Thoughts that help when a friendship ends

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If you were to look at my browser history right now, the top search would probably be along the lines of ‘losing a friend’, ‘how to get over a friend break-up’ and similar phrases. It is a long story, but the short version pretty much boils down to this; my best friend does not seem to want to be my best friend any more. I have been struggling to cope with this fact for a while now, and I think I’m finally through the worst of it, so I thought I should take the opportunity to write down the thoughts that have helped me, in the hope that maybe they will also work for somebody else.

In all these searches in my history, the number one advice has consistently been ‘allow yourself to grieve’ – which is fine advice, I’m sure, but grieving was never my problem. It was when it came to stop grieving that I ran into problems. The sadness just felt so overwhelming, the situation so hopeless. Old feelings from previous break-ups came back, the old ‘how can anything ever be alright again after this?’ sentiment. But now – at least in my good moments – I feel that maybe, just maybe, it can. And here are my thoughts that help me:

  1. In the words of the BiG’s aptly titled song ‘Enlightenment’ “In terms of life, people will do what they wanna do.” This is the big one, the key. The realisation that I cannot change my friend’s mind no matter what I do, the knowledge that I have done everything I can is hugely liberating.
  2. I have a part in what happened. Some of the reasons for things ending up this way -maybe a lot of them- were my fault. Realising this, accepting it, has helped give me peace of mind. I apologised for my part, honestly, and she has aplogised for things too, whether she honestly meant them or not. But, moving forward, I found myself being the only one making an effort, and I can’t do more than apologise. One person can not have a relationship; it takes (at least) two.
  3. Forgive them their part. Being angry with someone, frustrated with them for not feeling the same way you do, it’s natural, but it doesn’t help anything. It doesn’t change their mind, it doesn’t bring the friendship back. All it does is make you feel like crap, and you’re probably already doing that. So really try to let go of the anger. No matter what they did, let it go. Done is done, and being angry won’t change anything, at least not for the better.
  4. Don’t glorify the past. My friend was a great friend at the time – and we had some great times together – but it wasn’t all flowers and puppies. We fought a lot. Towards the end, we fought more than we had good times. So what I miss so desperately has already been lost for a long time. Not trying to dress the lost friendship up as being the most amazing thing in the world when it really was just very occasionally amazing, helps. As does recognising that what I’m losing now isn’t really a friend, it’s just a reminder of a friend. I’m losing something that reminds me of what I have lost. And isn’t that a good thing?
  5. Why miss someone who doesn’t miss you? Why would you want someone like that in your life? The one thing my friend was great at was keeping in touch – making me feel important to her, wanted. Now she makes me feel like a huge bother for contacting her, unwanted and unwelcome. I don’t want to feel like that. So why would I chase after someone who makes me feel like that? Why would I cry my heart out over losing someone who makes me feel like that?
  6. People change. On my darkest days, I feel like my ex. friend has killed my friend and is walking around in her skin, taunting me with her presence. But really, all this means is just further proof that the person I loved doesn’t exist anymore. She’s gone. Accepting this, accepting that she’s gone, and accepting that my friend didn’t change on purpose – that these things happen, that this is how people work and that you can’t prevent them from changing, even if this means changing to someone who has no time for you or does not care about you, has helped me let go of that resentment somewhat. It’s still work in progress.
  7. It’s her loss too. She was a good friend, but so was I. I did a lot of stuff for her, listened to her problems, etc. She told me at the time how much she valued me. And now, she might not know it at the moment, and perhaps never will, but really, losing me is as much of a loss to her, as losing her is to me. Even if this is just me kidding myself, thinking that way helps me.
  8. Focus on the things you do have. If you have other friends, maybe value them more. If you have family, things you enjoy, focus on those things. Odds are you had a life before this friend came along. I did. I had a lot of interests and things that made me happy, and it’s time to try and reclaim those. I’m not downplaying the loss, but I’m not blowing it out of proportion either. Life does go on. I think about the things I used to enjoy before meeting my friend, listen to a lot of old music, trying to take this opportunity to find my way back to myself as I was before, without the pain of the break-up.
  9. You’re hardly alone. Just do an image search for ‘losing a friend’ or similar, and you’ll find a thousand pictures that says exactly what you feel. At least I did. It seems like almost everyone has gone through this at some point or other. And while that is sad, it’s also comforting.

