It can be really difficult to deal with the self-doubt and guilt that comes with being accused of having ‘overreacted’ in our response to dealing with something that actually pinged on our boundaries. One of the most common examples of this is when someone is accused of having a disproportionate response to discovering that they were being lied to and deceived. It’s insinuated or stated that their emotional response and the way in which they handled the situation amounts to being wrong, as if underreacting or not reacting at all is the correct response. In the eyes of the deceiver, the person is making something out of nothing, or making a mountain out of mountain when they should be suppressing their true selves and pretending that the mountain is in fact a molehill.
When we’re in these situations we play then over in our mind and question our responses.
Was it justified?
Maybe I’m smoking too much drama crack…
I should have just _________.
It was silly/stupid/embarrassing/pathetic that I responded that way.
Maybe they’re right – I don’t deserve to be around them because I can’t be trusted to manage my emotions and deal with situations in a more mature fashion.
What we forget when we’re told that we’re overreacting to having our boundaries crossed is that focusing on our reaction is a distraction from the real issue.
It’s better that you so-called ‘overreact’ to a lie by choosing not to pretend that it doesn’t exist or that it’s not an issue, than underreact and end up cosigning to a load of BS. A lie left unquestioned can give the impression that it’s accepted as truth. Don’t let people make a liar out of you where you have to keep lying to yourself to maintain your involvement.
If you agree with their claims, the next time they lie or do anything else shady, you are near guaranteed to underreact or stifle your reaction. This is what they hope for.
It’s all very well that a person is telling you how you could have reacted better to the fact that you had caught them out in lies and deception but actually, they could have handled things differently by not doing these things in the first place and by taking responsibility when caught out.
People who habitually tell lies, love to tell themselves that it’s the right thing to do because people can’t handle the truth and will react badly, and then when they’re found out, they use the justified reactions to then justify their own thinking – See, this is why I don’t bother telling the truth!
In their view, the problem isn’t the lies and deception – it’s the fact that people won’t behave like puppets that say and do as they want. Their idea of your appropriate reaction is for you to not question their behaviour and play dumb. What they don’t admit is that if you turn a blind eye, they lose even more respect for you! You can’t win! They will actually attempt to take a mystical high road that suggests that you’re not ‘mature’ enough to hang with a grown-up like them. Your reaction is ‘wrong’ because they don’t want to feel bad about what they’re doing. They’re ok with what they’re doing so any reaction that suggests they shouldn’t be is always going to be considered unjustified.
If you responded to someone’s lies and deception by feeling upset, by reducing your trust levels, by feeling angry, betrayed, confused or whatever, guess what? You’re normal. If you can’t pretend that it didn’t happen, especially when issues that contribute to the lies and deception are continuing, guess what? Yep, you’re still normal. If you feel that you’d like to get some clarification, explanations and assurances before you feel that you could even think about proceeding, well hey, guess what? You’re still normal. If you would like that person to demonstrate in their subsequent interactions with you that they are in fact trustworthy, it is the least they could do after what amounts to a serious breach of trust.
These are not overreactions. They are legitimate and justified under the circumstances. Depending on what they’ve been up to, if they’re still in your life, you may not have reacted enough. Yet.
When somebody crosses your line and then tells you that you’ve overreacted and even suggests that you’re the problem, it’s time to flush. People with integrity don’t run around busting boundaries and invalidating people’s feelings on the matter. Certainly don’t bust your own boundaries or invalidate your feelings on their behalf.