Do you ever find yourself in the same difficult and perplexing situations over and over again? You start to wonder if the universe is trying to teach you something or it is some heinous personal defect since the only constant element in all these situations is you.
Or in this case, me.
My particular situation is that am finding it increasingly difficult to be in the company of people.
I have a couple things going against me. First of all I have terrible social anxiety complicated by some pretty weird phobias. Any social situation is pretty agonizing on most levels. Secondly I am very sensitive to the emotions of others and so called ‘vibes’. Just very aware of the undercurrents of most interactions. Some therapists think this is why I have such bad anxiety. It is like I am lacking some sort of protective life filter.
That is another consideration as well. I’ve had a lot of therapy. A
Let me give you an example. I have some family members who bicker a lot at family gatherings. You know, insults with smiling faces. They would also talk poorly about other family members behind their backs. When I first started seeing these people socially I would become seriously depressed for a day or two afterwards. On a couple occasions I was even teary. It got to the point where I would decline invitations to be social with them. With a couple therapy sessions I came to realize that bickering is the way some families show affection. Certainly not how I am comfortable with showing affection but each to their own, right? And I also learned that I could very subtly and politely show that I was not accepting of the negative talk about other family members. It totally worked and I am now able to be social with these people again.
The fact is that I was not raised to be assertive at all. I was raised to be ‘good’ and we all know that being ‘good’ often means being a doormat. For years I have not stood up for myself when being treated poorly and have swallowed all the emotions that go along with that. No wonder I have depression and anxiety, right? It is only in the last few years that I have stood up for myself and become pretty open about how I am feeling and, especially, how I want to be treated. As when anybody learns a new skill it is not always performed perfectly but overall I am happy with these changes. I’ve learned that not only am I a pretty quirky outspoken person with people I know and trust but in fact a leader in many respects opposed to the follower I always thought I was.
But here is the thing; I still am not sure how to deal with people who hold back from me. I’ve had a few friends/family members/acquaintances who I could sense were annoyed, displeased, or outright angry with me and for whatever reason couldn’t tell me so. I trust my gut that I am right about this and can probably guess what I had said or done to make them feel this way. Usually it is that I have an opinion that differs from theirs or have done something that they disagree with. And fair enough. I am happy to say that I am ok with all this and am totally happy to be disagreed with. I can safely be sure that I’ve not done or said anything out of malice or anger. Or it might simply be a misunderstanding. But they won’t tell me. They just start treating me differently. Sometimes it is just a feeling and sometimes it is outright passive aggressive behavior. In any case I just don’t know how to talk to somebody who cannot tell me what is wrong. And I hate being afraid to be myself and have my opinions and own ideas when I think they clearly are uncomfortable with that.
A few years back I had a very good friend who I met at work. We totally hit it off and became very close very quickly. We had a blast hanging out and were very similar in many ways. I totally trusted her and really felt like she had my back. After a couple years she seemed to be having some problems at work. I tried very hard to be supportive but found it very hard to know how to do that. So I just tried to listen and agree with her feelings. A few months went by and her behavior towards me started to change. I’d ask her if everything was ok and she’d say it was just work. But I knew it wasn’t. Unfortunately she decided to bring up everything that had been bothering her about me while we were on vacation together. Stuff that had happened over a year or two in the past and unto itself not a big deal but over time it had festered within her until it became so overwhelming she damned near lost her freaking mind. Her behavior scared me and after she brought up personal stuff I’d trusted her with and thought she accepted me for (mostly about the limits of my anxiety disorder) and then threw it in my face I knew I couldn’t save the friendship and I’ve never spoken to her since.
I hate that it got so out of hand. I really missed her but ironically not as much as I thought I would as I didn’t realize until I was out of the friendship how much I had to tippy-toe around her ‘stuff’. It was somewhat a relief in many ways to have her out of my life.
So what do you do when you just wish your friends/family/aquaintances would come out and say what they are feeling? How do you deal when you feel like you can’t be straight with them or else they will disengage or ‘punish’ you in some way?
Is this a common situation with friends and acquaintances or am I just some crazy lady? Is being up-front, honest with how I am feeling, and willing to talk about how we can agree to disagree maybe not a good thing?
Being with people is hard.