One of my chief characteristics for the last seventy years is my willingness to listen to and interact with almost everyone. I am now suspecting that my ability to hear what everyone has to say and to filter out the nonsense is a false belief.
The problem arises from the fact that you must listen carefully to another person to understand what they have to say. To understand what they mean by what they say you must put yourself into their shoes and have a close empathy with what they are experiencing. Okay, I can do that and do that much of the time, especially when the overall environment is otherwise quiet enough that I can devote my full attention to the other person and their worldview.
The problem arises when the other person’s worldview has been corrupted by what is known as adverse childhood experiences. This becomes a problem because those experiences are the foundation for their later adaptations to life. Each moment of a person’s life is influenced by their former experiences and even more by their interpretation of those experiences and even more by their personal responses to them. One’s childhood habits carry through in our habitual responses to our surroundings for the rest of our lives. When we are children we haven’t any experience in choosing adaptations that will guide us through the rest of our adult lives. We are dependent upon our parents, caretakers, and peers, and the environments they put us into for influencing us in the habits that form our childhood character and our adult character, too.
Now at a geriatric age, my willingness to put myself into the environment of people with longstanding problems is counterproductive to my own psychological well-being. I am not going to be able to help those people, even if I knew how, and they don’t want to be helped because they have based their lives on what works for them. Even a positive suggestion, which might lead to better outcomes for them, is threatening to their worldview, so is better left unsaid.
But my even entering into their worldview, which I have been willing to do in the past, is counterproductive for my own well-being. I am probably just as resistant to change as they are, and for the very same reasons; I have based my life on what works for me. What they expect from me is threatening to my worldview so I will automatically try to reject it, just as they would reject my views.
So, assuming that this analysis makes sense what should I do? Probably, my best action is to follow Seneca’s suggestion and
Just quietly walk away from people and situations that will create problems and stress.