This is a timely thing that I’m dealing with and I know a number of other people in my life are dealing with. I said this to a friend recently:
“Everyone is the star in their own highlight reel. It’s disconcerting to become the villain in someone else’s story and then have them try to capitalize on that piece of information to make their little reel a metaphorical blockbuster. […] I know you’ve had troubles with being a big open person in various communities. Being a magnetic personality that is present gives other people the chance to write you into their script (for their highlight reel). And then problems happen because many people have scripts for you, but you are a human in your own personal story [with your own script for yourself].”
I have been the perpetrator and victim of this scenario many times. I feel somewhat experienced with discovering a difference so vital between myself and a person I thought I agreed with or loved that I cannot reconcile with the reality I have built. I’m currently dealing with this with my father. Its why I’ve realized I must be careful how I talk about him in a town where he lives and the people I meet might know him. I’ve settled on explaining he’s a professional asshole and takes his self proclaimed job very seriously. People tend to understand that and get a laugh out of it.
The reality where my father was a reasonable and thoughtful person that loved me at least as much as he loved himself went out the window two years ago for me. And I have been dealing with the results ever since.
According to my father, he is the victim of my toxic mother who is now trying to ruin his life.
The situation here is very complex. But the one thing thats true is that the people who are being careful about how we talk to others about our strife right now is me and my mother: Countless people have now related some of the things my father has said about his situation to them. My mother doesn’t explain anything to anyone. I’m more open about this to people but I’m still keenly aware my mother doesn’t want me to be because she thinks its her business and other people shouldn’t be troubled by it. Personally I’m reeling and need help.
PEOPLE ARE ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT THEIR LIFE AND THEIR DIFFICULTIES.
From time to time in life, YOU WILL BECOME THE VILLAIN IN SOMEONE ELSE’S STORY.
I’m actually here to tell you that this is unavoidable. IT IS UP TO YOU HOW YOU DEAL WITH THIS.
I once thought that a business partner and very very dear friend of mine was an evil person that did evil things after I had so poorly communicated my boundaries to be tread upon and didn’t have the emotional skills to rectify the situation. For a relatively short time she was a villain in my story.
What did she do? She stayed away the way I asked her to (hard in a small and interconnected community). She respected me enough to give me space even when I hurt her. She stayed with what she was doing and kept her own relationships with people and never tried to make them choose. She was open to the lessons and I could see that… this didn’t jive with the ‘villain’ role I had given her and I was strong enough to readdress my opinions. She stayed around long enough to prove me wrong. We stayed on the edge of each other’s consciousness for years.
And eventually: we reconciled and I have a wonderful friend back and learned things that have helped me so so much.
So what do you do when someone has changed the script they have for you in their personal story?
There are two things that are completely seperate: The storymaker, and the social environment you feel they are influencing.
Your relationship with the storymaker is already compromised. They don’t trust you and feel victimized. The huge part is that they probably already feel like they’ve given you a WEALTH of chances to rectify the situation WHETHER THEY HAVE OR NOT. This realtionship is dead. You cannot affect or influence this person anymore.
Any attempts to discredit them, dismiss their concerns (which to you ARE false), or otherwise defend yourself will probably hurt you more than they help you.
Social circles feed on this kind of shit. Nuances and unclear information and opinions are the bread and butter of social communities. It would be wonderful if people who know you (and supposably respect you) would come to you and ask for your side of the story, but chances are THEY WILL NOT. People love to theorize about other people and add new facts up to the list of current facts they have about a person as to why they are behaving the way they do.
It removes the heady power of this theorizing and puts us in a vulnerable position to actually ask what’s going on. Very few people will.
What’s more is that where you are in your life somewhat dictates how you will respond to someone asking you whats up. If you respond defensively “how dare you even give legitimacy to this?!” or otherwise poorly, thats a bad thing and you did yourself a bad. You won’t enjoy the results of that.
Give the storymaker time and space to settle the fuck down with their story. If their story is missing facts, or missing information this will be the time they use to hopefully be introspective about themselves and figure things out.
The social environment is A WHOLE NOTHER STORY.
So people are people with their own histories and pasts and everyone has a story about being victimized. It is up to members of your social circle to determine whether someone is telling them a negative story about their interaction with someone else trying to figure that interaction out and grow for themselves… or if a person is trying to influence their opinion of another person.
If your social circle has ‘turned on you’ without coming to you for more information, you might be surrounded by shitty people who have shitty brains who you are much better off without.
But more than that, what the storymaker often doesn’t understand is that people are watching them very carefully at that point. I have watched people trying to destroy the friend whom I mentioned in the very beginning of this post for almost two or three years. I have given them the time of day and let them connect with me based on this information because I was worried about my friend.
Absolutely not one of those people is a close friend of mine anymore. All of them specifically hurt me, stole from me, or proved they were not to be trusted in one way or another.
And my friend whom I was worried about is still standing and being himself and LEARNING THE LESSONS.
So how do we come back from this? My friend who I had been worried about while connecting with his enemies to see if they had any valid concerns (apparently not) has always had the special skill of understanding and forgiving.
People feel guilty when they’ve doubted you. Especially when they doubted you at a time when you might have NEEDED them to have faith.
My best practices list is to give people space and to be yourself. This is a confusing time for everyone involved. Focus on the basics of who you are and work on keeping yourself afloat on your own… Certainly people might react to you and reveal themselves and where they are at in life. Some people may withdraw support or suspend their friendship with you. Give people space to figure things out. Focus on yourself. You are what you can control.
This is a time when you will be able to see more clearly if you are seeing with open eyes and without judgement.
Everyone will always see in clearly in the end. Because hindsight is 20/20 and its up to you who you let back in and why.