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Difficult People

We all have difficult people in our lives—family members, neighbors, co-workers. Notice that I didn’t mention friends or romantic partners because we can choose them and shouldn’t be cozying up to folks who are regularly hard to deal with and don’t bring us oodles of joy and pleasure. One of the triggers that provokes you to abuse food might be the difficult people in your life, so it pays to learn to how to handle them effectively.

Let me say straight off that VDPs—Very Difficult People—are just that. They rub many, if not most, folks the wrong way. Sure, they may have a few die hard fans who defend and embrace them out of fear, warped loyalty, or entrenched dysfunction, but most mentally healthy people steer clear of them. Unfortunately, shutting them out of your life isn’t always possible, particularly if one is a boss, sibling, parent, business associate, or next door neighbor. Sometimes you can change jobs or departments or move out of a neighborhood to get away from them, but generally you’re stuck having this person in your life and need to make the best of it.

It helps enormously to realize you’re not at fault. VDPs are tough to be around, but expecting them to change and hoping for more than they can give makes a bad situation worse. To understand your mutual dynamics, you must know yourself inside out and be vigilantly self-observant of your interactions. View VDPs honestly and recognize their limits—and don’t try to pretend that their shining qualities negate their troubling ones. Most VDPs have good points as well bad. Respect their limited emotional capacity and hold low expectations even if they sometimes exceed them. They’re bound to disappoint you the next time around or the time after that.

Because VDPs may be intimidating—under all that bravado, they’re fragile, self-centered, manipulating, and willful, easily fly off the handle, blame you when they’re at fault—it’s important to strike a balance between ignoring some of their offensive behavior and calling them on actions that really hurt or are woefully inappropriate. Don’t shame or go off on them; simply explain how what they did or said hurt you and avoid an argument about who’s at fault even though they may wrongfully blame you.

Realize that we all have people in our lives who generate agita. When you must be in relationship with VDPs, lighten up. They can’t hurt you unless you let them. And, for goodness sake, don’t mistreat yourself with food because they’ve riled you up or hurt your feelings. Prove that you’re healthier than they are by not abusing food or yourself.