Advice Needed

Postby WhatIs_87 » Tue Oct 15, 2019 5:07 pm

Hey guys, this is a longer post. I decided to be a little bit more exhaustive just so there was no ambiguity with the story.

I'm on the OCD // Anxiety spectrum, and situations that seem super small will often send me into a powerful anxiety trip. For this situation, I'm trying to gauge what I should do, and how I should do it. Thanks!

___

A handful of years ago, when I was 24 or 25, I moved back in with my mom and discovered that she had drama with neighbors ( we live in condos). They had a toddler whose play would create bumping noises that disturbed my mom. Eventually, after asking if they could keep it down, my mom banged on the wall out of frustration at the noise level.

A little while later, my mom ran into them outside, and they had a shouting match. I guess the wife said some things, my mom called her a low class bitch, and then the husband told her to move into the retirement center down the street.

I’ve grown up with no father figure, and my mom tended to be confrontational. This periodically thrust me into positions where I felt like I had to be a backbone/support in the household. So when she told me about this incident, I decided to approach them and use my strong ability with words to play mediator. At that time, I actually *hadn’t* known about my mom banging on their wall or calling her a low class bitch, so I figured that a desire for peace with neighbors would prevail.

I immediately knocked on their door and tried the “I think there’s been a mistake…” line. I figured if I could explain how easily noise travelled between units, that we would be able to get some sort of resolution. Anyways, being unaware of the full context, I was completely taken off guard when the husband called my mom an old lady, said there was no misunderstanding, and that he didn’t want to hear anything about the manner in which they conducted their family activities. I was so caught off guard, hurt, and intimidated. This ended up creating a level of fear and hatred, because I felt like I needed to stand up for her honor, but also felt genuinely intimidated. I am a big guy, but this guy was almost my height and far bigger than me. I later learned that he was an insecure fatty who tried to assert himself to feel important, but certainly not a tough guy himself.

At the time, I had internalized church doctrine about forgiveness and grace. I had also misinterpreted this to mean that confrontation was generally bad. So out of piety and fear, I decided to let it sit. If it had happened in more recent times, I would have revisited the issue and found some way of putting him in his place; even if it was just by making him feel ashamed by exhorting him.

The next day, I happened to come across him, and he nodded his head at me. I figured after everything had settled down, he and his wife probably respected me, and probably felt pretty guilty about their conduct when I was being so peaceful. I’m sure that he probably saw and remembered the level of hurt I had when he evoked my mom with the old lady line.

A little while later, we were sort of united based on an additional, newer neighbor who turned out to be a professional criminal. I actually took on the more aggressor role. But the rise of crime in our little area and how it evoked our personal safety brought my mom and I a little closer together with the other neighbors. However, I learned through this experience that while he was interested in gossiping about the situation, he didn’t want to risk his neck in the same way I was to stop this other dude.

Anyways, with a few years passing, we were on good terms with the neighbors. Yet… I couldn’t get past the bitterness as to what he had said about my mom. I ran into a saying that a hero dies once, but a coward dies a thousand deaths. And what I realized was that I hadn’t been able to let his comments go, and I hadn’t been able to forgive myself for being intimidated. A relevant add on is that I tend to have an insane long-term memory when it comes to faces and conversations. I’m also on the OCD/ Anxiety spectrum, and have a tendency to sort of…stress.

To this day, I’ve found myself still feeling bitter, and feeling like he needs to be confronted because he stole something from me and dishonored my mom. The skeptical/safe side to me observes that it’s literally been six years, and we’ve been on good terms, and that confrontation if gone wrong could just exacerbate my bitterness toward him, or if I ended up making some sort of threat or suggesting it go to the physical level, legal trouble for me. I can’t tell if I’m just being honest with myself, or exhibiting some type of moral scrupulosity, but it’s been disturbing me so much that I figure something has to give: either I find some sort of aggressive therapeutic technique to try and let it all go, or I pursue some sort of aggressive/ confrontational technique to gauge where he’s at and see if he even feels bad about it. I don’t know if I’m just crazy or correct, but as weird as it may sound, these decisions cause a significant amount of stress in my life.


Thanks in advance for your time!
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#1

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Tue Oct 15, 2019 5:41 pm

Six years ago I do something to sleight you. I didn’t hit you, I didn’t physically engage with you, I simply made a comment that offended you.

