You can’t Wake a Person up Who is Pretending to be Asleep.
This is an ancient Native American Proverb. It can be applicable in various contexts. I want ti discuss this statement in the context of toxic personalities that we deal with.
If you are in any kind of relationship with someone who you feel is toxic to you, then they are probably using communication skills that are inauthentic. They are dishonest in the way they interact with you, and probably with others as well.
We are used to expecting people to communicate what it is that they want, whether we agree with them or not. Most people will demand, ask for, explain or otherwise communicate their desires to you.
When you are dealing with a toxic personality, they will not be up front about what it is that they are after. Their communication often leaves you feeling confused about what their purpose was in saying things.
They sometimes seem to say things that are the opposite of what you would expect them to say. They do things that seem contrary to their own purposes.
You find yourself questioning why their behaviors seem contradictory to their goals. The reason for this is simple….you do not know what their purposes are.
In thinking of these people as people who think like you do….you will never see what they are up to. Their purpose may be far more insidious and intentionally destructive…simply for the sake of the destruction of other people.
They will shift blame upon you, when they are at fault in situations. They will accuse you of having the bad characteristics that they have. They will lie and then accuse you of lying. They will cause a situation of chaos and then blame you for having caused it.
No matter what happens, there is wreckage and carnage in the wake of their path. People are in states of anxiety when this person is around and they will cause people to turn against each other.
The toxic personality loves to triangulate people. This means that they will intentionally place people in situations which cause confrontation and ill will. They enjoy the emotional torment of other people.
They will never take responsibility for causing any problems, even though they know that they created them intentionally.
Toxic people lie and you can never tell what parts of what they say are the truth. They are intentionally causing you and others mental and emotional torment. But they will claim that you are not trying hard enough to get along with them, or the other people.
You can try to explain to the toxic person that they are setting up situations which are uncomfortable for you. You can try to explain to them why the things they want are not appropriate. They are often very inappropriate in social situations.
story number one…
I was with a narcissistic personality who once intentionally hired back an ex employee, just because the other workers in the office hated working with her. At this point in our relationship, I did not realize that he was doing these things intentionally. He would ask my advice about social etiquette …saying that he did not understand people.
He asked me my advice about hiring this ex employee back. He explained to me that she always seemed to cause trouble in the office with the other workers. One of his sales women in particular, really hated this girl.
He knew this and still he was asking me if he should hire her back. I thought he was confused and needed to talk it out. I asked him if he knew what the situation was between the ex employee and his current sales woman. He said they his sales person had told him flat out that she would never work next to this woman.
She interfered with her work and was overbearing in the office. She was rude and crude and otherwise unprofessional. I asked him why he would want to hire someone like this again. He just said that she was good at sales and that he needed another sales person.
I told him that if he hired her , the same problems would occur again. It would be an insult to his sales woman, who had been loyal to him for many years. It would be very disrespectful to her, to rehire this person and force her to work next to her.
He was planning to open another office, in a different location. he said maybe he would put one of them in the new office and one of them in the old office. I told him that he could try this, as long as they had no interaction with each other. There was no reason to create a hostile work environment for his sales team, especially when there other people he could hire.
So, the next day he hired her back, He put her in the desk right next to the sales woman who hated her. She was dominating and rude and made everyone’s life miserable. All of the sales people were upset and this clearly affected their work.
As much as he wanted sales, he was willing to risk the quality of the sales calls, just to torment his employees, especially the loyal sales woman who had begged him not to rehire the ex employee.
Night after night, he relayed to me stories about how everyone was arguing and upset. He did not seem to mind. He almost seemed amused, but I was not ready to see that he really was.
It is a power trip. The toxic people love to create chaos and torment people. It is deliberate. They will do this even to their own detriment.
The reason that you cannot teach them or explain to them that the things they are doing are wrong…..is because they already know.
No matter how I tried to explain to him and warn him, when he would plan to do things like this (which was very often) he did not seem to understand. he would tell me “I just don’t understand people” He said that people always ended up i chaos around him, and he was the innocent victim.
He claimed to have no idea why his employees and friend were always unhappy with him. He did not understand why people felt taken advantage of by him. He did not understand why people eventually refused to take his calls.
He would tell me these stories about how people “abused him” in his past and in his present situations. He shifted the blame of all situations onto someone else.
He used to ask my advice about dealing with people. I thought he was asking in order to know what the right thing was to do. Well, he was in a way….he wanted to know what the right thing was….in order that he could do the opposite.
Anytime I explained to him how people were going to feel if he did certain things, he would always do the thing that I told him was the worst thing to do. The most disrespectful, degrading, humiliating thing. He would take advantage of people all the time and say that he did not take advantage of them.
He claimed that other people always took advantage of him. He claimed to be completely oblivious to the fact that he caused volatile situations, by doing inappropriate things. Any time he asked my advice, he did the opposite.
story number two…
He once used the mother of one of his female friends, in order to do work for him. His friend already had a shaky relationship with her mother. She had been trying to spend time with the other to work on the relationship.
In the mean time, this friend had been working for him and he had been paying her. Upon realizing that he could get the old woman to do the same work that the daughter was doing….and not pay her….he used her to do the work. He no longer had the daughter do work for him.
On top of this, he dominated all of the mother’s time and made sure that she was not available any time that the daughter wanted to speak with her. He blew off the friendship, he took the mother away from the daughter and he got work done for free.
And…..he complained ! He complained about the quality of the work that the old woman did! he complained that the daughter was sending him emails, asking him to at least pay her mother for the hours she was working.
He complained that his “friend” was out to get all of his money and all that anyone cared about was money.
This is a narcissist. This is a toxic personality.
The reason that I could not “wake him up” was that he was not sleeping. He was pretending to be sleeping. He was pretending to not understand what he was doing wrong.
I told him that he was causing damage to the relationships. He knew. He did not care.
You cannot wake up someone who is “pretending to sleep”
Keep these things in mind as you are dealing with people. Just because they seem to be asleep or they tell you they are asleep….does not mean that it is the truth.