Before I proceed to my question I want to say thanks: i’ve been reading this blog for a few months now and largely due to it I have successfully broken up with my Darth Vader girlfriend of 2 years, told her to fuck off and broke off all contact with her. (YAY FOR YOU. It’s hard but it feels awesome, right? – CA)
Here’s the situation: I have a close group of friends whom I love and adore. Every last one of them is awesome and lovely, but I’ve been experiancing some weirdness lately.
I’ve been going to therapy for 8 months now and it has been mind blowing. I feel this new clarity about things and people, and it’s manifesting itself all over my life in many wonderful ways. thing is, I feel as though after taking this big step forward, I now relate a little less to my friends. iIm 23 and my friends are all between the ages of 23 to 26, and though I’m sure most of them will end up in therapy some day, they’re not quite there yet. So I get these little frustrations where I feel that I’ve progressed while they’re still slightly held back, and then I feel condescending and mean just for thinking that. Captain, how do I deal with this? Do you think it’ll go away? I know I will meet many more new friends in years to come, but these people are kinda like my family and I don’t want to drift away form them.
Dear Highly Evolved:
The bitch about therapy is that the self-awareness you gain there isn’t transitive to the other people in your life.
You can use therapy to develop some better tools – you can recognize fuckery better, or catch yourself when you fall into bad thinking patterns, or get into a better habit of speaking up for yourself instead of stewing about things and taking all your anger into yourself, but you can’t make other people share your realizations. Also, when you start a conversation with “What I learned in therapy the other day…” it’s rare that the person you’re talking to leans forward and wants to hear more about that. If you add a “you should” on the end of that sentence, don’t be surprised if they actively flee the conversation. “What I learned in therapy is that you should _______,” is kind of an insufferable sentence. Edit it to “Hey, _____, I think I need _____. Could you do _____ for me?” before it comes out of your mouth for better results.
Highly Evolved, learning comes in fits and jumps. You drift along and struggle and then something clicks into place and you wonder how you ever lived without knowing it. Emotional intelligence, resilience, social skills, self-care, self-awareness are things that we learn, and I wish people understood and emphasized that more instead of pretending that there are some kinds of people who naturally know those things and some kinds of people who don’t and never will. Some people definitely have a stronger aptitude for handling their emotions and social interactions, and some people have conditions that actively delay and inhibit this learning, but in the end everyone who learns it learns it the way we learn anything: risk/hypothesis, practice, feedback, adjustment, trying again.
We all learn it at our own pace. And we don’t welcome our friends telling us how to learn it or how to learn it faster.
I have some practical recommendations for you. Well, I have a bulleted list of stuff your question made me think about. How’s that?
- Be happy and grateful that you’re learning this stuff now. It will only help you.
- Your friends are also learning stuff at their own pace in their own way. You might not be the only one having these growing pains.
- The ways that you’re outgrowing your friends are partly to do with stuff you’re learning in therapy and partly to do with getting older and developing different interests and ways of interaction.
- Look at your friends generously, not as people to be fixed or hurried along but as people to be loved and enjoyed for what there is to enjoy. Appreciate them, tell them how much they mean to you, put love into them.
- When you have conflicts with them, try asking them directly and calmly to stop doing whatever it is and/or apologize and see where it gets you. Treat them the way you want to be treated. Or, treat them as if you expect that they’ll do the right thing and that it will all work out. Treat them with respect, in other words.
- Take your passion and make it happen. Find people outside this one group of friends who share your passions and priorities and hobbies. Take something you love doing and do it to the fullest. Look for people outside your exact age-range. You can have both the old friends and the new. The new people might be people who are into what you’re into right now. The old friends are the people who have always known you and who still love you. Your old friends don’t have to be into what you’re into right now to love you, and the new friends don’t have to share everything with you to love you. It’s not an either/or kind of thing. Seeking out people who have stuff in common with you right now is actually a way to preserve your old friendships, even though your time and attention will be divided. You’ll take the pressure off the old friendships to be perfect if you have other places to get those needs met.
- You will probably have some friendships that are about proximity and the everyday. The people you eat lunch with, see on weekends, go running with, play music with, play games with, etc. – your social group. You will also probably have some friendships that you don’t hold so tightly but that you pick up from time to time. Some friendships live in an awesome dinner once a year, or a phone call every so often, or reading each other’s online writing. So start thinking about different modes of friendship. You can have all different kinds.
