When you find yourself a human vending machine

This is something that giving persons tend to see throughout their lives:  the toxic evolution into something not a friend, but a human vending machine.  When are you such a thing? When a person or person begins to take you for granted, make you their ‘easy way,’ expect some commodity of you on demand:  emotional support, information, some sort of effort on your part, whether you feel like it or not.  Those with specialized knowledge, especially in technology, particularly become the vending machine of choice because it’s ever so much easier to just impose on another than to use one’s mind and resolve it oneself.   Persons who do this are rarely emotionally stable, and tend to have significant issues.  I don’t know the official definition of co-dependency, but I suspect it plays in.

Such situations aren’t hard to identify.  The person involved rarely asks about your own life or needs; doesn’t really care, as machines don’t have needs.  He or she shows frequent signs of instability.  This person often praises you, perhaps to the skies, and why not? That’s supposed to be your payoff. That’s the unspoken deal, that you will be told regularly how wonderful you are.  A person constantly raging about his or her other vending machines, for example, doesn’t imagine you to be thinking:  and one day, it will be me.  And yet, if you are perceptive, that is what you are thinking. You as vending machine are being tapped for support because other vending machines have started eating this person’s quarters, perhaps.

To test this status is simple.  One day, simply eat the quarters.  Not angrily, not cruelly, simply don’t perform the expected behavior.  Most often that comes when you are at a limit, or at your lowest ebb in life, and simply can’t fulfill the demanded role–it’s not that you choose to eat the quarters, but that you lack the resources to process them.  In any case, the vending machine doesn’t operate as it always did.

If on that day, the individual simply kicks the vending machine and stomps off, yeah, that’s what it was.  Don’t feel too bad for the loss of a toxic situation.  On the phone, it usually takes the form of hanging up on you. In person, someone stomps off; on chat, someone fires a barb and logs off so as not to receive a rejoinder. I have a dear friend who moved away from a place she lived for decades, and most of her ‘friends’ reacted with shock and anger: the vending machine was not even going to eat their quarters, but was going to be removed from the vicinity. A few wanted to keep in touch, wished her well, and were happy for the improvement in her life, even if that meant less access to her.  Those few wanted her in their lives not for what she could do for them, but because they cared for her and believed, correctly, that she felt likewise. Everyone else gave the machine a vicious kick and stomped off, presumably to find another machine.

So on that day, when you eat the quarters, you’ll learn something about that person. If he or she now makes time to care for you, understand that you aren’t available in the normal way right now, and gives of him or herself, that was never a vending machine relationship–even if at times it looked like one.  In vending machine relationships, the machine isn’t allowed feelings.  If yours matter, then it’s not that sort of toxic dynamic.

If he or she kicks the machine and stomps off, my advice is to say nothing, turn, and walk away.  Don’t look back.  If that person shows contrition later, suspect it.  Rarely, it is a true epiphany; most often, it is sudden regret and realization that they may have permanently broken the machine, and a desire to get it back in working order.  You can accept the show of contrition, but it does not obligate you to resume vending machine status.  That’s the key. There need be no hard feelings, no animosity, but that does not imply that you must once again open yourself up to another kick. If you do, in my view, you are not showing much self-respect. If you do, you are partly the author of your own future misuse or abuse. How can it be otherwise? Let mistreatment sneak up on you once, well, anyone can get caught napping. Let it walk right up to you, say a few of the right words, and resume as before? Don’t allow that.  Respect yourself.

That person will need to find new vending machines (he or she has learned how to search for them over the years), and will do so.  Those situations will be toxic also.  However, you do not own that problem.  A very wise woman once taught me:  “Always ask yourself who owns the problem.  Whoever owns the problem needs to deal with the problem.  You can’t own anyone else’s problems.”

She was right.

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