That is my problem? No. I sleep like a baby for six years. You have no idea my intentions, my thoughts, my life. I have a toddler, a wife, a life to contend with. Whatever mental issue you have with what I said is YOUR problem, not mine. Six years later you are going to go all aggro on me? You are going to confront me about some comment that offended you years ago? How in the heck am I even part of YOUR problem?

Seriously, if you brought up a comment from 6 years ago, if you talked about how much you have thought about the issue, I would feel sorry for you, but at the same time I would tell you to grow the @#$% up. Then we would have something to fight about in the present. Now. Today.

What I get from your post is that YOU have a problem with YOU. This guy isn’t a problem. It sounds like after 6 years not much of any real significance has happened between you guys except your internal judgments of him. It is YOU keeping the issue alive in YOUR head.

So yes...you need therapy of some sort for your personal mental struggles.

In fact, 6 years ago when you came to MY HOME to peacefully resolve a misunderstanding it didn’t come across that way. You forced me to deal with you. Maybe you were well intentioned, but obviously your non aggressive approach was interpreted as anything but non aggressive.

For 6 years you have offended me with that day that you came to confront me at my house. So yes, I commented aggressively about your mom, because I was defending MY HOME, MY TERRITORY. How dare you? You want me to apologize, you want me to feel sorry because of your aggression?

NOTE: obviously I’m making up what this other person might be feeling, but I think you are only looking at things from a narrow perspective. This person did not insult your mom after knocking on your door. You confronted him.

Your neighbors never were the ones that took the initiative. Your neighbors were always, always reacting to your mother and your initiatives. Your mother confronted them and they reacted. Then you initiated contact and their home and they reacted. And now you can’t let it go? Now you want to initiate yet again? And what reaction do you expect?

Again you will force the neighbor to react to your provocation. And if I was that neighbor, my reaction would be anything but pleasant.
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#2

Postby WhatIs_87 » Tue Oct 15, 2019 5:51 pm

Thanks for the thoughtful response Richard. I would contend with some of your points, but that would just be playing devil's advocate for the sake of my own understanding.

You brought up an observation that was very true and compelling: the issue is really about my relationship with myself. I've been able to boil it down: in the moment, my honor was taken away from me because I did not defend in anyway my mom from his insult. I've carried that within myself, and even felt like by being kind to him afterwards, I was lying by omission when this hurt was still dwelling inside of me. So really, any attempt to bring it up with him is about self-restoration. It's no longer about him correcting his behavior, nor is about me defending my mom. But really it is about correcting an internal narrative that I can't let go of... that says I'm the kind of son to let his mom be insulted without defending her.

For the sake of argument, let's say this was something I needed to let go of: how would I go about doing it? I woke up this morning at 3 AM feeling so stressed that i feared a mental breakdown and entertained moving out of state. That is the way I'm wired... I will feel that intensely over the situation I described. Where would I go, or what techniques would I use to alleviate my situation?

Also, for the sake of argument, let's say his response was irrelevant to my goal, and really I just wanted to bring up a hurt to know that I had it within myself to confront him. Let's say that was what I wanted to do, and if I did it in a positive equitable way, even with his poor response, that I would have achieved success because i knew I had the courage to say something... would that at all be valid or change your conclusion?

Thank you for your time and thought Richard
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#3

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Tue Oct 15, 2019 6:24 pm

WhatIs_87 wrote: But really it is about correcting an internal narrative that I can't let go of... that says I'm the kind of son to let his mom be insulted without defending her.

For the sake of argument, let's say this was something I needed to let go of: how would I go about doing it?


You are discussing the psychology of regret.

Regret is painful. Studies on regret posit that we experience the pain of regret in order to modify our future behavior. A challenge is that we can’t go back in time. In many cases what we regret cannot be undone, yet this serves a purpose.

How you go about “doing it” has been covered in literature for thousands of years. We all experience regrets in life so our ancestors developed various mechanisms to help us better manage regret.

The mechanisms vary, but most come back to some sort of acceptance, penance, absolution, and then growth.

In scientific literature the evidence shows the solution is to “disengage” and then “replace” with a situation of equivalent or greater value.

An example might be a person that makes a bad decision resulting in the death of a child. They heavily regret their decision. They can’t literally make it right. Therefore, they must accept, disengage and replace. Maybe they can help other children. Maybe they can teach people how not to make the same bad decision, etc.

