I have a dear friend, Sue, who regularly alienates people around her. The best way I can describe it is paranoia. On the outside she smiles, makes conversation, jokes around, but on the inside, she is thinking that people have an ulterior motive and that they are going to take advantage of her. She constantly gets people’s backs up, and for no good reason.
Sue is truly a lovely person, and I enjoy her company and her intellect, but at times I find this behaviour to be unacceptable and embarrassing, especially when she does it to one of my friends or a service person that I may have recommended.
This seems to be a family thing, as I’ve noticed that other members of her family behave this way. I thought it might be because they are the children of Holocaust survivors. How do I work around this personality flaw that she has?
Hard to Take
Dear Hard to Take
There are a couple of points you mention that are very revealing – first, that other family members behave this way, and second, that they are children of Holocaust survivors.
Children of survivors have been raised by parents who have been through, and seen, unspeakable horrors. You can’t survive the Holocaust and not have it affect every part of your life, including child rearing. That’s why there are many books, studies and lectures on this subject.
After the war, survivors had no choice but to move on with life. They married, had children, ran businesses and seemed to fit in fine on the outside. But often, what went on behind closed doors was very different.
There is no question that many survivors had an increased sense of paranoia and nervousness. Many of them didn’t believe in sharing anything personal outside of the walls of their home. You can’t grow up in a home environment like that and come out of it unscathed.
My suggestion to you is to stay calm and relaxed. If you feel comfortable, tell Sue that you know the new people you introduce her to very well. Set her mind at ease so that she has nothing to be concerned about.
Be supportive and try not to take her behaviour personally. You can’t undo history, or the scars it has left on people who have been touched by it.
Readers may submit their questions to Ella at The CJN., e-mail: email@example.com. But Ella is not a professional counsellor. She brings to the questions posed by readers her unique brand of earthy wisdom. Her advice is not a replacement for medical, legal or any other advice. For serious problems, consult a professional.