The hardest thing about all this, I find, is all the questions I’m left with. Why did she change? Is there any hope of things getting better in the future or not? Is she angry about something that she won’t tell me; perhaps something I don’t even know about? The fact that the one person who could give me those answers that I need is the one person I can’t ask, that is the hardest thing. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t change anything. Her issues are not mine – and mine are not hers. Accepting that I need to do this on my own has been the most hard-won realisation, and probably the one of most value. I’m the one who has to handle what is now reality for me. All the promises she made, all the nice things she said about me in the past – that was then. It’s easy to get upset now, say that they were all lies, but they were probably true at the time. Times change. It sucks, but trying to fight it sucks even harder, and that’s why you eventually reach a point where you have to let it go.

Anybody has any other tips that work for them? Please share!

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What to believe when you don’t believe everything you hear?

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So in my quest for things that help around the web, I ended up searching for something about the effects of being bullied as a child on you as an adult, and ended up on this site.

Most of the posts were people telling their own stories, but one poster mentioned that he had found something very helpful called ‘faster EFT’. I had never heard of this, but although it sounded quite new-agey and shady, I figured that there would be no harm in finding out more. Apparently there was a ton of free youtube videos So even though the mere name of the channel made me cringe with the anticipation of disappointment, I figured I had nothing to lose by just having a look. Fully prepared for someone to drag up something religious ten minutes in, I went ahead and watched the first film.

What ‘fast EFT’ turned out to be, at first glance, was a method for interrupting negative thoughts, memories, emotions by tapping with your fingers on certain ‘acupressure points’. Well, the BS alarm started to tingle already there, but ok. A lot of people say that there’s something to this, and the first video I watched the guy talked a lot about the placebo effect, how your mind can actually effect physical change in your body, and I thought – okay. I’ll try it. All this flim-flam sounding talk about ‘meridians’ and ‘energy’; I figured was just a way to sell it to people who get off on stuff like that. I could swallow that. I mean, who knows; there’s a lot of things we don’t really understand about the brain, etc.

And it actually seemed to help a little. Focusing on a negative feeling, really feeling it, then distracting yourself by shifting your focus to something physically demanding attention on the surface of your skin, like tapping fingers, then taking a deep breath, relaxing and thinking about something more pleasant. It actually worked – and why not? Breaking a negative thought and relaxing should work, right? Impressed and pretty excited that perhaps this wouldn’t be one of those times where everything sounded promising right up until ‘God’, I went on to browse more of the videos, thinking who knows what other useful stuff might be in there?

Of course, it couldn’t last. I clicked in on a video that was supposed to be about speeding up your metabolism. Ok… metabolism to me seems a little too physical to be easily controlled by your ‘mind’, but… who knows? A lot of people apparently have had success. Perhaps it would just turn out to be a way of tricking yourself to not feel so hungry? It could work, right? Right? I’m never one to buy any method wholesale anyway, but rather glean small tips and tricks that work for me personally, and that’s what I’m always on the lookout for. Maybe there would be something like that in there? Hopeful, I clicked the video.

So, it starts off with someone successfully overcoming their fear of driving. Ok, fine. I’m sure distraction and relaxation could have some beneficial effects on fears and phobias. Well, managing to relax alone would surely help a little. Alright. Get to the metabolism part. And the man in the video says ‘it doesn’t just work for metabolism; it works for everything’. Everything that has to do with your body, I assume, as he seems to be a firm believer in placebo effects and the power of suggestion. I’m pretty undecided on how much I believe that stuff, but I’m willing to keep an at least semi-open mind about it. But then it happens. He ruins everything for me.

He says that he took a bunch of his ‘patients’ or students or what you want to call them to a casino, and my heart just drops. I know what’s coming next. And sure enough, they have been tapping on themselves saying how much they want to win, that they’re going to win, and of course they win lots of money – on slot machines nonetheless! Why!? Why did you have to go and utterly destroy all my trust and respect for this, this method that had actually helped me? Now I can’t believe a word you say anymore! I felt… betrayed, to be honest. I had thought that this was some very simple way to manipulate your emotions to feel better – all of a sudden it turns into the bloody ‘Secret’!? The disappointment was total, so big in fact that I left a comment to the effect on the video – me, who never comments on anything!

I should have seen it coming, of course. I’m far too old to fall for anything like this, but… I just wanted to steal my little bits that worked for me and be off in peace… I didn’t want the BS thrust in my face like this. I got a response to my comment, which basically said ‘I don’t know why it works, but it does’. This I can’t understand. It’s one thing to not know exactly how something works – I mean, I don’t know exactly how a slot machine works, but I guess it has some sort of randomiser inside it, and some mechanics to turn the cylinders and if a certain number matches up, there will be a certain payoff. But if there is suddenly some way for a human brain to influence the outcome of the mechanical or digital components of a slot machine – wouldn’t that be quite a revelation? Would this guy, who seems content with just saying ‘oh the power of the mind’ be interested in knowing HOW on earth this works? I know I would! Because I can’t see how it would be physically possible. How, exactly, does it work? And why do people never seem to ask that question?

