Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

The Idiot’s Guide to Dealing With Idiots

Idiots. The world is full of them. How hard it is for us, non-idiots, to put up with them. But to get our jobs done, our kids fed, and our pets groomed, we must deal with them.

Idiots come in many shapes, forms, and types, but the ones that frustrate me the most are those who don’t believe in any forms of mental illness. These creatures maintain that all mood disorders are cute, creative stories crafted by persons who enjoy obsessing, ruminating, and crying their eyes out … a wealthy bunch who can’t think of anything better to do than come up with a make-believe tale about a few neurons wandering around the limbic system afraid to ask for directions, just like Moses.


We must tune out the idiots to achieve any kind of sanity or serenity. But how? Here are four ways that have worked for me.

1. Expect nothing.

If you expect your cousin to understand your bipolar disorder, then you are going to be disappointed when your cousin doesn’t understand your bipolar disorder. But if you sit down to lunch with her fully expecting her to space out on 90 percent of the conversation, you won’t walk away from the table bummed out that she didn’t inquire about your manic cycle … or know that it doesn’t have anything to do with a washing machine. I think Sylvia Plath was referring to idiots when she said, “If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.” That goes for parents, in-laws, siblings, pets, spouses, children, and ministers.


2. Don’t offer information.

I don’t do this one well. I tend to spill my guts to whoever is seated next to me—which is why I have made so many friends on flights between Maryland and Ohio. The conversation doesn’t always go well, though, especially if I’m talking to an adamant anti-medication person who believes all psychiatrists are agents of the devil, involved in a racket with Big Pharma, reaching into the pockets of innocent people everywhere, and spilling poison into the bloodstreams of children. Obviously, that dude is not going to approve of my I-would-be-a-gonner-without-meds tale. He could very well give me the old furrowed brow to express utter disapproval. At this point, most folks would change gears and go back to talking about the weather or the turbulence ahead. On a bad day, however, I keep going full stream ahead and absorb this guy’s opinion, tossing it around in my head. Before the flight is over, I am back to feeling like a pathetic loser who is addicted to antidepressants and at the mercy of an evil empire.


When this happens in a dialogue with a close idiot in my life, I take the disapproval very personally and I start to dislike myself. No one, however, can disapprove of you, or furrow the brow, if he has no information to analyze or shred. So if you stop giving the idiot material to bash, he will have to find something else to grate—hopefully, a person, place, or thing that has nothing to do with you or your life.

3. Try some visualization.

This technique helps me with the idiots I have to see on a regular basis. Visualization essentially gives you some much-needed boundaries to protect yourself from the cannon that could be fired at the next family function. You have to experiment to find the right kind of visualization for you. For example, you could visualize yourself in a bubble, where absolutely nothing can hurt you. It resembles a mother’s womb—a place many of us would like to revisit. Or you can envision the idiot in a bubble. Whatever she tries to launch at you isn’t able to penetrate the protective force. My recent visualization is to imagine that the deemed idiot is made of stone. Why? Because I am continually frustrated that she doesn’t respond with more compassion. Visualizing her as a statue of ivory stone reminds me to keep my expectations in check and that she can’t take away my self-esteem or self-worth just by her cold, stoic way of being.


4. Don’t take it personally.

I really hate it when people say this to me. However, I read chapter three of Don Miguel Ruiz’s classic, “The Four Agreements” on my way to see an idiot the other day, and his words helped me build a layer of protection around myself so that I left her house feeling less disappointed and hurt than I usually do. Ruiz explains that we can become immune to hurt and rejection. For real. He writes:

There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally. You become immune to black magicians, and no spell can affect you regardless of how strong it may be. The whole world can gossip about you, and if you don’t take it personally you are immune. Someone can intentionally send emotional poison, and if you don’t take it personally, you will not eat it. When you don’t take the emotional poison, it becomes even worse in the sender, but not in you….As you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won’t need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you. When you truly understand this, and refuse to take things personally, you can hardly be hurt by the careless comments or actions of others.

There you have it! The Idiot’s Guide to Dealing With Idiots!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kevin Keough

    I believe Therese has presented the G-rated version on dealing with one of the most impressive idiot-types of all: mental illness doesn’t exist and/or is just a sign of spiritual weakness, white-upper middle class whining, buck-up, get a grip, get a life, etc idiots.

    I am far more generous though in giving these idjits time and rope to hang themselves. However my generosity is offset by the unkind manner in which I toy with these people. Sometimes it is important for such people to be on the receiving end of what they give out. So, they get it with a friendly warm smile…….and it makes them very confused.
    So, attention is called to the confusion and other “symptoms” spontaneously revealed. And I just watch the rope tighten.
    Okay, I un-tighten the rope before they lose consciousness. And they are so grateful for suffering unkindness so they rededicate their lives to Jesus. Even the meanest baddest looking guys in the world almost get weepy

    Maybe it is just a guy way of having fun with this idiot type and saving their souls from eternal stupidity. I just know I feel called to minister to these poor idiots.

    I agree with the 4 tips and suggest an ornery 5th tip. Call or email a friend who enjoys listening to you admit to and describe in considerable detail how you want to torture recently encountered idiots. Visualize and verbalize creative forms of torture for each idiot encountered. And I am quite serious. Might as well admit to human emotions or the idiots win.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment marymargaret

    Number Four is my go-to..
    However, the “Kevin Keough” in me relishes the graphic images that come to mind when an idiot puts the foot in the door.
    Example: the other day while talking of an idiot, a friend said “He will shit if he has to pay me spousal support” to which my lips flapped back “good. hope he shits a brick, it backtracks and gets stuck in his throat.then it can go to his nasal cavity where he can smell his own shit for a change”………holy cow, where did that come from? My friend laughed so hard she forgot her anger for a moment..

