What to do When “No One Understands”?Micah Robbins
“No one understands how hard it is for me!” How many times have you said that—before addiction, during addiction, and after detox?
Often, it’s too close to the truth. The world is full of people who don’t understand why you can’t give all your hours to whatever’s important to them, why anything that doesn’t bother them should bother you, and why quitting drugs isn’t quite as simple as “Just STOP!”
Quenching the frustration with more substance abuse will only cause more pain—and won’t really “show” your tormentors anything. Instead, put the problem in perspective.
DON’T WORRY SO MUCH ABOUT WHAT OTHERS THINK
Humans being communal by nature, it’s normal to want others to like you. However, that should never mean craving everyone else’s full approval, at all times, at all cost. As one life coach put it: “Basing your self-worth on what others think puts you in a perpetual state of vulnerability—you are literally at the mercy of their unreliable, biased perspectives.”
Most people have even more trouble with their own perspectives: they think the world is always watching for them to slip up. They take every offhand remark as a personal criticism. Whenever they hear a horn honk, they assume someone is “yelling” at them. Their frustrations are less a matter of others not understanding them, than of their failure to understand that others have other concerns.
If you see your own attitude in that description, remind yourself others are paying a lot less attention to you than you think. Concentrate on making your own best contribution rather than obsessing about pleasing others, and you’ll get both for the price of one.
WATCH YOUR COMPANY
Of course, there are unrealistic, unreasonable and controlling people who may be part of your life, demanding more than you can give and responding to every protest with “You’re just selfish!” And almost every recovering addict has some acquaintances guaranteed to influence you toward relapse. In such cases, the only thing to do is leave the relationship and avoid future contact.
If you aren’t sure whether a relationship is that toxic, go back to your searching and fearless self-inventory for a look at your real shortcomings—and strengths. Compare these to the other party’s expectations of you, and if you see irreconcilable differences, it’s time to part ways. If it’s someone you can’t imagine never seeing again, consider that a long break from each other may be just what’s needed to eventually restore a healthier relationship.
Whatever happens, remember you are always in the best position to judge how best you can contribute.
GO TO THOSE WHO DO UNDERSTAND
Remember also that “No one understands me” is an exaggeration. You have access to support groups, sponsors, treatment specialists, spiritual directors and therapists. If you stay active in recovery networks, you’ll soon realize how many people do understand.
Even family members/friends/employers who may never fully grasp your difficulties can learn to accept you as you are. Ask your support group for ideas on explaining your problems. Invite your family to join you for group counseling. And put some effort of your own toward understanding others: practice empathetic listening and be open to making some of the concessions.
Whether human supporters are many or few, you can find comfort in the 12 Steps concept of a Higher Power: there’s Someone who does understand you completely, perhaps better than you understand yourself.
APPRECIATE AND AFFIRM YOURSELF
Most of us are in the best and worst position to understand ourselves. On one hand, we know from the inside out what we naturally like and what we’re averse to. On the other, we are all too aware how imperfect we are—and, seeing others from the outside where their faults are less obvious, it’s easy to assume they must know better than you.
That’s one reason every self-inventory needs to look at strengths as well as weaknesses. If you think of self-examination as finding things to berate yourself for, you’ll see yourself as worthless and hopeless—and your larger contribution will be limited to doing, usually at mediocre level, what “everyone else” thinks needs doing. Instead, learn to pinpoint places and ways you can become a more effective member of the human community.
- Don’t just avoid situations that bring out the worst in you—actively seek opportunities to use your best abilities.
- Don’t just make amends for what you do wrong—practice random kindness on a regular basis.
- Don’t feel you must learn to do everything—you can be more effective by delegating some things and concentrating on what you naturally do well.
- Never stop learning or dreaming—or believing in yourself.
You aren’t faultless, but you can be an effective work in progress. In the end, you are the person whose understanding of you most counts.