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.