You’re making me think about old Girl Scout campfire songs, to be sung in a round:
Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver and the other’s gold.
44 thoughts on “#373: Drifting apart from friends.”
Lovely answer. Long-time lurker who thought I’d delurk to let you know how much of your advice has helped me.
“I wish people understood and emphasized that more instead of pretending that there are some kinds of people who naturally know those things and some kinds of people who don’t and never will.”
This is great, and I think we tend to think this way about a LOT of things, from academic subjects to human interactions. Sometimes I think negative identifiers like “I’m not a _____ person” (e.g., math, writing, art, people, dance, etc.) are rooted in this idea that skills aren’t learnable, when they actually demonstrably are. You don’t have to be an innate prodigy at doing something in order to learn it, get better at it, use it, and maybe even enjoy it down the line. I’ve often seen high-achieving students stop trying to solve something as soon as they fail to get it the first time around, because that means they obviously can’t do it at all. I had never put learning social skills in that context, though–that’s a great insight.
[tangent, maybe?] There was a fascinating research study about that thing you’ve noticed with high-achieving students, where it was demonstrated if you tell kids they got something right because they are “smart”, they tend to quickly give up on things that are harder (often declaring them boring or stupid) because if they get them wrong, it proves they aren’t smart, while kids who are told they got something right because they tried hard…keep trying when they get harder problems.
Reading that study was like looking into a mirror. I cannot tell you how often my parents told me I was “smart”, nor the number of things I’ve given up on in my life because my jerkbrain was convinced it was “boring” or “stupid” and my secret heart was convinced *I* was really the boring stupid one underneath and I had to put on a show.
Woah. That makes SO much sense to me.
The researcher is Carol Dweck. See here for more info: http://mindsetonline.com/howmindsetaffects/mindsetforachievement/index.html
Gee, has anyone done a study on how to undo that conditioning?
*mind blown* This is so me. I was always the “smart” one. I could tell when people used that word as a compliment and when they used it as a … um… not a compliment. I’m going to go process this now for a while.
This is absolutely true, and something I definitely experienced as a kid. I had major anxiety for years about “What if I’m secretly not smart? What if everyone eventually sees I’m a failure?” Over time I’ve come to accept that I am actually smart (no matter how much my anxiety tries to fight it), but I’ve definitely become very conscious of not repeating this with other people, especially the kids I work with- I’m always very mindful to praise them for their progress (“Wow, I am really impressed at how far you’ve come with multiplication since we started working together, I can see you’ve been studying really hard”), or actual skills they display (“You know two languages, and that gives you a lot of advantages in building your vocabulary”), rather than just reassuring them that they’re smart. It carries over to other areas of life too- I’ll sooner say, “Wow, I love your hairstyle” than “You’re so pretty!”
And wow, that totally explains why I hate doing things I’m not immediately good at. Augh.
otoh when I say I’m not a math person it’s kind of the opposite – I did really well in it at school, I just don’t enjoy it. 😛 However I’m totally one of those high achieving students who did fantastically in high school and then went to university and crashed and burned. Unfortunately the education system in a lot of places is so strained that there’s not enough support for kids with extra challenges to achieving basic standards (eg learning disorders, poverty, behavioural problems, family dysfunction) let alone teaching smart kids how to apply themselves as WELL as get good marks.
I don’t want to assume too much about your life trajectory, LW, but around the age of 23, I felt I was growing apart from a very close group of friends as well. In my case, it was due to the fact that we’d all just finished undergrad, and were dispersing on the winds to the furthest reaches of the globe—Switzerland, England, East Coast, West Coast, Antarctica (really!). I was also in the process of dealing with some Life Shit and also starting graduate school. I felt like my friends were changing and I was changing and my family was falling apart.
It wasn’t. Most of those people? Still as close as family. But just like I don’t see my cousins every day, I don’t see those people every day. Oh, but when we do see each other! It’s glorious.
My point being: as you and your life are changing right now, it may feel like you are losing your friends. You probably aren’t. But as you change, your relationship to them will change. Being aware and open to that is a good thing!
