Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
It gets crazier still when you add in the repetition compulsion, a neurotic reflex to serially relive the identical emotional experience in hopes of getting a different outcome.
If you are a long time, trusted friend who suddenly begins snarling at me, I will try to make peace. I will restrain my impulse to say, after threats, after the second or third show of hostility, “what is your fucking problem, asshole?” I will remain patient, try to listen, try to make myself heard. None of these things are effective once someone has turned implacably hostile, nonetheless, strategies I developed as a child for surviving monster attacks will automatically come into play (he said, the passive voice employed) during such conflicts.
Until I finally learn to recognize what I am up against. Once you see it, and confirm it, and confirm it again, it is crazy to think that with enough kindness, understanding, benefit of the doubt, you can win back the friendship of someone who is determined to “win” a conflict. There is no winner in a conflict that results in the death, real or psychological, of one or both of the parties, but that doesn’t matter to someone who cannot bear to “lose”.
The conflict itself, we learn, can be over virtually nothing. The dispute can be elementally simple to resolve, but that’s not the point. All that someone who cannot be wrong and must prevail at all costs needs is something that can be converted into a war cry. Then, you will find yourself at total war with someone whose greatest terror is the thought of “losing”.
They rightly perceive that they are in a war to the death. You may naively believe that good faith can fix what’s broken, but what war ever ended in people of good faith resolving the issues that led to war and setting up a way to avoid future wars? Good luck with that peace plan, idealist schmuck!
While you are searching for peace, the warring party is searching for war allies, convincing people that you are a sick, belligerent, dishonest, sadistic monster. If you find yourself talking to one of the folks who have already taken the warring party’s side: watch out. They will urge you to do whatever you need to do to end the war that you stand accused of starting and stubbornly prolonging. You will hear the unfair charges repeated as truth, and if you protest, your defensiveness proves the truth of the charges.
You remain calm, you refute each point, but at the same time, you begin to wonder why you are bothering to remain calm, logically refuting each point. This isn’t a conversation, it’s a prosecution, at the hands of someone you never exchanged a cross word with. Why am I being prosecuted? Because someone has made me an enemy and recruited mutual friends against me. Why have I been made an enemy?
The common fact, in every case of death during life final falling out, is that by exressing hurt I have made someone feel bad about themselves, feel as if they might have been wrong, thoughtless, perhaps even irredeemably enraged.
The fear of being made to feel shame, even though your entire life is a hard won buttress against feeling worthless, is more than motivation enough to attack and keep attacking anyone who might hold you responsible for things that are intolerable to you, as a perfect person. Perfect people are very dangerous when the obvious is pointed out to them, that there is no such thing as a perfect person.
It can take decades to recognize something you don’t want to see – that few friendships last forever and that friendships with people who cannot be wrong are doomed to end in an ugly way.
Much better to learn than stay in the loop of senseless, repetitive war.