When I was a kid, my parents used to take my brothers and me to LBI (Long Beach Island), New Jersey, where we crabbed from the rocks at the base of Barnegat Lighthouse. We’d bait our baskets with a combination of fish heads and chicken or turkey necks, hoist them into the water, and wait. I stood ready with a five-gallon bucket by my side. As I filled my bucket, I worried about the crabs escaping, when my mother said, “You don’t need a lid. They can’t get out. When one of them tries, it gets pulled back by the others.” What was even more interesting to observe was how the crabs waited until the potential escapee reached the top, almost tasting freedom, before yanking it back into the bucket. It became a sisyphean task.
Years later, I would learn the term “crab mentality.” A crab mentality, originally a Filipino concept, refers to people who pull other people down so they don’t advance in life or pursue their dreams. It’s a demonstration of selfish thinking and behavior, which runs along the lines of “If I can’t have it, neither can you.” Such a mental mindset is destructive, denigrating, and downright diabolical.
Unfortunately, this crab mentality is found everywhere. It’s found in business, politics, education, and religion. It’s found across gender, race, and social networks. It’s even found in the home. The person afflicted with a crab mentality is a saboteur. This person does not lend a hand to anyone, is plagued with jealousy and competitiveness, and possesses a need to stop the positive progress of another. This kind of person may try to break someone’s spirit altogether. How? Through criticizing one’s attempts at self-improvement, insulting one’s self-worth, and spreading negative talk in the form of gossip, lies, and rumors about someone. Ultimately, this “crabby” person has the inability to be happy for someone else who is attempting the path of self-improvement. S/he falsely thinks that the only way to get ahead in the world is to cut others down, and this person is ruthless about it. The sad thing is that such a person doesn’t realize that s/he suffers from the disorder of crab mentality.
People with a crab mentality are easily recognizable. Dealing with them can be a challenge, especially if you are the person on the road to escaping the claws and clutches of such a person. It’s not like we can throw these kind of people into a vat of boiling water, putting them, and us, out of misery. First, see these people for who they are. They are not going to change. Become aware of their behavior. Observe how they treat others. Know what you are dealing with. Second, distance yourself from them, if you can. If not, don’t divulge anything personal that they can use against you or shred to pieces. Protect your goals and dreams. Third, avoid gossip and other negative talk. If you do engage in such cheap talk, you lower yourself, not because of them pulling you down but because of pulling yourself down. Don’t spread rumors. Focus only on accomplishments, not negativity.
The adage “misery loves company” not only applies to crustaceans, but also to people who want to hold us hostage for selfish reasons. As you develop your awareness, protect yourself and monitor your own thinking and behavior so that you don’t fall into the trap of developing a crab mentality. Aristophanes said, “You cannot teach a crab to walk straight.” So it is with those infected with a crab mentality: one cannot teach them to think straight. Instead, use your intellect in a way that will allow you to meet your needs without violating the rights of others.