Same here. My close friends from high school have scattered to the four winds and back again, but we’re still family, and when we do see and talk to each other, in some ways, it’s like nothing’s changed.
Then we’ll all decide to check our credit scores together on a whim, and suddenly you feel a little old.
[Sniffle] Amazing advice, Captain. The only problem is, I don’t think we have enough quilts to embroider it all on.
Evolved also comes across as more than a little arrogant, perhaps with the enthusiasm of the recent convert: “This worked great for me, so everybody I know needs it too!”
Dial it back, Evolved. Just because you’ve benefited from therapy doesn’t mean everybody you know has the same needs.
I found it interesting that the LW said “and though I’m sure most of them will end up in therapy some day, they’re not quite there yet” because sure, maybe they’ll end up in therapy, but maybe they will not. Just because someone hasn’t been through therapy doesn’t mean they aren’t equipped to deal with what life throws at them in productive ways.
I was thinking about all the friends I have/had who (interestingly, between the ages of 23-6) have said “I really need some professional help, but I have no insurance, County Health has no psych services, the school is booked out till December, and paying out of pocket is half a month’s paycheck.”
And I thought “aren’t quite there yet, indeed.”
This is all great advice- CA nailed it pretty well. But I do want to add one thing-
It’s okay if you end up drifting apart from some of these friends based on levels of maturity! Now, definitely put into practice the things Captain suggested (and give it a little time, as sometimes the initial rush of KNOWING THINGS dies down a bit and them not knowing things bothers you less), but there is no shame in letting some friendships fade. It’s normal.
I myself have found that I had to do that a couple times in my own life, whether with groups or individuals. I have even avoided some groups as a whole if they were too lacking in specific areas of growth for me. Most of this is because although I don’t have much people knowledge, I have a lot of me knowledge, read a ton, and work to apply things often and so have usually outstripped others in growth pretty quickly. That’s fine, that’s just how it is, and it’s not like I’m perfect anyway. Most of it is that I would just get tired of being shoehorned into the adviser role in a group, and then no one ever taking my advice (because nothing says ‘fun!’ like being pinned down to give advice, and then have them constantly ignore it after begging for it), and then repeat and see them never grow while I have moved on to my third set of problems in my own life.
It gets really grating to hear a person talk about their same horrible boyfriend two years running by the way. Or any other problem that they have some control over, know they have some control over, but still choose to do nothing and then do about a hour a day complaining about it for years.
The friends I still have? Are awesome and gold and lovely. And now any advice that is squeezed out of me is at least considered, and the person actually works to change their problem (whether they take my advice or not). That, to me, is a big sign of maturity and the main one I like to be friends with.
I think where you go from here depends on your friends. Has therapy helped you see that your dear old friends are actually not very nice people (e.g., their immaturity manifests as unkindness, sexism, or narrow-minded obnoxiousness?) or are they a great bunch of people who just haven’t acquired some of the insight and tools you have?
If it’s the former, then (in your head) you say “oh, well, nice knowin’ ya but I’m afraid we’ve grown apart” and move on. If it’s the latter, you enjoy them for who they are, don’t worry about the fact that they aren’t as “evolved” as you, and figure most of them will catch up in their own time.
So true, it depends on the individual friendship. It’s totally okay to need some space from friend/significant other while you grow and figure out what you need. Maybe you need to redefine the relationship a little; instead of the relationship meeting one need, maybe now it meets a different need. The Captain’s advice is, as always, spot on; try to meet new people but also be patient with your old friends and cherish them based on their individual strengths. Maybe a particular friend doesn’t have the insight necessary to be a good confidante anymore, but they’re still great fun at board game night. Or you’ve noticed that someone else is a pain in the ass in groups but is kind and generous one-on-one. Maybe they’ll catch up to you, and maybe they won’t. It’s not your job to fix them.
It’s also okay to break up with someone you’re not compatible with anymore. (African violets, anyone?) A few weeks ago my therapist pointed out that friend-breakups have a lot in common with romantic breakups: you need to mourn afterwards, and sometimes it’s okay to be alone until you meet new people. If you suddenly understand that the people around you are toxic, getting away from them might be so urgent you don’t have time to find a new friend group first. The time alone will be a chance to focus on your own growth. If it’s not that bad, a slower drift while you find healthier people could be possible.