This is my issue with so much of the stuff that so many people seem to just accept and never reflect on. Religious stuff, new-agey stuff, all those murky areas where I just want to shout WHY do you think this would work? HOW – by which mechanisms – do you think this would work? And I feel alone, with so many people just buying it without stopping to think ‘hold on… is that actually physically possible’. So – what can I believe in when I don’t believe in everything I hear?

In two minds

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I have been thinking a lot about self sabotage lately. About subconsciously, or sometimes half-consciously, screwing things up for yourself. It frustrates me and fascinates me at the same time. Why do we do things that we know are bad for us and that we know counteract our goals? I have arrived at the tentative conclusion that it has to do with having nothing to lose, about the relief of having nothing to lose; about the freedom from anxiety about losing things. But… I still want to have things. Friends. I still want to make progress and achieve goals… so it is complicated. I’m in two minds. And as if no further complication was needed, sometimes the things you want are not just dependent on you.

This became very clear yesterday. I have been writing a story together with a friend – something that has meant very much to me. I have really been suffering from a lack of creativity the last couple of years, and finally getting to plot and develop characters, and collaborate with somebody else who has great ideas and characters that I’ve grown very fond of – well, it’s the most fun I’ve had in a very long time.

But, unfortunately, my writing partner is not always as engaged in the project as I am, and as days turn into weeks without any input from their side, and the energy starts to leak out of the story, and I start to forget what was going on, I find myself growing increasingly desperate. What do I do? I’m enjoying this so much, I feel so much potential for the story and the characters. I would hate to lose it. At the same time, the pace is not working for me. The negative feelings stemming from our different approaches to working on the story is starting to almost eclipse the joy of it, and I find myself wanting to simply put it out of its misery. My misery. And I don’t know what to do.

You don’t throw away what you love because it isn’t perfect. But at the same time, if you hope for change where you know there is no hope, that would be akin to the ‘first sign of madness’ – no, not talking to yourself but doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Add to that the fact that you cannot change others. I know that things are not going to get better and I know that I will not be able to both keep my enthusiasm for the story and avoid my feelings of resentment and disappointment when things are just left to wither over long periods of time. It is such a hard decision, because the basis for making it are so… unreliable. So I’m in two minds. Two very well matched, equally strong minds. And… well. It’s a problem. But at least I understand them now. Not having anything to lose, not having to worry about it. And wanting to have something. And understanding always helps. A little. I think.

Emotional detachment

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It’s strange the way you can feel like you’re getting nowhere for years, and then suddenly there seems to be some sort of progress or development in a quick leap. It can be getting a new job, or meeting someone, but I’ve found this past week that it can actually just be making your mind up and doing something you’ve been meaning to for a long time.

In my case, the progress I’ve made has to do with emotional detachment. I’ve always found it hard to know what is an appropriate level of attaching to a friend. On the scale of ‘I don’t give a flying fuck whether you live or die’ to ‘stalkerish and jealous to the point where you’ll start wondering if we’re actually a couple’, you ideally want all your relationships to end up somewhere in the stable middle. But how to actually do that has been a mystery to me. Still is, in some respect, but so worth trying!

Of course, the process isn’t really made easier by some people on the high end being quite comfortable about being there – and why shouldn’t they be? You’re giving them so much power over you! If a friend that has constantly stood you up or had you as a low priority finds out that you are emotionally detaching yourself from them, they might get worried that they won’t get away with treating you like that anymore.

But for me, emotional detachment isn’t about breaking contact. My ‘high-end’ friend is still my friend, and I still care about them, but I just can’t tie my happiness to them anymore. That doesn’t mean I won’t be happy to hear from them – it just means I’ll be okay even if I don’t.

This is not like flipping a switch, of course, and I’m fully prepared for set-backs, but I know this is the right move and the fact that I seem to have finally figured out a little bit how to actually do it just give me a great sense of finally getting somewhere! So, my concrete how-to steps for emotionally detaching yourself from somebody you have let slide too far up the scale of caring.

1) Don’t worry about them. Don’t look for signs of life from them, or stalk them. Realise they’re not your responsibility, you cannot change them – let them be who they are and take care of themselves. If you’re like me and have this illogical, superstitious feeling that something awful will happen to a person as soon as you let your ‘guard’ (i.e. worry about them) for a second – realise that you really don’t have that much power over the world. What will happen will happen and odds are that it will have nothing to do with you.

