Have you ever had a loved one snap at you without valid reason? Had a stranger treat you in a gruff, rude or hateful manner? Had an acquaintance judge and criticize your character even though she barely knew you? Had a friend accuse you of acting irrationally when he was the one flying off the handle? If so, then you know what it feels like to be hit by an Emotional Dump Truck. An Emotional Dump Truck (which I will also refer to as EDT) dumps his or her emotional baggage onto others. An occasional encounter with an EDT can be confusing and hurtful; an ongoing relationship with an EDT can completely damage your self-esteem. It is my hope that this article will help you protect yourself and recover from the blows of Emotional Dump Trucks.
Shield yourself against blame. Emotional Dump Trucks are infamous for saying things like, "You're pissing me off. It's your fault that I'm unhappy. If you wouldn't act like that, I wouldn't have to yell." They are professionals at the blame game and quick to find fault in everyone--except themselves. Human beings are filled with internal conflict. Healthy individuals work through this conflict using methods like prayer, meditation, creative expression, physical exercise and therapy, while EDTs lash out and accuse others of causing their emotional discomfort. You are not responsible for the explosive reactions of somebody else, so do not interpret an EDT's tirade to mean that you are a terrible, unlovable, mean or bad person.
Look for spin. I once dated a guy who got mad easily. When this happened, if I said anything in response, he twisted and pulled apart my words until they were completely disassociated from my intent. He was the sultan of spin, using my honest attempts at getting to the truth and mutual understanding as ammunition for his ego-driven battle. One such argument left me riding in the passenger's seat of his car sobbing hysterically, while he kept peppering me with the question, "What do you have to say? What do you have to say?" I had nothing to say. He had knotted all my words like a messy ball of yarn, and I could no longer lay down a straight, coherent thought. I was dizzy. My head was foggy. Finally, I told him, "Let me be." Luckily, he dropped it. If a disagreement with another person leaves you feeling completely confused and disoriented, like you don't know what hit you, chances are you've been wrestling with an EDT.
Speak slowly, speak softly, speak in repetition. Say, "I'm sorry you are upset." Do not stoop to an EDT's level by playing the blame game yourself; do not yell; do not get lured into the fight. Remain calm and repeat, "I'm sorry you are upset. I'm sorry you are upset." Work to extinguish the fire, not to fuel it.
Defend yourself by leaving. Even those who consciously work to remain centered and loving become Emotional Dump Trucks from time to time, and I must admit that I have done it myself. On one occasion I had had a bad day at work and was taking it out on my friend by criticizing some decisions he had recently made in his life. When I paused momentarily from my litany, my friend said, "I think I'm done hanging out with you today." Then he stood and walked out. He didn't criticize me. He didn't argue. He didn't even get mad. He simply left, making it clear that it was wrong for me to pick on him because I was upset that my boss had been mean to me. In addition to showing me what a jerk I was being, my friend taught me that you don't have to fight back in order to stick up for yourself. Most often the best defense is quietly leaving the scene.
Dig deeper. Ask yourself if there is a message worth hearing beneath your EDT's overblown reaction. Maybe there is some validity in his accusation that you are too controlling. Maybe she has a point in calling you insensitive and lazy. Even if the interaction is 99 percent the fault of the other person, there is 1 percent that is your fault. Examine that 1 percent, own up to your contribution and learn what you can to make your life better.
Stop digging deeper. While it's always important to examine our role in explosive interactions, it is also important not to take on an unbalanced portion of the blame. It is possible that the EDT acted 100 percent out of line. In this case, the only lesson for you to learn is how to end relationships with people who continually dump on you.
Talk it out. An interaction with an EDT can leave you confused about your own role in the blow up. Share your story with a few people whose perspectives you admire. Recount the interaction as neutrally as possible; don't simply vent about what an a-hole the other person is. Ask your confidants to give you their honest feedback about the situation. Take to heart what they have to say.
Soothe your spirit. Being hit by an Emotional Dump Truck is bound to leave you feeling sad, angry and exhausted for days, weeks or months, depending on the intensity and duration of your interaction. Know that it is natural to feel bad and make healing a priority at this time. Immerse yourself in energizing activities and amongst loving, gentle people who can appreciate and articulate your value.