I recently realized that several of my and my boyfriend’s friends are racist/sexist/classist/pretentious assholes/overgrown children and it’s been a challenge to avoid them in a close-knit group. Much like you, I’ve also been drifting away from people who haven’t learned some of the emotional skills the Captain described. (Eg, people who aren’t racist/sexist/classist themselves, but can’t or won’t set boundaries about unacceptable behavior) But much to my surprise, I found out that some people were already trying to avoid the problematic ones, and it’s helped me become closer to these people who were more mature than I had realized. You might find allies in unexpected places, people who were waiting for an ally like you to come along.
TL;DR: Change is awkward and often scary, but when it involves personal growth, it’s usually for the better.
Yeah, the letter is short on specifics and I think they matter a lot. If your friends are good people and good friends to you but just not approaching their lives the same way therapy has helped you to approach yours, that’s not necessarily a problem (or at least not a problem they have). Maybe it’s not that you need to wait for them to “evolve” but rather that part of your evolution is understanding that not everyone deals with life the same way, and that the tools you’re using now (which work for you, and that’s awesome!) and not the tools that everyone else can or should use.
Also, remember that while you may have taken a giant step forward, you’re still evolving, too. (We all are… or at least I hope so).
The younger you are (and from my perspective 23 is still pretty young), the more likely you are to fall into the trap of noticing the ways people are different from you and thinking the differences necessarily must be divisive. While it is true, I think, that we need a certain amount of commonality with other people to connect, I have come to appreciate that it is the differences that make people interesting. And the similarities and differences that we are often raised to *think* matter are not the ones that really do.
For example: the Awkward Army. I betcha we don’t look like a group. I suspect we come in all different shapes and sizes, with all different hairstyles and makeup (or non-makeup) and piercings (or not). I *know* we have all kinds of sexual preferences and gender identities and relationship preferences, etc. etc. etc. But there is something in the hearts that draws us together and makes us want to help each other, makes us feel safe revealing ourselves to one another. It’s very cool!
When you’re re-evaluating your old friends, be sure you focus on the essentials: are the things you still share the things that matter? Are the things that are different between you now things that mean you can no longer respect the other people, or just different but still valid ways of being? Don’t be in a hurry to dismiss people because you have discovered differences you had never noticed before (or that never existed before). Difference is the spice of life.
Relationships, like many things in life, have their own life span. It’s okay to be close to people for a while and then not. It’s okay for friendships to run their course.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth time and effort. They are. But if it becomes clear that, no matter what time and effort you put in, the spark has passed, let them go.
I’ve had all kinds of friendships run their course. Some I’m still in touch with in casual ways (FB is brilliant for this); some I don’t have any contact with. I think of them fondly. I can acknowledge the good they brought into my life. And I can be okay with the reality that it’s in the past, and that that particular relationship is no longer additive.
CA’s last bullet point reminded me of an awesome analogy I heard on a radio show once: some friendships are like outdoor cats. Every few days (or weeks, months, or even years) they show up at your back door, and you let them in and feed them and hang out like you’ve never been apart, and then you let them back out to do their thing. I have a few friendships like this–and I AM this friend to some people!–and I enjoy them for what they are. 🙂
Yup, I’m like this in many relationships : ) And some friends are fine with it; others call me “flaky” but don’t care (usually because they do the same thing lol and I get to call them flaky too); others take it deeply personally and nag and guilt-trip me and…..lose my friendship. The ones who accept me for who I am? I am always there when they really need me.
Evolved, I would also recommend checking out resources on Active Listening. Me and most of my university friends were involved in listening services (Nightline, Samaritans) as volunteers, which meant we did training in Active Listening, and it’s actually really, really useful in personal relationships too.
It’s basically about learning how to listen to people, and how to ask questions and explore their feelings in ways that are (hopefully!) helpful and respect their own autonomy and development process. It’s definitely *not* about learning to be a counsellor, although all counsellors and therapists will usually have learned about active listening at some point of their training. Active listening looks at body language, how to look and appear open; how to use open questions; how to make sure you are actually concentrating on what people are saying (and not thinking “Oh me! me! I’ve got an idea! let me talk!”) or turn the conversation into, “Hey, this one time something very similar happened to me! LET’S TALK ABOUT ME!” Active listening is usually explicitly not about giving advice (“I think you should..”, “If I were you…”), but you can still use it to suggest courses of action, (“What do you think would happen if you talked to him about this?”), as long as you’re genuinely listening to the answers. And it can really, really help people to talk about those kind of things.