In your case you can disengage with what happened 6 years ago and replace it with what exactly? Maybe you become involved with vulnerable populations, or maybe you engage in activities that help strengthen your neighborhood.

In some sense you are already trying to do the above. You have this ‘criminal’ element that you are using as a sort of surrogate, an opportunity to prove yourself or to otherwise make up for the regret.

Why disengage and replace might not work is that it requires growth, it requires change. If the hypothetical coward regrets running from a battle, it does little good to accept or pay penance if the next battle they run yet again. The person that believes they were a coward during the first battle must also learn how to be a better warrior as to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Your initial post hints at a struggle with self confidence, a sort of belief in “communicating” yet then referencing the possibility of “physical” interactions. What this suggests to me is that to deal with your regret that you have two things to resolve.

First you need to disengage from this 6 year old issue and the goal to defend your mom and then two, you need to grow in self confidence, specifically as it relates to confidence in dealing with your own perceptions of honor.
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#4

Postby WhatIs_87 » Tue Oct 15, 2019 6:29 pm

Yes, thank you for putting it so clearly. I've wondered if what I'm struggling with is toxic masculinity. Ironically, I have two busted knees, so I wouldn't be of much use in a physical altercation anyways.

Would you be able to point me in the right direction in terms of resources to better understand what I'm experiencing?

Disengaging is the hard part: they are our neighbors, and their kids still create noises, with each "bump" serving as a reminder of the past.
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#5

Postby WhatIs_87 » Tue Oct 15, 2019 10:38 pm

Also, and I'm not sure if this alters your advice, but it was very clear that I was approaching him peacefully. I think what he was doing was trying to establish himself as being substantial or tough. We have seen repeated behavior like this directed at other people.

If I approached him today, it wouldn't be with obvious aggression. It would also come with sympathy at the stress he and his family have gone through in trying to keep their noise level at a courteous level. I'm only saying this in case it modifies what I should do. It's a big struggle and I'm afraid of making a mistake that intensifies it because It's already pretty consuming. Thanks again
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#6

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Tue Oct 15, 2019 10:40 pm

WhatIs_87 wrote: I've wondered if what I'm struggling with is toxic masculinity.


In 1968 a teacher conducted an experiment telling children that if they had blue eyes they were superior to those with brown eyes. It changed how the children thought and subsequently interacted with each other. Attach science to bullsh*t -> make it a belief -> cause guilt.

Toxic masculinity is total, utter, HORSE@#$&.

If you believe such a thing exists then...well...I feel sorry for your future. You will suffer a life of guilt believing that because of gender or the color of your skin that you have some inherent flaw that requires some sort of attrition.

I am a man. I am masculine. I endeavor to behave consistent with my values. This includes protecting people that are vulnerable, whether man, woman, or child. If in the process of living my values this makes some of my behaviors “toxic” by whoever wants to point that out to me, if it offends them, they can feel free to take a long walk off a short peer.

I encourage you to drop the “toxic masculinity” @#$& and fast. Be your own person. If in being your own person someone wants to label you as any combination of toxic or masculine it is up to you to bow down to those labels or not.

It is not surprising that resolving noise issues with a neighbor has been so difficult. You hold conflicting beliefs. You have misplaced guilt and regret. This makes it difficult to step up and take a leadership role in the community. You sound like you want to be a leader, but you also don’t want to hurt anyone. Those two beliefs are not compatible.
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#7

Postby WhatIs_87 » Tue Oct 15, 2019 10:45 pm

I don't treat toxic masculinity as axiomatic. That's why I prefaced it with "I wonder..."

I also don't conceptualize myself as wanting to be a leader in the community. It feels like a more internal, personable struggle. Evne if it is based on false premises, I want to know exactly how to correct these false premises so I can think clearly, feel clearly, and not be so absorbed by something against my will. Thanks!
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#8

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Tue Oct 15, 2019 10:53 pm

WhatIs_87 wrote:...but it was very clear that I was approaching him peacefully. I think what he was doing was trying to establish himself as being substantial or tough.


When someone in a very clear peaceful manner approaches do you try and establish being tough? No? Why not? Because it is very clear it is peaceful.

When do people try to appear tough in a clearly peaceful circumstance? They don’t.

