Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

Aashi – this one is specially for you. Aashi, one of the sweetest people I have come to know recently, raised a really good question, or questions really, whilst commenting on my “Glass Houses” post. She essentially asked how you deal with the pain of those who let you down or outright hurt you, behave in a way that breaches every acceptable remit of what trust implies – how can you forgive such betrayals, let alone forget? I expect we must extend this to include those who may not have in any way directly wronged you, but have merely drifted apart from you due to any number of potential factors and you thus view this as an abandonment. How do you deal with the loss of such relationships, without bitterness corroding he once happy memories you must have shared with them? I use the word relationships deliberately, as ended friendships can hurt or scar as much as any broken bond with a romantic partner, so the scope is wide but can include any person or persons you had a significant bond with.

This discussion reminded me of the phrase, “Friends can be for a reason, a season or a lifetime”. I used to struggle with grasping this concept as I suppose everyone I counted as a true friend, I assumed would be a “lifetime” influence or fixture. This cannot be so – thinking like this is another manifestation of attachment that binds us to people in a way that often overlooks our cosmic connection with them. We befriend or meet someone, or they us, we get on so well, they help us in ways that cannot be defined, we then start to believe they are an indispensable part of our existence, we form an attachment to them that transforms them often into a ‘human crutch” for us. We sub-consciously believe that we cannot do without their support, our well-being and success is somehow incomplete if they do not share it. We often give this the label of love, but true love should not be a slave to possession or reciprocity.

Anyone who has had an extremely close friendship or other relationship must have at some point experienced the pain and despair of it ending, or at least fracturing, so I hope that what I describe is something they can relate to. However, if we think about friends who are no longer friends, either due to some disconnect or discord, or simply due to time and distance or circumstance, as still having been our one-time teachers, that might help. They enable us to remember the lessons we learnt but not be corrupted by pointless pain or anger at their departure from our life. We do not hate our teachers, good or bad as they may have been, for having “left” after having imparted whatever lesson or knowledge that was their forte. In fact, in many cases, we owe them, and afford them heart-felt thanks for making us what we are. It is after all, the lessons we learn and how we learn them, that shapes the course our lives often take.

Think of your friends, both past and present, or any relationships really, in the same manner. You were meant to meet some people at a certain point in your life – you will not accept this if you do not subscribe to the inescapable theory of “karma”, but I cannot otherwise account for why we meet some people and not others, from the multitudes that prowl our universe. Why do some lives intersect with ours at any given point and why are we only meant to walk a certain distance with such companions, before their own paths diverge and they accompany us, or us them, no longer? Why, because it was fated to be and yes, our free will may, and will, impact on a lot of our actual interactions with the other “passengers” on this “journey”, but it will not affect the overall outcome or destination of our quest or theirs.

Put simply, accept that not everyone who means a lot to you at any given point in your life, will be a constant throughout your existence, or theirs. After all, change is the only constant in life. Just take from them and your relationship with them, whatever good you can extract, let any “bad” serve as an experience that helps the future and overall, let them go. Focussing on, and remaining affected by, the pain, anger, loss, grief, frustration or any other negative feeling you associate with them long after your relationship has played its course, only shackles you in a meaningless prison of your own making. As Ann Landers described: “Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head”.

However, I extend this slightly further – do not despise, despise implies hatred and continued negativity, any trace of this will continue to keep you chained to the very person or memories you need to part with, so do not hate, resent or stay angry. Simply understand that even any pain caused to you is a part of the full range of experiences we must undergo to have really “lived”. The feeling of release from letting go extends its benefit by causing an immediate lightness in your own spirit and being. It then sets you free to like, love or live again, and hopefully all three. Simply love, live and learn, it is a fluid process that only ends with life, and maybe not even then. I read a wonderful quote recently, source unknown – “If someone you love hurts you cry a river, build a bridge, and get over it”, which really struck a chord with me, I hope it does with you too.


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Wondering what unknown disease my title refers to? It may not be in any medical dictionary or in any way a clinically recognised term, but it is an ailment all-right, and one that does and can easily afflict many. It is that state of being where people who have been dealt a bad hand by fate or life, i.e. almost everyone at some stage or other in their lives, get so entrenched in their misery and self pity, that they use the tragedy that affected them to constantly justify on-going behaviour, usually the undesirable sort.

I accept that when something tragic happens, we do, and indeed, should grieve. I also accept that we all deal with grief in different ways. Some of us get depressed, tearful and regressive, some get angry and aggressive, some of us take to drink for a while, some turn to religion- that is all “normal” and to some extent, depending on what method we use to channel the negativity caused by trauma out, healthy. If anything, not reacting in any way is universally acknowledged to cause long standing psychological damage. There is a time to grieve and we need to get through the process to emerge eventually cleansed and in that sense, hopefully “cured” of what befell us.

However, my title refers to the condition of those who seem to then use whatever terrible affliction they suffered to continue to shroud their lives, and even worse, that of others around them, for years, in some cases, possibly for evermore. An example is the alcoholic who started drinking to cope with say, bereavement, but then the alcohol becomes such a crutch, that years after the tragedy, that person remains an alcoholic and either cannot, or doesn’t want to kick the habit. An even more subtle symptom, but that which is possibly more difficult to address, is the person who lets the initial bitterness that resulted from their mishap or tragedy, corrode their very being to such an extent, that those around them and mostly those that care for them, continue to bear its brunt many many years after the offending incident. The worse thing is, you cannot help these people usually, as any constructive attempt to get them to change and to leave their past behind, will lead to mostly vitriolic responses such as, “You do not understand, you did not go through what I did”. This is generally sufficient to silence most but the most persistent, especially when the tragedy you are accused of not being able to co-relate to as you didn’t undergo is something extreme, such as bereavement, abuse of any form or similar.

What do you therefore do? It seems you often try for a while, in some cases, a long while, but you eventually either give up and wash your hands off the one-time victim, or simply accept the continuing unhealthy behaviour as the norm for that person and if the latter, you are probably unknowingly sanctioning it. Either way, far from ideal. I am not sure there is a universal solution, or if there is, I certainly do not know it. I know that I have come across many friends and even family who fall into this criteria and I have oscillated between continuing to gently counsel them and being incessantly patient with them, to wanting to shake them to say, “Get over it and stop letting it ruin your life forever, for your own sake, move on!”. I believe I have tried both and possibly all sorts of other approaches as well, I cannot really sum up the success rate or otherwise, it tends to vary depending on the personality of the sufferer, nature of their tragedy and a million other circumstances personal to each situation.

I do not mean to be harsh or unsympathetic, anyone who knows me well should be able to vouch I am neither, ever- but there does come a point where I can recognise that I am not being a good friend or genuine well wisher by simply listening or watching that person continue their self destructive behaviour. It is harder to address the problem and try to bring the person out of that state but be warned, that you may often lose that person in the process as they will usually resent your efforts and deem you unfeeling and hard hearted. However, to be a true friend or family in the real sense, you have to sometimes play “bad cop” and if that means you will lose that person, so be it- at the very least it may act as at least a sub-conscious goad that may someday bring about the positive change you set in motion now. If the worse happens, I tend to comfort myself by thinking I am in that category of friends so aptly described by Plutarch, who said, “I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.”

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