The shopping cart slammed into the back of my heel, and piercing pain shot up my leg into the rest of my body. As I turned to face the party responsible, I discovered a middle aged man in jeans and a black tank top, standing with a stern look on his face, his knuckles going white from his intensive grip on the shopping cart handle. Beside him stood, a smaller, slightly younger woman, her eyes pinned to the ground, her cheeks flushed with stress.
“You’re in our way, and you’re moving way too slow for me!” His angry words matched the high blood pressure look on his face.
Busting Free Of The Jerks In Your Life
Jerks – we all have known them…and some of us ARE “them”.
It’s not uncommon to receive an email or comment from a reader who begins to share their story of a relationship, or often cluster of relationships with those who fall, not gently, but solidly into the category of being a JERK!
The reality is that far too many of us have invested ourselves heavily into relationships which over time have left us inwardly deeply wounded. We entered into our relationships with the best of intentions and we gave our heart and soul to making it the best relationship in the world, but somewhere in the mix, we were abandoned, lied to, trashed verbally, perhaps attacked violently, ,and left feeling nothing more than a huge black hole in a very crushed spirit.
Somewhere in the relational fray, we lost sight of our true sense of personal identity, and confirmation of relational safety. We stayed committed to a bad thing, because we believe it’s what we were suppose to do. In marriages we hang in there, because we vowed “until death do us part” failing to realize that a long time ago, with a spirit so deeply crushed, we had already died inwardly.
Why does it seem, the world brings across our path, more than our fair share of jerks?
It may not be what you want to hear, but the world has a huge surplus of jerks, and most likely, you’re experiencing the spill-over. Possibly, you are seeking them out.
Most of us walk through life innocently. In the process we fail to realize there are 20 rock solid behavioural identifiers, or traits, which quickly identify relationally untrustworthy or relationally unhealthy individuals. The sad thing is, in elementary or primary school, we are never taught classes on what to look for in potential best friends. We are simply dumped out into the “fighting cage” known as the school yard where the goal is simple, for 15 minutes we have to manage to have fun, stand our ground if necessary, or avoid a beating from the school bully. The school yard of life, is where we fail to learn how to identify healthy traits in relationally healthy people.
What Exactly Is A Jerk?
We all have the potential to be a jerk. No one is immune from this behavioural pattern. We take on this role in life by choice. Sometimes we make that choice deliberately, and more often than not, we make that choice without realizing it.
A jerk is an individual who through thought or actions, motivated by selfishness, hurts or brings pain to the life of someone else.
Selfishness can often be a very faded line which has washed away in the sand of our realization. Past hurts, our upbringing, our social economic imprint, can often leave us walking through life in a rancid form of survival mode. Our jerk-headiness takes root and flourishes when our survival mode crosses over to become on ongoing mentality steeped in entitlement. Our self-centred, or selfish mindset bellows out, “I deserve to act, be, or have what I want.”
Many years ago, according to Greek mythology, there was a chap named Narcissus. This fine Greek lad found himself sitting by a pool gazing into his own reflection, so much so, that he fell in love with the beauty of his own reflection. Today, a personality disorder bares his name “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”. There are also character traits which a person can exhibit in their life without having a full-blown personality disorder, and these behaviours are simply labelled as narcissist behaviours (this is the category that most jerks would fall into). Personality Disorder, and narcissistic behaviours both have at their core self-centredness, self-absorption, or selfishness.
The jerks of this world, are those who walk through life unleashing narcissistic thoughts and behavioural patterns on those around them. They are the relational takers and not the givers. True generosity is not a concept they appreciate or embrace. They can appear generous in the small things, but often such generosity is masked by an inward manipulative plan to get something greater in return.
The Scale and Scope of Jerk-headiness In Our Society
In a clinical setting, there are 3 recognized degrees or levels of jerk-headiness:
- Mild to moderate occasional displays of selfishness;
- Moderate to acute, and sometimes chronic selfishness;
- Severe selfishness which is actually sociopathic behaviour.
Everyone one of us has the ability to be a Jerk at one or more points in our life, and for this reason, approximately 40 to 50 percent of our world’s population are thought of as mild to moderate jerks. Then there are all those others. 30 to 40 percent of the population are thought to be the moderate to acute, and sometimes chronic jerks. Scary, and real scary, doesn’t begin until we start to identify the remaining 10 to 20 percent of the population whose degree of selfishness has them walking through life as a sociopath. Shockingly, in 1980 is was safely thought that the number of severe to sociopath types was only around 10 percent. Now in 2015, that number is thought to be closer to 20 percent.
A sociopath is a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior coupled together with a noticeable lack of empathy, remorse, or conscience.
