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Growing in friendship

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  anita 5 months ago.

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  • #186235

    Meander
    Participant

    Bit of background. My mum has bipolar disorder, so growing up there were different coping methods I learnt instinctively which I’m in the process of trying to understand and grow from. I developed people pleasing tendencies where I feel I need to put other peoples needs first, and be prepared to adapt to situations around me in order to protect myself from negative consequences. Negative consequences are hurting/disappointing/offending others, conflict, making mistakes, doing the wrong thing, getting in trouble.

    One of the coping mechanisms I learnt was to try to keep a calm front at all times, to keep control over myself, how my feelings are expressed and my actions. It seemed better to hold this in so as not to be the trigger for difficult moods. I still haven’t overcome this. If I openly express my feelings, or spend time sharing things about myself with others I have a feeling of wrongness, like I’m being too selfish and I feel the need to turn things back onto the other person. If I lose control of my feelings and get angry or cry around someone, I feel I have failed.

    This sort of habits make it hard for me to connect with people. I have a close friend, who I’ve been friends with since school. I really value her friendship and want my friend to know me, be part of my life, so I work hard to express myself, to share things.

    I’ve told her about experiences growing up, and about the tendencies I have/struggle with. But there are times when I feel very lonely with her. And then start feeling resentful. I really hate feeling that way, and putting that negative lens on my friend and our relationship, so I usually try to repress these feelings, but that doesn’t help. I’ve gotten to a place where I really want to understand them and overcome them so I can better appreciate her and our relationship-because I really value her place in my life.

    My friend and I are quite different. She is very open and expressive-if she’s upset she’ll cry openly etc. She’s confident about asking for and accepting help. She likes talking face to face or on the phone. She struggles with negative thinking, and worrying about stuff, and is an emotionally driven person. She feels supported by being able to talk things out and vent about stuff. I try to be there for her, support her when she needs it, and spend a lot of my time doing this.

    I find it very hard to be openly expressive, or to ask for help, and I prefer writing when it comes to sharing about myself.

    We have talked about our differences, and different needs. I have tried being direct in my needs-like asking her if she can ask me specific questions to help me to share stuff. As I then feel like I’m not going to bother/burden her in sharing. She’s said she finds it hard to ask questions, because she’s used to just sharing/saying stuff if it crosses her mind, so she thinks I’ll do this. She tells me to just tell her stuff when I want to and not to worry. But I have a whole lot of hurdles to go through in trying to do that. I tried giving her a list of sample questions and even found some journal type questions that I write answers to to send her to give her more insight into me.

    I’ve said that when I do share stuff, like writing an email, it means a lot to me to have a response, so I know she’s there/has listened. She often doesn’t respond, or responds in a general “oh yeah” manner. She says she has to be in the right frame of mind to respond, because it’s a lot to think about/try to understand. We do think in different ways-she likes clear cut, I am reflective and ask a lot of why’s, like to consider ideas from different angles. And I’m long-winded (as this here proves). So I can totally get that it might be challenging.

    I just get frustrated sometimes because I feel like everything needs to be on her grounds. That I need to be the one putting in the effort to make myself relatable in her way of thinking. I begin to think about her saying it’s hard to fit in with my needs, and I compare this to how long I spend talking with her, and thinking about stuff she’s got going on. She sometimes apologizes to me for needing me so much and taking up so much time. I feel honoured that I can be a part of her life and support her.

    I do feel a bit resentful however, that me and my life don’t seem to count as much. Then I feel very guilty for having those thoughts. and try to reject them by being critical on my thinking-reminding myself she doesn’t think about things in the manner I do, that the amount of time I spend thinking about others is part of my people pleasing and not a trait I would want in others, that she has different ways she offers care and support. That negative thinking keeps coming up at times though, and I really want to overcome it.

    I came across this quote on Pinterest which resonates with me (there was no author)

    “Sometimes I feel like I’m not even the main character of my own story. I feel like I’m only secondary character; Despite the fact I am important and integral to helping the protagonist on his journey and in his life, I sometimes wonder if that’s normal, to not be the center of your own universe. It feels to me as if everyone else if just so important, with so much potential, that they are all giants. Sometimes I feel like I don’t exist beyond the view of the main characters, just as a secondary character has no story beyond his relation to the protagonist. It feels like sometimes I live on a different plane of existence, where I’m just this sort of ghost who only exists when others need him. It makes me wonder if I do have importance or purpose on my own.”