Even in the animal world you can watch a puffed out chest or feathers raised. Why? When does that occur? When the animal feels threatened. It doesn’t matter what you think! It doesn’t matter how peaceful and non confrontational you believe one animal is to another. If you see the puffed chest or feathers, the animal being approached is not interpreting it as peaceful.

You went to his apartment. It doesn’t matter if you thought you were crystal clear and thought you were super peaceful. I don’t care if you brought an apple pie with you. Your clearly peaceful approach into his domain was not interpreted as peaceful.

In other words, you think you would react differently had the knock been on your door. Had the neighbor come to your home you would have accurately detected his peaceful intentions.
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#9

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Tue Oct 15, 2019 10:54 pm

WhatIs_87 wrote:I don't treat toxic masculinity as axiomatic. That's why I prefaced it with "I wonder..."

I also don't conceptualize myself as wanting to be a leader in the community. It feels like a more internal, personable struggle. Evne if it is based on false premises, I want to know exactly how to correct these false premises so I can think clearly, feel clearly, and not be so absorbed by something against my will. Thanks!


Ah...for that you engage in other goals. Fill your days with activities that don’t allow you the luxury to chase these less than helpful thoughts.
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#10

Postby WhatIs_87 » Tue Oct 15, 2019 11:10 pm

Trying to reply in order, sorry if it gets confusing:

Regarding the peaceful aggressive ambiguity: Yes I would have responded to someone very differently had they approached me in the manner in which I approached him. In fact, I had two experiences in the same unit where that happened, and in both moments I chose to receive their words and reason with them instead of puffing my chest out. My best read on him was that he was taking the opportunity to flex to make himself feel more like a man. We've been neighbors for almost ten years, so there has been a pattern of behavior that makes this evaluation reasonable. He can be a pretty textbook definition of a bully. So when I reason forward about the legitimacy of my behavior, my standards, my goals, and try to reason toward what i think is most useful and equitable, I reason based on my experience of his behavior over his time. Just to humor me, if you agreed with this premise, would it change your advice at all, or would my best course of action still be to steer clear of confrontation?

Thank you for your engagement.
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#11

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Tue Oct 15, 2019 11:33 pm

Assuming your "bully" premise is correct it depends on what you wish to achieve.

If you want lesser noise you have a path through a landlord or HOA.

If you are looking to gain some sort of resolution to a bully that resorted to name-calling six years ago when you knocked on his door, you let it go.

A major part of disengagement and replacement is the replacement part. It is impossible to continue chasing useless thoughts if your mind is occupied in other goals in life. If you were waking up at 5a and going to sleep at 11p, thoroughly exhausted from all sorts of work, hobbies, community engagements, friends, etc. then you would simply not have the time to be constantly reliving a 6-year-old slight.

I understand that a neighbor can be a constant reminder, yet it still is your decision on how to spend your free time and where to focus your mind. You are the one keeping it alive in your head. You are the one that is not replacing your thoughts.

Put it another way...if a person close to you suddenly was in trouble and you had to respond to the hospital and watch over them for several days or a week, in an instant the 6-year-old issue with a neighbor would vanish. Your mind would be fully engaged as you talked with doctors, responded to their needs, etc. Lacking such a situation you have the luxury of time, the luxury to let your mind to continue to wander back and around and to the side. Focus forward.
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#12

Postby WhatIs_87 » Tue Oct 15, 2019 11:40 pm

Thank you Richard, that is an insightful comment. I have recently been unemployed and have much more time to get lost in my thoughts.

In the past, when I had similar angst-riddled obsessions, I was much busier and actively tried to stay busy to avoid dwelling on the issue as much. However, I eventually realized that a fallacy was embedded somewhere in there, and that the solution would be more akin to "exposure therapy" if we were to use a psychological term. One of the implicit fears I have is that, knowing myself, I will always find excuses to procrastinate and hide from something that intimidates, and that becoming busier to "fix" a negative thought pattern could really just be a way of inhibiting my own growth in an interpersonal area. And I place no burden on you to respond to that concern, but I am just processing at this stage. And I appreciate the wisdom of being reminded that the less busy I am, the more time I have to fill my head with unhealthy thoughts.

At this stage, the only motivator I would have to achieving resolution, is growing int he self-confidence of observing myself talk to someone about a past hurt, when I grew so accustomed to internalizing the pain from others and was scarred inwardly because I didn't defend myself as readily as I should have. If there is any reason or legitimacy to approaching him, that would be it.