Because all my friends were doing it, it got turned into a bit of a joke, “Crikey, that sounds hard. So how did you feel when your mum said that?” “Look, don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing…” But even when you know your friend is Actively Listening to you, and you’re both rolling your eyes, and laughing at their carefully open body language, it’s still good to know that you can rant about a particular situation and your friend *is* really listening. So if you’re becoming more self-aware and mature yourself, it’s a useful way of directing some of that self-awareness and maturity outwards without being all, “So my therapist would say…” “SHUT UP ABOUT YOUR THERAPIST FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!”
Counselling is now part of my job, so it turned out to be particularly useful for me! It’s a great skill for life, though.
This whole comment was massively eye-opening and super-relevant to my past week. Thanks for writing this! 🙂
Friendship circles change and flow over time. It’s jarring at first, but it turns out to be pretty awesome later. At first you’re like “nobody likes me or invites me to things!” but it’s just that everyone’s focus has turned to something I wasn’t into. Later, there might be some Big Friend Schism and some people start hating each other, and you have to figure out how to manage that. Then ten years later, you have several different but related friends circles.
My then-fiance was from a close-but-separate friends circle to mine, in college. He and I have mostly kept those friends. At our wedding-related events our friends were all “whoa! I haven’t seen you in years! How are you?” to each other. Everyone knew each other, more or less, or at least knew of each other. People weren’t all Great Friends TM, but everyone was able to be friendly and had fun.
So, maybe you are maturing out of your friends group. Maybe you’re getting arrogant about your therapy and insights and your friends are getting sick of tolerating you. Maybe it’s just post-college change. Maybe nothing is really changing and it’s just your perception. Whatever it is, it is pretty much okay. Sometimes you might have a few really good friends and sometimes you might have a ton of people you see all the time and you don’t have time to sleep.
Whoever you feel distant with, poke them to go see a movie or something, go out for brownies, find an air hockey table, whatever it is you do.
Finally, it is totally cool to have friends you do just a few things with and don’t see that often. For a while, I had the Concert-Going-Friend, and the Baseball-Going-Friend, and so on. I have a Dinner-Going-Friend right now and a whole bunch of chatting-on-the-internet friends. I don’t see a lot of people these days. But when I needed them, when I needed Mourning-My-Cat-Friends, they were there.
Reblogged this on …on becoming a counsellor and commented:
I wanted to reblog this post – such a great, articulate response describing the counselling process… I really enjoyed reading it
LW, another thing to keep in mind is the age you’re at is one where personal progression will naturally start to happen at different rates.
Obviously, everyone grows and changes at their own rate naturally, but until you reach your mid-twenties a lot of those life milestones that tend to bring growth and change with them will tend to (but not always) happen at fairly similar times. Everyone starts 6th form at roughly the same age. People tend to start university at roughly the same age. First kisses, first serious relationships, first time living away from home, first part-time job, learning to drive, thinking about the future/career/education seriously, first drink… these will tend to happen at similar-ish times. And they all bring opportunities for growth with them.
But then you hit 23/24/25 and suddenly you’re not all following the same schedule, because suddenly the only person whose schedule you’re following is your own, with a healthy dollop of random luck thrown in for good measure.
If I look at the people I care about and how their lives have progressed over our shared 20s (now approaching 30s!), there’s a lot of variation. Two friends of mine took out mortgages this year. One of them is in a serious, long-term relationship. Another friend got married last year. A couple of my sixth form friends had children. One announced their engagement a month ago. Two friends lost their jobs, one moved back in with their parents, the other came out to his parents, was homeless for a short time and then decided to go back to university again. My partner and I celebrated our 10th anniversary this year, we’re both unemployed and my partner is studying to become an horologist. A couple of people I know are still living at home, having never left, still taking part-time work and still single. A couple of others live with friends and go out partying every week because their income and lack of other responsibilities makes that feasible. We’re all becoming very different people as we experience all these new, challenging things, and some of us are changing slower than others, for all sorts of reasons.
