Your boss walks in and starts blaming you for not finishing a particular report "on time", even though she had never made the deadline explicit. A simple misunderstanding? Maybe, but if it's part of a pattern of behavior, you've got a bigger problem.
Your organization has a big "townhall" event celebrating the "successes" of the past year. You sit quietly in the back, knowing from your insider information that many of these so-called successes were actually disasters that have been "respun" for political purposes. The crowd seems to eat it up, yet you - and no doubt many others - leave with a bad feeling in your gut.
Let's face it - in our public lives and sometimes even in our private ones, we're often surrounded by double-speak, by words that fundamentally don't match reality.
The upshot of all this is more stress for you. You may even question your own sanity - I certainly did when I got caught up in dealing with my Church's financial scandal and the lies of its senior leadership designed to cover it all up.
The real question here, though, is how can you protect yourself and maintain your personal resilience when that resilience is under silent but persistent attack by people who are foisting their personal agendas onto you?
The Most Powerful Question to Ask in Any Relationship:
Remember this: the neurotic person, the manipulative person, the dysfunctional organization, the narcissistic personality, all these will project their distorted view of reality onto you and will try to force you to comply.
They will not only have the audacity to call "white" "black" and "black" "white" right in front of your eyes; they'll also insist you do the same. And the one thing you can never do if you want to maintain your resilience is to compromise your personal integrity by participating in their fiction, whether that fiction is a delusion or a deliberate lie.
Often the distortion of reality these people create is so great that without even noticing it, you lose track of reality yourself and begin to buy into the fiction without noticing. And it's when you're in danger of losing your bearings that you want to ask yourself the single most powerful relationship question there is:
"What SHOULD this situation look like?"
To expand on that, you can ask, "If this situation were reflective of all that is good, true and beautiful, what WOULD it look like?"
Asking the question and answering it - at least in your own mind - will keep you sane. It will keep you focused on what's real. It will keep you resilient. And, it will expose what's going on around you and reveal the agenda behind it.
These mind-bending situations are a lot like living with an alcoholic. The alcoholic forces you to compensate for their behavior and turns you into an enabler. He forces you to replace THE truth with his or her truth, and with no regard for the effects that will have on you.
If you want to maintain your resilience - your emotional health and independence - don't go there. Ask the magic question.
It's true that asking the question won't necessarily change the external situation. And if you think for one moment it's going to change the person or people who are distorting reality, guess again! However, it will protect you from that situation on many levels.
In fact, whenever you're having problems with any relationship or whenever you have to make a decision about maintaining or breaking off any relationship, just use this question. It will clarify everything for you in minutes.
Don't take my word for it - try it!!
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger