by Tanya Ruckstuhl LICSW
We find balance between the extremes Two common extremes have to do with how we relate to other people. On the one side, you have your divas. These are the folks who require an outsized amount of time and consideration to engage with the larger world. They are always running late. They need to curl their hair, paint their nails, and have the temperature just so. There was a rock band in the 80’s that shall remain nameless (only because I can’t remember) that had written into their performance contract that the stage be kept at a perfect 70 degrees for all their outdoor venues. They traveled with a thermometer. They refused to play if the temperate was off by two degrees. These guys were major divas. Ironically, divas put themselves under massive pressure to look good and perform perfectly under all circumstances, and because no one can look good or perform perfectly in all circumstances, they try to control the circumstances which means controlling everyone around them. Family members, employees, neighbors and community members are all reduced to delivery tools in the diva’s insatiable quest for comfort.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the doormats. They apologize preemptively. They don’t ask for what they want. They back down immediately when challenged. They practically invite domination. These folks accept mistreatment because they have disconnected from their own self-protective anger in order to protect their connection with others. They don’t believe themselves to be worth sticking up for. Doormats are the parents who beg their near-adult children to clean up after themselves. The women who stay with mean or unreliable men. The men who stay with cruel and demeaning women. Doormats behave in passive aggressive ways because they still get mad about mistreatment, and they still punish mistreatment, but they don’t have the relational power or the emotional skill to have direct conversations about their needs.
Many people flip between diva and doormat behavior, depending on their perception of the importance of the other person. If you want to see a bunch of doormats, watch the behavior of people around a famous person. They ogle, they fawn, they do everything except act like they might have their own important ideas. If you want to see a diva, watch modern hip-hop videos. They show off money, (doormat) girls, weapons, all the symbols of social importance and dominance.
If you want to be as emotionally healthy as possible, avoid these extremes. Also avoid people who exhibit these extremes.