Skipping Grey Rocks

When I was a child, my needs were often not met. Children who do have their needs met, learn many ways to protect themselves. The most protective skill I learned growing up in a home with a mother who was incapable of empathy, is commonly referred to as the “Grey Rock Method” and is the suggested course of action for people who have no choice but to spend time with a narcissist or psychopath.

Here is a demonstration of the Grey Rock Method:

The weather is supposed to be hotter than normal tomorrow. I think. I need to check the weather forecast. Hold on. Ok, yep, it’s going to be hotter than average. I think it’s the jet stream that has shifted that is probably causing the warmer weather. The jet stream is important. It’s not so much the heat as it is the humidity. I’ll check what it will be, hold on. Ok, yep, it’s going to be 90% humidity tomorrow. That will make it feel warmer that it really is.

Congratulations if you read that last paragraph all the way through, as it was meant to direct your attention elsewhere. Plainly put, to “grey-rock” someone is to be as boring and uneventful as you can possibly be.

Here are a few suggestions on how to be deemed uninteresting by a predatory personality. The topic you choose to talk about is important. It should be as neutral as possible. Notice how I didn’t reference global warming or ask any questions or wonder anything, I just stated the obvious – the weather is warm, and tomorrow is supposed to be warm too. However, it’s important to not come off as an expert nor express too much doubt, hence the “checking” the (creditable) forecast. Creating an “out” – pausing to check a forecast is a great way to allow the person you are talking to come up with an excuse to leave the boring conversation.

By the time I perfected the “Grey Rock Method” – I no longer needed it. My mother passed and a lifetime of manipulation and triangulation passed with her. However, as we all know just because we don’t need something anymore, it doesn’t mean that we always discard it.

Last weekend I went with my family to the rocky shore of Lake Marion, and we skipped rocks. Well, my husband skipped rocks, the rest of us mostly just threw rocks in the lake. The rocks on the shore were grey but they were anything but boring – just ask our kids; had they had big enough pockets they would have brought all the rocks with them back home.

The morning we spent at the lake was perfect. Everyone was happy and engaged. All our needs were met, and we were communicating well. I had a feeling of gratitude that generational curse of my mother had been broken. I felt relief.

Then life got a bit more animated as the children were terrified by the bees at the park and our daughter was teetering on exhaustion. The urgency to get home amplified as the heat index rose and my husband’s and my patience waned.

Once home and the chaos was abated, I spent some time trying to write and failed. The next few days were much of the same. I’d start writing a topic then lose interest. I had been writing every day, either on my blog or my next book since April and suddenly I was stuck. I had trouble getting in touch with anything interesting to write about. In a manner of speaking, I was “grey-rocking” myself.

This morning I had a thought about what might be causing my writer’s block; my last post had received a lot of positive feedback. There is a part of me that still views opinions as weapons and positive feedback as a threat. Criticism I can take. I thrive in doing better, trying harder, and refining myself and my work. However, simple compliments or praise can feel heavy.

It makes sense, I spent my younger years not believing, trusting, or investing in anything my mother told me. I was often on the defense and prided myself on taking proactive measures to avoid her wrath. Along the way, I forgot, or perhaps never learned how to take positive feedback for what is it meant to be, praise with no action required.

Not knowing what to do with this new knowledge of myself, I was motivated to write. I have been able to let go of the grey-rock methods that served me well when my mother was alive but it’s clear now that there is more work to be done. Skipping grey rocks on the lakeshore reminded me that I have come far in this life and my struggle to write about it reminds me that I have further to go.

Today, I will remind myself that I can recognize a predatory personality when I see one and that I can act accordingly should that occur. But more importantly, that this is the exception and not the rule. I will skip the grey rock method of thinking and allow myself to be more vulnerable with others, especially when faced with unexpected kindness or praise.

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