experience that supposedly people could be driven to mental illness. This mystification of experience is all about pretending that things are other than they are to such an extent, that the mystified version is taken as reality. Therein the person must distort or contort themselves to function in a dysfunctional place or family. (Think of gaslighting.)

  • Dad isn’t an alcoholic, he just has trouble getting up in the morning;
  • Mom isn’t depressed, she’s just a little sad;
  • Uncle Joe doesn’t have a gambling problem, it’s just his way of having fun with friends;
  • Jake isn’t violent, he just wants you to know how strongly he feels about something;
  • Mom isn’t extreme in her feelings, she is just passionate.

The list can go on and on. There are so many dysfunctional behaviors that can be given a positive spin.

Some people within their family or relationship buy into the mystified version and some do not. Of those who don’t, they look like the one’s with a problem – calling the other person out or behaving badly themselves in response or perhaps drowning their bad feelings with drugs or alcohol as a means to cope. It can very well be the one who doesn’t buy into the shenanigans who appears the most affected, yet at the same time, may be the sanest.

Either way, if you grow up in a home where there was mystification of experience, you can become the person who doesn’t confront issues as they arise or the person who needs to take on every instance of doubt in someone else’s behavior. Either way, there is a set-up for your own problematic behavior.

  • If you walk on eggshells or tiptoe around issues, you may never see a resolution to your concerns. Real issues may fester and get worse.
  • If you confront every instance of doubt, you may actually be projecting your concerns onto another and reading things wrong. Then the other person feels blamed for things they didn’t do.

If you grew up in a home marked by mystification of experience and you haven’t realized or deal with it, it can have a big affect on your life now.

The antidote or cure or treatment, according to Lang, is to make what is hidden or mystified or secret, open. We make what was covert and make it overt. We call out what is going on and own what we see. We address it forthrightly and own what is happening. The challenge is to do so civilly, diplomatically, peacefully.

For that, counseling may be of assistance.

No longer pretend. Deal with life as it really is. Learn to discern fact from fiction.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

2 Comments
  1. Diane Taylor permalink

    Excellent advice and also the advice of my spiritual healer. Be objective and step back from the behaviour and call it. The trick is remembereing to be objective at those moments. I find it helps if I look at the person as a coworker and handle it the way I would at work, with patience and clarity.

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