But by the time we’re in our mid-30s, chances are most of us that are progressing slower will have “caught up”, in some sense or other.
I know right now you’re flush with the excitement of this new change in yourself and you want to share it. Much like how one of my friends now feels the need to explain to me how I’ll “change my mind” about becoming a parent, because parenthood has been a wonderful, growing experience for them. Like how another friend cannot stop trying to convert the rest of us to veganism after discovering it a few months ago, because her new lifestyle has improved her health and mood quite dramatically.
Much like how I became insufferable to my friends after I, at age 14, had my first “proper” kiss while on holiday and spent the next month explaining to all of them how kissing works. It’s exciting to discover new things, and so hard to resist wanting everyone else to experience this wonderful thing. But what is right for you might not be right for them, and no one enjoys being evangelised at. Support your friends in their growth, wherever it stems from and at whatever rate it occurs. Maybe some of them will surpass you in growth when some incredible luck or terrible tragedy alters their lives.
I’d just like to add that when the Captain said to “Take your passion and make it happen”, I immediately started singing the theme to “Flashdance”.
Take your pass-ssion, DADA DA DADA!
*ahem* Or in other words, Me Too ^_^
I, on the other hand, could not remember which 80s song I had stuck in my head after reading that, so thank you both.
Nope, I got the Girl Scout song. I think you got the better end of that deal.
:tents fingers: You’re welcome!
So glad I’m not the only one who still loves that song!
Oh wow, Evolved. Good timing! I’ve been dealing with exactly this. I’ve grown a huge amount in the past few months, thanks significantly to a pile of just amazing new friends and wonderful new experiences. And that’s been fantastic, but I’m realizing that my old friends just aren’t people I want to spend time with anymore.
In some cases, that’s fine. We’re not that close, we don’t click that well, and it’s easy to stop investing in the relationship and let it fade to Facebook likes.
But other folks, I love. Personal story time! I don’t know the specifics of your situation, but for me, it goes like this: I’ve totally let go of my trauma. It took a while, but it’s really gone. I might have problems, or be sad or mad, but I never get triggered. I didn’t know that was even possible. Seriously, I thought on some level that everyone had triggers, everyone had anxieties that wouldn’t release, everyone had body issues…. Untrue. And it feels so awesome, oh my god, I am having the most fantastic time playing with all these hot, amazing new people. It’s like I spent my whole life thinking that everyone had at least one broken leg—or an arm? couple of ribs? a toe, surely—and then mine healed completely and it turns out I’m an awesome dancer.
And some of my old friends are just not there. I actually think this is especially a thing in feminist / activist communities: we tend to treat life as a struggle, a war on the patriarchy. And so in our friends, we try to find fellow soldiers. People who’ll carry us when we’re bleeding and broken and traumatized, people who’ll bandage our wounds and not tell us everything will get better because we all know it won’t. I lived that. I’ve served my time. And I’m done being a soldier.
Which makes it hard to even interact with these old friends. I really want to support them, but they need me to be something I’m just not anymore. This is where I would tell you the solution if I knew one. The best thing I’ve figured out how to do is be myself. Say hard things. I’ve written mental scripts to tell friends that it’s hard for me to interact with them. I’ve stopped talking about their triggers as inevitable and started talking about them like injuries that’ll will heal if cared for. Injuries they shouldn’t just walk on. The hardest part—and I’d love any advice anyone has about this—is that I want to tell them to just let go. You don’t have to win! You don’t have to defeat your demons! You can just walk away from the whole battle. But you can’t push that. You have to meet people where they’re at. But I can’t visit the front lines anymore. I’m trying to send telegrams when I can, maybe call… but it’s not enough, I know it’s not enough, and I know these friendships are just going to fade. If not away, then substantially.
And that? Sucks.
I’m so glad I came back and read this comment, because I’ve been doing the same thing – letting go of trauma, not thinking of myself as a soldier, and not fitting in with friends who do – and I never even realised it. It feels horrible, because what I miss isn’t the companionship or the love and support. It’s being able to help and support my friends. I know what you mean about doing what you can and it not being enough, and I feel so furious with myself for not being the friend who can really comfort these friends anymore.
