Gaining Control Of Your Villains

Your life is a story filled with exploits of optimism, sorrow, hope, dreams and much of everything in-between. And, like most stories, there is always a leading hero, and, in your case, that hero is YOU.

As each chapter unfolds, you discover new opportunities to conquer and benefits to reap. Along the way, you cross paths with priceless individuals who bring prosperity to your life and numerous unknowns that ever so silently come and go. However, it’s no surprise that among the many people in your story, there is always a few truly despicable ones that wreak havoc in your life.

Oh, yes, while every good story has a hero, it also has those toxic individuals who stand in your way and destroy the very essence of what’s important to you.  They are your villains, the difficult people that you just can’t tolerate or even down right hate.

In a perfect story, you would simply rid yourself of any adversaries that might taint your chapters.  However, no story is perfect, and the villains you encounter often elicit negative feelings that consume your mind and poison your body and spirit.

Don’t give your villains the ability to control what you do and how you feel. When you are faced with such individuals, use these techniques to neutralize their power over you.  

Know your villains: Start by getting to know what makes your villains tick.  What are their attitudes and behaviors toward you?  How do they react to conflict? How do they display their emotions in front of others?  What drives them? What bothers you so much about them? Take time to understand who you are dealing with and why.

Keep yourself grounded: It is easy to imagine the worst in someone who has wronged you. Define your villains based upon facts and not assumptions. And, don’t convert them into the status of supervillains just to elevate your own hero complex.

Define your commonalities: Try to connect with your villains as people. Discover where you might have common ground and use this to relate to them on a more congenial level. Pursue a more fruitful balance in the way you view and interact with them.

Counter the drama. Villains are notorious for creating chaos and negativity that can disrupt the well-being of you and others. Instead of getting sucked into their drama, learn to adjust your attitude and behavior. Whenever your interaction with them starts to become dysfunctional, try first to redirect the conversation to one that is more positive and productive. If this fails, tune them out or physical remove yourself from the interaction.

Take responsibility. There are always two sides to a story…even yours. Take responsibility for your actions and the relationship you have with your villains. What have you done to contribute to the toxicity? How are you aggravating the situation? Delve into what you might do differently to resolve the conflict. Ultimately, there is no gain in being revengeful or sustaining an ongoing battle with these individuals.

Be collegial.  You don’t have to like someone to be civil to them. Practice treating your villains with politeness and respect, even when it is the last thing you want to do. Essentially, treat them as you would like to be treated. Avoid personal attacks to tear them down or to gain the upper hand. Each time you inflict pain on them, you are destroying a bit of your own humanity.

Control your emotions. No matter how contemptible someone is to you, accept that they may not elicit the same responses from others. To stay in control, consistently understand and monitor your emotions. Determine when and how your villains can push your buttons and carefully manage your responses. Avoid showing public displays of anger and other negative emotions toward your villains as it may backfire by making you into someone who looks unreasonable and irrational.

Find your distance.  No matter what you say or do, it may become necessary to pull back and regroup.  Establishing physical distance between you and your villains can give you time and space to collect your thoughts, control your emotions, and focus on your best course of action. In a few intolerable situations, you may have no recourse but to leave the toxicity behind and begin a new passage in your life that doesn’t include them.

Release the past.  Villains can consume your mind well after the trauma is over. Stop reliving negative scenarios over and over again, second guessing yourself after the fact, or obsessing over your villains. These actions give them incredible power over you. Choose to leave them in the past where they belong. Just let them go. There is nothing to gain and too much to lose when you can’t do this.

Everyone’s life is a story filled with exploits of optimism, sorrow, hope, dreams and much of everything in-between. Ironically, the role of hero and victim can be intertwined. Despite being the leading hero in our own stories, we just might find ourselves to be the villain in someone else’s. And, we all understand what it means to have our lives disrupted by villains.

Written by: Patricia K. Flanigan, Smart Strategies for Successful Living

Patricia K. Flanigan has worked in higher education for over 28 years. She holds a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne as well as a M.A.  in Latin American Studies and B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before retiring and moving to Idaho in 2015, she served as the dean of online education and learning resources at Saddleback College, a large community college in Southern California. She currently consults in higher education, volunteers for AARP, writes for a local magazine, and serves as an Affiliate Faculty member at Boise State University  and on the Board for LEARN Idaho.  Since February 2017, she has been the founding director for Smart Strategies for Successful Living, a community-based website designed to promote quality aging.  As an educator, her focus is to inspire others to live and age well.