2) Trust that they won’t disappear just because you give them a little bit of space. There was this person I used to talk to every day, and I was – again – irrationally afraid that if I didn’t, that would be the end of the friendship. Then it ended anyway due to moving and circumstances, but we reconnected a few years back and now we don’t talk everyday – sometimes weeks can go by – but we still see each-other and do stuff and have a great time together. A real friend won’t fall off the face of the earth if you give them a little bit of leeway.

3) Caring less – or starting to care a reasonable amount after having cared too much – doesn’t mean you’re ‘doing something to them that you wouldn’t want them to do to you’. This was also a big thing for me, who was raised with the idea that the way you treat people is the way they will treat you in return. This – which was a bit of a revelation to me – is simply not true. People are different, and they’re going to do what they’re going to do in the way they’re going to do it no matter what. Sure, in broad strokes if you’re a dick to people, they generally aren’t going to like you, but I mean on a smaller level. If you make a point of always being on time, that doesn’t mean that they will! If you make a point of remembering their birthdays, doesn’t mean they’re going to! And if you detach yourself emotionally, but still stay in touch and still remain a good friend, it doesn’t mean that they will all of a sudden dump your ass for not caring about them anymore. Most of the time, they probably won’t even notice that anything has changed, as the change is about how you feel, not what you do.

Well. Those are some of the things that work for me. Perhaps they might work for someone else too.

 

Thoughts on love

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Not that long ago, someone asked me what this means, and explaining it got me thinking about love. Everyone wants it; it’s sort of the whole basis of our culture, to be accepted, fit in, be loved. Right? But I got to thinking; is it really being loved that we want? Isn’t what we really want to love something or someone else?

Being loved gives you, in the best case scenario, security. Reassurance. In the worst case, it gives you a stalker. It is the difference between being loved by someone you want to be loved by, and someone you don’t. Loving someone or something on the other hand is usually a positive experience. Sure, unrequited love is painful, but still, having that strength of feeling for anything- even if it hurts you, that makes you feel alive. That’s what I think we’re all looking for.

But being happily in love with something gives you energy and a reason to get up in the morning. And, even though a mutually loving relationship is a great thing, the emotion in itself doesn’t have to be returned to exist. You can get that same energy kick from books or music, or whatever else you love, and get the full benefit of feeling something fantastic without having to have them love you in return.

Another aspect of ‘you are not who loves you’ that came to mind as we were discussing this quote, is that so many times when people start new relationships, you see them taking on every interest and characteristic of their partner, losing their own; they almost start turning into the other person, and when the relationship ends, they’re left all confused and befuddled about who they are without their partner. That is the danger with thinking you are defined by who loves you. It doesn’t have to be your partner either for that matter – some people become who their parents want them to be (or who they think their parents want), again defining themselves through outside eyes, eventually arriving at a point where the outside perspective is lost, and they have no idea who they are as people anymore.

Whereas if you define yourself by your interests and passions, by what you believe and feel about the world, then there’s a good chance that you will grown and change according to your own life, and be less dependent on others for your sense of self. At least that is my theory, and that’s my take on what this means, and why I find it such a helpful and encouraging quote.

Setbacks and disappointment

So, the downside of this trying malarkey is of course that trying often leads straight to failure. Trying, as we all know, is in fact the first step towards failure.

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And when what you’re trying to do is something of a life-long project (feeling better, being a better person) then failure is of course downright inevitable. Every day cannot be a better day than the one before. Every step cannot be a step forward. So, it seems this is another aspect that will have to be dealt with. But how?

“Plant expectations – reap disappointments” in all honour, but how do you ever do anything without expectations? How do you work on trying to be better and feel better if you don’t have the expectation that what you’re doing will help? And when it seems to help, when you have actually managed to handle a situation in a better and more productive way than previously because of the work you’re doing, then how do you avoid being devastated when the next time rolls around, the same type of situation, and this time over you completely botch it? I thought I had this shit down! What gives? Did I get cocky? Overrate my own abilities, what? So, here are my thoughts to try to make this better:

1) Two steps forward, one step back… Failure implies trying, so at least I’m trying! I’m doing something. I’m not just giving up. That seems comforting to me. Feels better than to feel crappy and not try to do anything about it. Keep taking steps, and the odds are good that eventually you’ll get where you’re trying to go. Take no steps and, well. You’re almost guaranteed not to get there.