But along the way, like you said, I’ve discovered I’m an awesome dancer, and dancing introduces you to some great new people, too.
I love the idea of triggers as injuries – they’ll heal if you care for them, but maybe they’ll leave a scar, and you probably don’t ever want to poke them with a stick. That’s a really useful analogy for me, thanks.
As a survivor of multiple traumas who struggles with Complex PTSD, and as someone who has found her way to feminism and social activism as a result of realizing how entrenched societal attitudes perpetuate the kinds of traumas I experienced and protect the perpetrators, I have to respectfully disagree with your judgment of people like me.
I’m happy for you that you have reached a place where you feel happier and healthier than you ever thought you could be. And while you seem to genuinely mean well, from where I sit, your comment comes off as judgmental and condescending.
You wrote: “The hardest part—and I’d love any advice anyone has about this—is that I want to tell them to just let go. You don’t have to win! You don’t have to defeat your demons! You can just walk away from the whole battle.”
While I can certainly understand and respect that people have differing viewpoints and experiences with trauma and the healing process, it’s jarring to me to read the, “oh just get over it already!” sentiment from someone who has experienced trauma and the difficulty with healing and moving on that comes with it. My personal recommendation is to NOT ask/tell your traumatized friends to “just let it go.” I guarantee you they’re already hearing that dismissive sentiment from a society that doesn’t understand trauma – a sentiment that makes the healing process more difficult, not less.
As for walking away from the battle, that’s a personal choice, and again, your comment comes off – at least to me – as condescending. It’s totally okay if you would prefer to move on with your life, but it’s ALSO totally okay if a trauma survivor wants to work on addressing the issues that perpetuate trauma. In my case, I have chosen to volunteer my time toward helping to end domestic violence, a trauma that I grew up with. My efforts have brought me great joy, and I love that I’m working to chip away at this devastating human epidemic. I resent the characterization of this as somehow being less healthy and evolved.
Again, I recognize that you seem to mean well, and I hope my comment isn’t coming off as overly harsh or argumentative. I really hope that you can see that it’s possible to carry on along your chosen path without disparaging those of us who have chosen a different path.
I think you said that very well.
I appreciate your work and sense of volunteerism. I’m also person with multiple traumas and a survivor of domestic violence. But I think and Violet both have a point and perhaps just looking at it in different perspectives. I’ve recently experienced what Violet was describing as letting go. I think it means stopping oneself from believing that one is a victim. It don’t think letting go or moving on with one’s life means shrugging off the causes of these trauma as inconsequential; it means we stop our woundedness from defining who we are, because it does not. For me walking away from the battle does not mean not getting involved in the resolution of these causes, it means letting go of the pain and the anger and forgiving the perpetrators and whether we think they deserve it or not. It does not mean we agree that what happened was ok. The book “Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can” by Carolyn Myss helped me a lot.
Getting involved with civic activities IS healthy and NOT less evolved, because you’re helping people become aware and avoid the horrors that domestic violence brings. But one does not need to hold on to the pain in order to become empathetic to the plight of others and to fight the good fight. I find that when I resolved my issues, I became more effective in helping others who experienced the same things I did. I love this line from my student nurse days: “We can never heal others. We can only heal ourselves so that we may become instruments of healing for others”.
Thank you for the book recommendation! I’m going to check it out. 🙂
I read through the reviews for that book on Amazon and am a bit concerned. I obviously haven’t read the book yet, but it sounds like it skews toward victim-blaming. I don’t doubt that there are some people out there who use their victim status to manipulate others, but it sounds like this author is accusing anyone who doesn’t “heal” within her prescribed time frame of being guilty of this.
Have you by any chance read “Trauma and Recovery” by Judith Herman? That’s been my guiding light through the muck. JH is a Harvard Medical School professor and a leading scholar in the field of trauma and PTSD. In fact, I participated in the Victims of Violence program that she helps manage in Boston. One of the things that is stressed in her work is that the healing process is non-linear and can sometimes take a great deal of time and effort. It’s frustrating for me and fellow survivors when the healing process seems never-ending, and we often have to remind our friends and family that we are working hard and that we don’t *WANT* to drag the process out and longer than absolutely necessary.
Ooops, typo. What I meant was. “I think you and Violet both have a point” 😛
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