This kind of conversation is a major red flag:
- Bob: I’m going to go to the mall.
- Stan: Don’t go to the mall. I want you to stay home.
- Bob: Um, why not? I need new trousers.
- Stan: Why are you taking that tone?! Are you saying I’m abusive? You wouldn’t be upset if I wasn’t abusive, so you must think I’m abusing you. I’d never abuse anyone! How dare you?!
- Bob: Could you not make jokes about my weight? It makes me feel bad.
- Stan: I would never do anything to hurt you! How dare you call this bullying!
It’s especially bad when:
- It happens every time Stan and Bob want different things.
- Because it gets to the point where it’s impossible for Bob to say no without accusing Stan of being abusive
- Or where Bob can’t express a preference that conflicts with Stan’s.
- This means that Bob has to always do what Stan wants, or else call Stan a bad person
- This is an awful way to live
In a mutually respectful relationship:
- People want different things from time to time
- People hurt each other in minor ways
- People make mistakes, and need to be told about them
- Everyone understands this, and can accept that their friend/partner/whatever wants something different, or is upset about something they did
- They understand that wanting different things, or being upset about something, is not an accusation of abuse.
If someone close to you claims that you’re accusing them of being abusive every time you have a conflict with them, they probably are, in fact, being abusive.
Some people with anger problems do so because they themselves are being triggered. Help them deal with their past problem; compassion helps.
That’s good advice in some situations, but I don’t think it’s applicable in the situation they asked about. I think what you’re saying makes a lot of sense in situations in which you’re responsible for another person’s physical and emotional wellbeing. For instance, if you’re raising a kid, or working with a kid who has been through traumatic things, the first thing to keep in mind is that they’re doing things for reasons and that compassion goes a long way.
But you can’t have that relationship with every traumatized person you encounter. It’s not appropriate with a roommate.
And that person was asking specially about what to do about the fact that they are triggered by their roommate’s depression and anger. It was a question about how to make a living situation work, not a question about how to make a support relationship work.
Getting involved enough to help someone deal with their past problem is a completely different kind of relationship than they were asking about. And there’s no indication that either they or their roommate wants that.
And, when you are triggered by someone even at a relatively distant relationship, it’s generally not a good idea to establish an even closer relationship with that person.
Their roommate’s past is not their problem, and helping their roommate get over their past is not their responsibility.
if youre comfortable, telling the person those things upset you (w/o guilting them for having emotions) could make it easier for you to work around it, maybe w/ their help
Yes, there are situations in which talking to them could be helpful; sometimes it is possible to work out things everyone involved can do to make things work.
It’s definitely important to acknowledge that the solution can’t be for that person to just stop being angry or depressed. It doesn’t work that way.
That said – I think that telling someone you’re being triggered by something they do is inherently likely to result in them feeling guilty. In particular if it’s something that they don’t much like about themselves.
There isn’t any way of bringing up this kind of problem that can reliably avoid the other person feeling guilty or ashamed. So, if they feel really guilty, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve done something wrong in bringing it up.