Today my thoughts turned towards family and friendship. My family is small my friends are few. By that I mean my immediate family and the friends I'm talking about are personal friends. In other words friends who I share the inner me with. The ones who can accept me as I am and do not want to remake me. As I've said before I am not a great socialiser and I don't call people friend easily.
I sometimes wonder about friendship and how other people see it. I guess I believe in a hierarchy of friends and for me this is 'normal' but I acknowledge that you may not see it in the same way. I have had conversations with others who consider themselves to have innumerable friends and if they mean friendship as I do I wonder at their emotional energy? if on the other hand they mean people they have good times with then I wonder at their physical energy. As a point of interest The Concise English Dictionary definition of a friend is 'a person you know well and regard with affection and trust' which concurs with my interpretation but then continues that in the wider sense it can mean a follower or supporters of a team?
I don't know about you but I have felt friendless at certain times in my life especially when I was young. What do I mean by that? I think it's been when my feelings have been unacknowledged or disregarded in some way. I have in the past found myself feeling as if I'm on one side and the rest of the world is on the other? If I'm honest I can on occasion feel like that now. I want to stress that this is how it has felt or feels I am not saying that was or is the reality of the situation. This is why as a general rule I am keen on checking out my thoughts and cognitions because in doing that it's possible to save a lot of emotional pain for me and for others because don't forget I don't live in a bubble. My feelings and behaviours impact on others.
My strategy in times of stress is to accept my own feelings. It hurts but this is how I feel and I don't want anyone telling me I shouldn't feel it. I want my friends to acknowledge my feelings and perhaps commiserate. I don't want them to act the devil's advocate because that feels as if they are excusing someone else and blaming me.
When I have acknowledged my own feelings and perhaps been heard, even if it is only by me I will move onto the next step. The next step is very important because I need to work out whether my feelings are about a particular incident or are they an accumulation. At this point I try to think about the other people in the drama and think about how they may feel. Have they seen it in the same way or are they perhaps thinking and or feeling something else? At that point I can decide whether I want to speak to them about it or just deal with the feelings myself. Now all of this sounds very ordered and neat and eminently workable and it is. But of course it relies on others being either in an emotionally good place themselves or having the ability to listen.
What happens if I raise a discomfort with a friend and they don't want to listen? What if their default position is to feel criticised and then they take a gladiatorial stance. What can I do? Funnily enough I asked myself that question quite recently after that exact scenario occurred. Friend A emailed friend B and me inviting us out. Then friends A and B reached a mutually acceptable time which was a time I couldn't make ergo I was uninvited. I emailed them both acknowledging their mutual agreement and saying I hoped they enjoyed themselves. I also shared my disappointment and bemusement as to why the other date had been offered if it was inconvenient to friend A. I felt that was that. They were going out and I'd said enjoy it. I'd said I was disappointed. As far as I was concerned that was it. However, I'd not considered that friend A would come out fighting. Without boring you with the details she acknowledged she'd made a mistake but attacked me for not being more proactive when making arrangements. The emails batted to and fro and what she was after was to feel exonerated. She wanted to feel I was being difficult. The relationship rule is I am supposed to accept the situation and to keep quiet. I broke the rule.
It will come as no surprise to you that I often break the rules. However, I was faced with the dilemma of what to do when her final email was of one of admonishment telling me I 'needed' to accept a certain point. In other words her view of the situation. I felt furious but I asked myself should I then start waving a metaphorical machete myself or was there another way of dealing with it. I decided to remain quiet because I acknowledged the futility of carrying on. If I continued I would just be doing what she was doing which was trying to win. But what would I be winning?
Did I make a mistake. I think I did. I think it would have been more useful to have not expressed my disappointment by email and let it pass and perhaps if my default position wasn't to feel left out I probably would. What's my reasoning for telling you this? Because it's important for you to know that no one including me gets it right all the time!