Run—Do Not Walk—Away! / The Slacker Doesn’t Matter
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I am a college student. I’m dating an older guy who seems to really like me. But people who know him say that he is a user. I tried to mention this to him and he actually told me he would kill himself if he lost me. I like him but I can’t stand this emotional craziness! My friends say to leave him. I don’t want him to kill himself over me. I’m really confused and sad about this.
Dr. Hurd replies,
You’ve got a bad case of unearned guilt. And you’re not helping anyone—him or yourself—by feeling this way. Your older friend obviously has problems. He’s in no shape to enjoy, or in any way benefit from a relationship. If he’s really suicidal, then he should obtain medical care. He might need hospitalization; but that’s for a trained professional to decide. You might offer to help him find professional help, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what he’s after. What he is after is love through intimidation. He’s trying to emotionally blackmail you into loving him. Think how crazy and sick that is. But at the same time it is certainly no reflection on you.
He’s trying to obtain your love through fear. It would be no different if he pointed a gun at you and said, “Love me!” Except that that would be against the law. Threatening to kill himself and blame you is not against the law, per se, but it’s the same sad mentality. It’s cruel of him to place you in this position. Don’t feel sorry for him, because what he’s doing is wrong.
A lot of people do not understand suicide. That’s understandable, because it’s a disturbing and complex subject. Suicide is a choice—an irrational choice used to cope with strong emotions based on distortions, exaggerations or false beliefs. Just because the choice to commit suicide is rarely made on the basis of rational ideas doesn’t change the fact that it’s a choice. Keep in mind that very, very few depressed people commit or even seriously consider suicide. I don’t know if he’s a substance abuser, but whether or not that’s the case, he’s not well. He will most probably not kill himself over you. But you have to understand that if he does, you are in no way to blame. He had this problem long before he met you.
Interestingly, those who survive a suicide attempt or who contemplate it often say in counseling, “I know that wasn’t the answer. I’m glad I didn’t do it, because now there are things I value.” For many, suicide is based on a deeply held conviction that nothing else matters, when in fact the suicidal person would almost certainly see things differently in a week, a month or a year. Suicide is simply an escape hatch. And in this case he’s using it as a tool to intimidate you into staying with him. Run—do not walk—to the nearest exit.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I just got a job at a well-established business, and one thing is already on my nerves: A co-worker who works about four hours for what’s supposed to be an eight-hour day. Lunch. Jawing with co-workers. Yakking on her cellphone. Even shopping! She does just about everything other than work. And of course, as the new kid on the block, I have to fill in and cover for her. I don’t know what to do. She’s been here for over three years and gets away with it.
Dr. Hurd replies,
It’s hard to find an office where there isn’t at least one slacker. This pattern could be subconscious, developed out of flawed thinking earlier in life. Or, the slacker might consciously resent having to work, as if it’s somehow an injustice perpetrated by the mythical “robber barons” who employ them. But no matter what the basis for the slacker’s behavior, his or her motives are not your problem. The key is in how you look at them.
See such people as you’d see anyone who’s wrong: They don’t really matter. And sooner or later, this slacker will probably earn his or her just desserts. Would you like to be him or her? Do you want to live with that kind of insecurity? The best way to cope is to not get caught up in thinking, “It’s not fair.” Of course it isn’t fair! But the fact remains that you are not the slacker’s boss, and you are not in a position to hold him or her responsible. As annoying as it might be, the slacker does not answer to you.
You’re doing your job for your own sake. So rather than stewing over this freeloader’s disrespect for you and the company, it’s probably wiser to channel your energy into developing a plan so you can finally stop working with this person you so dislike. Most of the power others seem to have over us is the power we mistakenly give them. If you stop giving it to them, your feelings will disappear, because at that point they will no longer matter.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office can be reached at 302-227-2829. Email questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.