Reality Check: The Things People Say

Everybody’s heard about Treena’s embarrassing situation. At least, that’s her perception. Her boss, neighbours, relatives, friends, and acquaintances know that she did something bad and was caught.
It was even in the paper, ensuring that every single person knows it. She is sure she’ll never get her reputation back.
Treena knows and accepts that what she did was wrong. She had other, better choices. She just didn’t think things through.
It would be different if she’d been wrongly accused. Then she could fight back, secure in the knowledge that she’s right even if others don’t know it.
But Treena can’t justify her actions to herself; much less to people she loves and respects. If she didn’t feel responsible, or if she blamed someone else, she might feel less emotionally torn apart. But she feels she deserves her humiliation.
It’s a difficult situation. But it happened and now she is living with the consequences.
One of those consequences is that Treena doesn’t want to see anyone or go anywhere. Not to the mall, the grocery store, and certainly not to the events that she used to enjoy so much. What would people say to her?
The scenarios that pop up in Treena’s fertile imagination are too humiliating to bear. Better to hide inside, but you can’t do that forever.
So, now what? Often, a good initial suggestion is to ask, “What do I want?” Treena would like the event to have never happened. As that’s impossible, what do you want that is possible? Treena would like to restore her relationships with people.
The next question, “What are you doing?” Treena’s been hiding, avoiding every encounter that she possibly can.
Now the big question, “How’s that working for you?”
Treena knows it’s not working well. The longer she avoids seeing people, the bigger the situation grows in her mind. As time goes on, the event doesn’t fade; it looms larger.
She’ll need to make a change if she wants her situation to change. What to do differently?
Treena cannot control what others say, think or do. It’s completely possible that she will meet someone who will say something deliberately hurtful. People satisfy their needs in different ways, and they are not always nice. For some, taking an opportunity to humiliate another can be tremendously satisfying of their need for power. People say mean things. You can’t always avoid that.
However, Treena can control how she reacts. It could be helpful to be prepared. How can Treena respond if someone says something nasty? Here are some possibilities.
Treena could choose to disregard the meanness of the comment and interpret it as if it were meant kindly. “Thank you for telling me what you think. This has been a real opportunity for me to learn and grow, though not one that I would wish on you or anyone else.”
Or, “I’m sure it wasn’t your intention to hurt me. This has been a difficult time and I’m struggling.”
Or, “I’m disappointed that you think so little of me. I recognize I could have made a better decision and I’m continuing to work on making better choices. I am grateful for the people who have been considerate of me and who want to help me.”
Finally, even though this incident is consuming her life now, the likely reality is that it’s a much bigger blotch in her mind than in anyone else’s. Yes, it may capture interest and trigger gossip for a little while. But it’s likely that the minds of those who gossip and take joy in other’s misery will soon be distracted by some new event featuring someone else’s discomfort.
How much will this matter in the big picture, in years to come? What would you tell Treena?

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