When Jerks Become A Relational Risk In Our Life
As stated earlier, we all at some point in time have the ability to be a jerk, and most often it’s done unintentionally. Our “innocent” jerk-headiness comes up in those reckless moments of poor behaviour and even poorer exhibits of personal judgement. These are the moments which see men sent to the “dog house”, and women given sudden cold relational space. Mankind’s inward battle with “self” is an ongoing struggle. Mild to moderate jerks will manipulate the people in their life, but quite often it’s so minor that even they don’t see it for what it is.
The moderate to acute jerks are a whole different story. These jerks are the control freaks, the perfectionists, the people who have firmly coupled selfishness with an unsatisfiable hunger to control. These are the jerks who willfully take advantage of people and simply do not care. All they want is their desired result, no matter what it costs someone else. If confronted over his or her behaviour, they might on the surface display a face of remorse, but as soon as the coast is clear, they return to their deep-seated pattern of self-centred controlling behaviour.
Moderate to acute jerks are found everywhere in life. They are among our parents, our teachers, our neighbour, a church leader or church member, a boss, a co-worker, or a romantic partner.
The severe to sociopathic style of a jerk is where real danger awaits. We may not see evidence of it publicly in a parent, but down the road, we often see the trickle-down effect in their children. These jerks, love to control conversations showing disregard to what others might think or feel; they keep a score card of every offence a person has made against them and over time they seek ways to obtain revenge; anger wells up inside them and often comes out in violent or relationally damaging manners; they gossip freely destroying people, and not just one targeted person, but several as they receive true enjoyment from destroying the reputation of another; they never accept blame or apologize in life; they keep all thoughts private and inwardly pride themselves in being strong; their emotions are concealed to the point where some wonder if they have any at all; they have no sense of relational commitment and will sabotage their own relationships, eventually blaming their partner for the break up; sex with a partner is only for personal gratification; is a big spender of other people’s money and get’s angry if they have to spend their own; feels no sense of guilt over their conduct, and has no room to consider positive change; and the thought of seeing a therapist would never cross their life radar screen.
“Why Do I Seem To Experience So Many Jerks In My Life?”
Some people struggle in repeating similar patterns in life, and those include pursuing a particular type of personality. Masochists are typically people who will seek out abusive people to partner up with. Masochists unknowingly put themselves in a position whereby they can get hurt, be taken advantage of, or victimized. These people, while outwardly are self-inflicted victims, they are something much more…they are addicts who are addicted to mis-treatment.
Others of us encounter jerks as we carry out our normal day to day routines, experiencing life to our fullest potential. Crossing paths with jerks is a numbers game. 1 to 2 out of every 10 people is typically an acute to sociopath level of jerk.
“How Do I Break Free From The Jerks In My Life?”
We all travel different roads along our path to self-discovery. Perhaps the real jerk is the jerk that lies within our own being. Denial and repression of unacceptable ideas, feelings, motivations, and self-centered impulses can easily be buried deep within. This is often what our natural inner defense mechanisms are based on. Denial turns a blind eye on the problem, while others seek out ways to project their problem onto someone else. We can rationalize away our behaviour, or we can wilfully direct our anger on a safe private object, but ultimately we must confront the jerk that lays within our own inner person. The truth is, we all use some form of defense mechanism to try and distance ourselves from the real issue at hand.
Releasing yourself from an ongoing pattern of attracting jerks into your life includes taking time to gain a clear understanding as to what relationally safe people look like, and it also requires that you ask yourself, “Am I a relationally safe person?”
We all grow and mature at different speeds, and at different ages. The true beauty of finding healthy relationships comes in accepting that people do not have to be perfect to be relationally safe. But they do have to be open and honest in the way they deal with themselves and with you. Learning the differences between relationally safe and unsafe people can help you move forward in life in a much healthier and happier way.
About the Author : “Meddlers and Their Pernicious Meddling” is written by James C. Tanner, Author of Excelling In The Face Of Personal Chaos .
James C. Tanner is a highly published writer, author and business coach who has written heavily on topics related to business, marketing, and psychology. In June of 2007, when all publishers had completed their tallies, it was found that the accumulated writings of James C. Tanner was reaching a potential audience of 12,000,000 readers per month. James C. Tanner has founded, built up and sold his own businesses. He has written and taught business skills courses for clients such as the Government of Canada.
Bouchard, T.J., Jr., Lykken, D.T., McGue, M., Segal, N.L. and Tellegen, A. 1990.”Sources of human psychological differences: The Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart.” Science 250 (4978)
Hare, R.D. (1993). Without conscience: The disturbing world of psychopaths among us. New York: Pocket Books.
Meier, Paul M.D., “Don’t Let Jerks Get The Best Of You”, Thomas Nelson Publishers, (1993)
Stout, M. (2005). The sociopath next door: The ruthless versus the rest of us. New York: Broadway Books.
Walsh, A., & Wu, H.H. (2008). Differentiating antisocial personality disorder, psychopathy, and sociopathy: Evolutionary, genetic, neurological, and sociological considerations. Criminal Justice Studies, 2, 135-152.