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Connie

    I’ve suffered with depression for most of my life and I’ve been given the extra special whammy of a daughter who was diagnosed as bipolar at the ripe old age of 12. It’s been my experience that the idiots who have the most to say about psychiatrists and medication are the idiots that most need a psychiatrist and meds themselves. They just don’t have the guts to face their problem and do something about it!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Paddy

    Thanks Therese. I was having trouble dealing with a problem neighbour, who didn’t appreciate the work I did to help her. This post has just hit the nail on the head: don’t take it personally!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kat

    Cute. :)

  • Mike,

    I’ve been semi-retired for about five years now, working at home. When I was a manager in an office and responsible for dozens of people, I would get tachycardia — rapid heartbeat — two or three times a year. No mas. Nada. Nothing. Your suggestions are excellent, Therese. The best bet may be semi-retirement or retirement but since that’s not possible for most of us for most of our lives, it makes great sense to cultivate those ideas you offer today. Thanks!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Debbie

    I just love your blog! So many times it hits home to where I am at in that moment. Thanks !!!!

  • Amanda

    I found this blog through “Why Stay Catholic”. I love all of your blogs. Of course, I feel like it was meant for me to come across this article.

    Just recently, I sat down with a friend and told her everything that has been bothering me about her. Usually, I would hold everything in about a person that has been offending me a while and never address it. This time I wanted to try it and see what it would be like if I shared my feelings with her. She took it well but I know it won’t change her but it made me feel better knowing that she can’t make a jerk out of me anymore. I would continue the relationship because my husband is very good friends with her husband. Puts me in an awkward position. Long story short. After reading your blog, it made me realize, no matter what we do, they will never change and we can’t expect them to. So I like the idea of not taking it personally and even expect nothing. But at the same thing I feel like I can’t be myself around them and how do you stop yourself from feeling disrespected and walked all over?

    So glad I found this blog. Thanks for sharing your feelings with us!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Lori

    Thanks for this. I often plow ahead with people thinking that if I can edify them about my past and pain that they’ll “get it” and behave the way I want them to behave. Oy … Talk about taking the circuitous route.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Pamela

    I just love this post. If it is one thing I can’t stand is a idiot or someone trying to play STUPID or maybe they are just stupid in which case as Ron White says” U can’t fix stupid”. I really enjoyed what
    Kevin Keough says in his hit home and Therese’s comment. I feel SOOO much better now..knowing there is other people out there like
    me. Also I also love Therese blog it makes a lot of sense in this messed
    up world. I just love it.It has help me so many times and the best thing
    it is FREE. She makes more sense than them PHD’s and psychiatrists.
    Therese please keep your blog u are the greatest.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Nancy

    Thanks, Therese! I have a whole extended family of idiots who think that Holistic “doctors” have all the answers…maybe I have too much copper in my hair follicles, or I need more fish oil…anyway, these are certainly good ideas to keep idiots away from my fragile mind.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cb

    While in a session with my therapist I made the pronouncement that there are two kinds of people I CAN’T STAND — stupid people and slow people (I make an exception on that one with the elderly).

    My therapist simply replied, “And the world is full of stupid people and slow people.” EXACTLY!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Wendy

    What fantastic advice. I especially like the not taking it personally. So empowering. After all, about whom can we really do anything? Just ourselves! I think I enjoy complaining endlessly about what so and so said or did, but I really don’t. And it just makes me feel more convinced that they are somehow “the problem”. They really aren’t. My reaction to them is what gets me down. Thanks for the reminder!!!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Michelle

    Thank you Therese. Hearing that you and others have had similar experiences reminds me that this is an illness but still a culturally safe subject for comedy and judgement. The people who judge are so fortunate that they have no idea what they’re talking about. If they had walked in our shoes, they would feel differently. I am more open about my mental illness than I used to be and will often tell others that are categorizing or judging that I have dealt with mental illness since I was a teenager and I did not choose it. Who would? Another interesting aspect though is that when the depression part of my illness attacks my self worth, I have to remind MYSELF that I am doing the best that I can and not choosing this. It is so easy to blame myself even though I am angry when others judge. Your blog and books have been very helpful in showing me that self acceptance will go much further toward feeling better than self judgement will. Again, thank you!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jen

    Great advice!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Marc

    I didn’t vote for Reagan but I sometimes borrow the line he used when Carter started talking about him like he was a warm monger–“there you go again….” I think it to myself and try to tune out. I work around academics and some are in love with the sound of their voice and need their dogmas; it really is true that its not personal. I do kind of close up inside (points 1 and 2 above) but that’s better than getting sucked in to someone else’s issue.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Ellen

    Therese–Thank you! I love your blog— It’s reassuring to hear that others are going through the same thing. Thank you for your insight and wonderful sense of humor!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment R.G.

    So right on!

  • cj

    This isn’t a “guide to dealing with idiots” whatsoever. A more apt title would be: “4 ways I cope with my tendency to over-share with strangers while being sensitive about my mental disorder.” If you’re expecting empathy from strangers while sharing much too personal and sensitive information, perhaps they’re not the ones who are idiots? Of course people in society are judgmental, and you will never change that. If you think you can change that, you are entirely over-ambitious, and maybe a little bit insane. Adapt to it. It’s not exactly rocket science to figure out that if you are sensitive about your disorder and medication, then perhaps you shouldn’t be eagerly sharing that information with others..

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