2) Every day is not a good day. There can be reasons you’re not at the top of your emotional game on any given day. Maybe you’re stressed about something. Maybe it’s just one of those days. This is okay. Sometimes you have to be gentle with yourself and forgive yourself. Just like you feel better if you forgive others for disappointing you, you’ll feel a whole lot better if you forgive yourself for disappointing you.

3) Try to see it as a learning experience. Every exposure to the situation that upsets me gives me a chance to practice not getting upset. And even if I failed spectacularly this time, next time will be a chance to succeed. It sounds over-optimistic and sappy, but logically, it is true. You can’t succeed at something that you never have to deal with.

Today, I read an article about this researcher who had written a book about why people like playing video games when they keep failing (boss fights, platform jumps etc.) Obviously, people like a challenge. My thought is that the more times you have to retry that boss fight, the more pissed off and frustrated you get, the better it feels and the more of a kick you get when you finally succeed. So maybe failing isn’t always bad, if you can see it as building towards a more satisfying pay-off? That thought actually makes me feel a little better!

Anger management

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I’ve always been infinitely better at knowing how to hurt people than make them feel better. It’s so easy to lash out! And so hard to hold my tongue. Maybe it’s my backlog of grievances from my school days, and misdirected lust for revenge, but that does not make it any more okay. So I’m trying to stop that. And the easiest way not to lash out at someone is to try and not get annoyed with them in the first place.

I get very easily annoyed at people. Not to say angry. Not to say hurt. That is because I’m impatient – to me a lot of people are notoriously slow at doing things, like responding to e-mails etc. Many are the times when I have sat fuming and wondering what on Earth is it that can POSSIBLY take so long!? But, just like with insults, I have found that there are a few ways to think that can help relieve the anger and frustration I’m prone to feeling.

Firstly, I find it helpful to identify why I feel so frustrated. What are the thoughts behind that grating, unhappy anger and impatience? Depending on the circumstances, I have come up with a few different ones.

1) ‘But I would never…’

I would never behave that way – make someone wait that long. Sure, once in a while something legitimately happens that causes the delay – but most of the time, honestly, they’re just being slow for (what I consider) no reason. And I get hurt that they’re just not prioritising me in the slightest when they don’t reply to a chat message for half an hour because they were ‘caught up’ watching a you-tube clip or something. I would never do that. To me, that’s just basically rude.

And that feeling is very hard to shake, but here’s the thought that helps to at least ease the discomfort: They’re not me. This is the top one. Just because I would treat them in a certain way, it doesn’t mean that I should expect them to treat me the same way back. I can multitask; watch a film and reply to a message simultaneously. Perhaps they don’t have that ability. They think differently; their minds work differently; they have a different way of doing things. It doesn’t mean they’re being rude on purpose just because if I did the same thing, I would be. And there’s nothing to say that my way of doing things is the right one, or even the common one. The more people I interact with, the more I seem to realise that I’m probably the unusual one.

2) ‘It used to be better’

Another big source of unhappiness for me is comparing things to the way they used to be; those days when interaction was swift and pleasant. And I have noticed that this thought isn’t just the sadness that things are worse now, but a fear that it’s a continuing tradition. That if something is worse today than it was yesterday, then it is bound to be worse still tomorrow.

But this is a false projection. People don’t work that way; they’re not quite that linear and predictable. Anyone can have a bad day today and a good day tomorrow. If things can get worse (and they always can!) then they can usually get better too!

3) Overlooked reasons.

Tiredness. Stress. Work / school, family matters. Mental health. There can be lots of things on people’s minds that they don’t mention but that are causing them to act in a… less considerate manner. But these factors hit people differently too. See no. 1)

A few days ago, someone wrote something that really annoyed me on a message board. It wasn’t directly affecting me or related to be, but… sort of. And my knee-jerk reaction was to post something snarky back, but I managed to restrain myself, and I’m glad I did. Apparently, this person, it turns out, struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts and whatnot, and when I found out, it made me think about how I tend to forget about people’s reasons. And about giving them the benefit of doubt even if you suspect that they are lying about their reasons.

4) ‘Is is my fault?’

It’s important not to fall into the paranoid ‘was it something I said’ mindset where you convince yourself that you’ve pissed them off and they are somehow taking their revenge. This one can be very hard to deal with, but if you do piss someone off, you usually know it with more certainty than that. Now, if I do feel strongly enough that I have done something inconsiderate, I just ask. And, if it turns out I have done something, out of my impatience and annoyance, I apologise. This has certainly happened; I have said quite a few things that were out of line over the years. But I am working on not letting it happen again.