I held forth the other day about my friend’s mother and how she still went to the hairdresser despite forbidding both her adult children and all her grandchildren from visiting her over Christmas due to coronavirus. Today I’m going to talk about how you might respond if your mother did that.
You might well be frustrated by the apparent stupidity of your mother’s actions. You could be hurt that she won’t let you, the fruit of her womb, visit but she’ll go and sit with strangers in a salon. You might be frightened that she’ll catch the virus and die. You might be outraged that she thinks her hair is that important. Whatever the underlying emotion, it will probably come out in a statement along the lines of ‘What the actual f*** are you thinking?’
If you say this to your mother, she will be defensive. She will say that she always goes to the hairdresser on a Thursday, and Racquel is a lovely girl who has been doing her hair for the last 18 years and would never, ever allow any of her clients to get coronavirus. She may point out irrelevancies like how close to home the salon is and how it will only take her ten minutes to get there. None of this will reassure you and may just frustrate you even more. Your efforts to bring your mother to some approximation of common sense will be terse and received badly. If you’re not careful, a permanent breach between you may be the result.
Clearly this situation is all your mother’s fault. She’s being unreasonable, irresponsible and foolish, and her failure to listen to your wiser counsel is unacceptable. But are you sure that’s true?
Of course you may think that insisting on going to the hairdresser during a time of national emergency is a strange choice, but despite the evidence to the contrary your mother is not trying to be difficult. Not only does it seem perfectly reasonable to her to keep her appointment at the hairdresser, but it may feel like an absolute necessity. Your job is to respect that.
Coping in a crisis
Not everyone responds to a crisis in the same way. Some try to carry on as normal. Some hoard toilet rolls. Some put total faith in the authorities. Some see conspiracies. Some promulgate false and potentially dangerous ‘advice’ on Facebook. Some criticize the Government. Some go into hibernation. Some rebel and refuse to obey the rules. Some go to the shop even if they have the virus because they need a particular kind of breakfast cereal. To the people following each of these strategies it seems like the only possible course of action. To the person hoarding toilet roll, not hoarding it seems dangerously irresponsible. One of the hardest things in the world is to persuade someone that they’re wrong.
Brace yourself for this. People who aren’t doing what you’re doing think you’re wrong!!
I know, it’s outrageous. I’ve been trying to be the voice of reason since this whole thing started, and nobody is listening to me. To quote Indiana Jones, ‘everybody’s lost but me’.
So no matter how ridiculous, unreasonable and plain wrong everyone but you clearly is, don’t waste your energy or your breath trying to get them to see it. They won’t. They will only dislike you for disagreeing with them. You will have an easier, more tranquil and less stressful life if you are simply able to recognize that everyone is different and is dealing with their life traumas in the only way they see to be possible, just like you.
Having achieved this, you might try applying it to other areas of your life. Overall it could make you a lot more understanding and, consequently, happier.
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Caeredwen is a counsellor, coach and physical therapist based in Coleford in the Forest of Dean. If this blog has touched you and you would like to contact her in confidence, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via her website at www.magichandscalmminds.com.