Thank you for processing this with me
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#13

Postby Candid » Wed Oct 16, 2019 7:37 am

Coming in late here, but what an interesting thread this is from a sociological/evolutionary point of view!

No one feels good about being in cramped accommodation. Like all mammals, we're territorial. Neighbour noise in condos is a constant reminder that we're sharing space we believe is rightfully ours.

When I saw it had been six years since this altercation I thought okay, the toddler is older now and is probably choosing quieter activities, as well as becoming aware that the neighbours are very close. Then you mentioned the next door children and I thought uh-oh, they've produced at least one more. That, for some reason, seems to be the result of territorial stress. It makes no sense, but couples with insufficient territory make more babies than people in grand country homes. Parts of Asia are a good example of this.

I had a small dog once, and walked him around the block twice a day. After a much bigger dog ran out of its yard and attacked mine, requiring stitches and an expensive overnight stay at the vet's, I took to carrying a sawn-off broom handle.

So one day a big dog jumped the fence into my yard. I ran out to deal with it, and my dog followed. He ran at the other dog and to my surprise it immediately went back over the fence with its tail down while mine, unable to jump anywhere near that high, continued barking at our perimeter. It sounded like yeah, **** off you big booby, this is my place. I concluded that a male dog is ten times as big on his own turf.

One of the implicit fears I have is that, knowing myself, I will always find excuses to procrastinate and hide from something that intimidates, and that becoming busier to "fix" a negative thought pattern could really just be a way of inhibiting my own growth in an interpersonal area.


If you were female you would have been accustomed by adolescence to swallowing all sorts of unfairnesses. It's the reason women become 'neurotic'. But you're a young man, and after hearing your mother's partial story, you felt the need to defend her honour. Unfortunately, as Richard pointed out, you bearded the enemy on their own turf. A woman would have listened to mother, made sympathetic and shocked noises, commiserated with her suffering, probably suggested that she contact the condo owners or agent.

Fact is, nothing can be done about kid noise. The parents are stressed by it, too, and it's always down to the head of the household to defend the pups. If he's home, it's always he who opens the door to an unexpected knock.

You felt diminshed by the encounter but you didn't have a chance. You went with conciliatory rather than aggressive intent and you breached the boundary that's already too restrictive. The other dog had to come out snarling, and you had no choice but to realise your blunder and back off.

Excuses to stay away from intimidation are the thoughtful response. You are thoughtful. It was your masculine duty to do something about your mother's distress, and it was next-door's duty to defend his bitch and pups. Case closed.

I truly sympathise with your mother, although she sounds like quite the alpha female herself. I'm no alpha, and a lot of my many moves have been because I can't handle neighbour noise. I get too stressed, have trouble sleeping because you never know when someone might drop a saucepan, do you?

You don't get busier to hide away from confrontation, you get busier because you have better things to do than try to fix the unfixable. This was and is unfixable. Your mother's not ready for a nursing home, but years of living beside a growing family might hasten her into one. It's horrible but true. Economic pressures, too many people at different life stages in too small a space, the erroneous thought that every extraneous sound is a deliberate act of aggression... Condos are always going to be a powder keg.

Pick your battles, my unknown friend. Your 'interpersonal growth' comes from knowing what must be tolerated and what, realistically, can be improved.
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#14

Postby WhatIs_87 » Wed Oct 16, 2019 8:52 pm

Thanks Candid. I read your response this morning (American, Pacific time), and I've been mulling it over. I realize that in my presentation, I made one of my choices a bit more aggressive in nature. I've been trying to internalize the easier, nonconfrontational option, but my head and chest have been tight with heavy anxiety, so I continue to try to put one foot in front of the other and do my best to understand myself and the situation.

Let's say I modified my options between letting go within myself, or then talking with the other individual, not to confront them, but simply to be open about the hurt that his words caused me, and how I was still trying to process and let them go? What if the purpose of me discussing with him wasn't to get him to say agreeable sentiments and express remorse, but rather to feel the empowerment of knowing that I brought it up with the individual in the first place? Would that change your response?

I think what I'm struggling with here, is that indeed a good part of my psyche believes that there are more important things to take care of, and I should feel up my headspace and time with those things, but another part of my psyche believes this to be false, and is so far keeping me from letting it go, even though it causes tremendous distress and I WANT to let it go.

Thank you for your feedback
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