    I have shared this quote with my friend and admitted that I feel that disconnect sometimes, can feel resentful. She’s said she always hopes I’ll be more direct/open in things.

    I’m discovering there are many great articles on TinyBuddha about expectations, people pleasing, appreciation and building connections which I’m sure will be of great help.

    #186287

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Meander:

    Your mother made your life be about her. She was the main character, you were a far secondary. She was on the stage, you were the silent, supportive audience. She expressed, you repressed. Your friend feels comfortable being on the stage and you feel uncomfortable being on the stage. But you do want stage time. So you ask her to… ask you to get on the stage, to invite you up to the stage.

    I think that inviting you to the stage is a wonderful thing a quality psychotherapist can do, ask you gentle questions, listen, let you know she heard you by repeating what you said, so you know you were heard. And then, in therapy, deal with the anger you understandably carry on from childhood, anger about being dismissed as unimportant, not important enough for having your time on the stage.

    I don't think a friend can provide a series of corrective experiences for you.

    With your friend, the challenge, I think, is on one hand to not overwhelm her with your sharing, expressing and on the other hand to make sure that when you reasonably share, she does listen and responds.

    Back to the psychotherapy idea, I think that a quality psychotherapist will be best able to help you, to teach you how to be on that stage and … how to be in that audience.

    anita

    #186295

    Inky
    Participant

    Hi Meander,

    You ARE the Protagonist in your own story! Your friend knows it, too. I think it's wonderful, actually, that you are opposites and have this friendship. Aside from the quality psychotherapist, continue your friendship, don't read too much into it, and enjoy it!

    Best,

    Inky

    #186379

    Meander
    Participant

    Thanks very much for your replies Anita and Inky.

     

    My friend and I both benefit from being different-helps give different perspectives and experiences which we appreciate. We encourage and challenge each other in different ways.

    Id never considered that anger from my childhood could be triggering feelings. That makes a lot of sense. I did go through a time with my mum where I had a lot of anger with her-would get irrationally mad at little things and then feel bad for it. Ive gotten to a much better place with my mum, but there are still many feelings there-like a sense of hurt-that I don’t really like to consider because I don’t know where to channel it healthily. I don’t want to be in a frame of mind where I blame Mum-that’s not something she can deal with.

    thanks for the suggestion about talking to someone to help deal with that-I think that’s a good idea

    Meander

    #186465

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Meander:

    You wrote: “..not something she can deal with”- she is still on the stage. Got to get yourself out of the audience in your own life and place yourself on the stage.

    I don't think it is a good idea to confront your mother, that will solve nothing at all but create more distress for you. On the other hand, accepting your anger as valid, as understandable is very important for your well being.

    It is about you understanding deeply that indeed your mother harmed you, and therefore your hurt and anger are valid. And then, as this sinks in deeper and deeper, you will feel that it is the right thing for you to do,   to place yourself on that stage.

    anita

    #186523

    Meander
    Participant

    Thanks. The part about validating my anger has really got me reflecting -I struggle to validate my feelings in general. I am scared to have feelings that might not fit in with other people around me-even in my own head I’ll question if it is ok to feel that way. That is definitely something for me to work on. Thanks for the insight!

    #186541

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Meander:

    You are welcome. When you doubt the validity of your own feelings/ emotions, you close yourself to necessary information. Other animals operate by instincts and emotions alone. Can you imagine an animal doubting its emotions?

    If an animal doubts its fear, it will not be able to protect itself from danger. If an animal doubts its anger, it will not be able to fight and defend itself or its territory.

    As a child it is scary to feel anger at one's mother because we need her, for one, don't want to scare her away with our anger. As an adult, you no longer physically need the mother, yet the fear stays the same.

    As you take on the long, difficult healing process, you will find that emotional validity, gradually.

    anita

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