Trying to change others – it will make you go mad

It’s silly to try and escape others faults; they are inevitable, Just try to escape your own. (Marcus Aurelius)

If you want to go crazy then try changing someone.

One of the most frustrating, crazy-making things you can do is try to fix someone − your partner/girlfriend/boyfriend. He or she would be perfect if only  she/he would stop drinking/taking drugs, talk to me more, be more respectful, didn’t get so angry, wanted to spend more time with me.

What we are saying is that once that person changes then our life/love will be perfect. The wrong attitude is that our love/our lives will be perfect once that person has changed. The question must be this: “Could I love this person as they are right now if they never ever changed”.

In the words of Reinhold Niebuhr:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

Whether or not you happen to believe in a god, the principle is a good one.

The only person we can really change is ourselves and even that is limited.   Whilst people do change it is not up to you to decide for another. When we decide what is best for another it is an act which usually combines neediness, conceit and a type of madness. Think for a moment of your unspoken assumptions when you try to fix or change someone:

  • There is something wrong with that person
  • You know what their problem is and you also know what needs fixing and how that person ought to live.
  • You have the right and the power to choose for them.

The mind-boggling conceit of this attitude is obvious.

This focus of fixing others, solving their problems (as you perceive them), is a good indication of co-dependency. 

Co-dependency is about focussing on solving the problems and lives of others to avoid our own problems and pain.  A co-dependent person generally doesn’t take good care of themselves, as they are always focussed on the other person.

Originally, the term ‘co-dependent’ described persons living with, or in a relationship with an addicted person. This definition has evolved; co-dependency now refers to “a specific relationship addiction characterized by preoccupation and extreme dependence — emotional, social and sometimes physical—on another person.”

Co-dependence is a strategy to avoid our suffering but the effect is to generate much greater suffering than the suffering you were trying to avoid.

People will suffer years in a toxic relationship, go crazy trying to change someone who isn’t going to change − all for some imaginary future which simply does not exist. 

Waking up, taking care of yourself, knowing, accepting and cherishing yourself is the very best thing that you can do for yourself and any relationship. It is a path to sanity rather than madness.

No relationship is better than a crappy relationship.

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