Bully's, Mean Spirited People & The Friend Who Destroys Your Self-Esteem: I Need You Like I Need A Hole in the Head!
With Friends Like You Who Needs Enemies?
You know and tell those funny little stories that make me smile quite sheepishly. The ones about various times throughout my life when I made those embarrassing mistakes, said the wrong things, or simply made a fool out of myself in a very public way. I've tried my darnedest to forget those times, but again you tell the stories in such a funny manner, in your own comical little way...
My hair, clothes, or breath needs adjustment 'right away'! It always seems to need it when I'm around you. Although I've carefully chosen an outfit I thought I liked before you arrived, you have kindly changed my mind, and for that i thank you, lest I make another public faux pas. I combed my hair into a coif I personally like, bathed, & freshened up as well, however It seems I have forgotten that one detail you so generously remind me of: "it needs a'fixin", thank you so much.
Although I have accomplished things in life that are worthy of praise; a personal educational goal, bought a home, found a nice apartment, raised a beautiful child, or just made it through a tumultuous time in life, if it had not been for your gentle reminder of my past, I would probably blindly go about rejoicing like a happy fool, rather than keeping my feet planted firmly on the ground in solemn remembrance of the seriousness of past mishaps and need for your helpful guidance.
I have come to understand that I NEEDED You desperately during those times. You were always there to dig me out of the hole I got myself into. You were the trusted friend who held my hand. The one who fought my battles on occasion when I was too weak or at the verge of giving up. I NEEDED You desperately during those times of heartache and sorrow.
Now that I have grown, am stronger, less afraid of the world, I am ashamed to admit this, however, I must, I, I, I.... don't want you as a friend ANY LONGER! What a dilemma. You are the tie to my past. You fetter me down but I want to be free, let me break free!
SHOULD I REMAIN LOYAL TO YOUR FRIENDSHIP SO FAITHFUL TO ME OVER THE YEARS, OR BREAK TIES & BE THE PERSON I HAVE BECOME WHEN YOU'RE NOT AROUND? THE STRONG PERSON YOU HELPED ME BECOME?
There are many individuals who may find this strikingly familiar. It might even be closer to home than the long term 'friend' described in the scenario. This toxic relationship might actually be a relative or significant other?
Some counselors, life coaches, and good friends will advise the need to disconnect from these toxic relationships. They are unhealthy and self serving for the perpetrator. It is source of superiority, it makes them feel all knowing & all powerful. This source of power is a strong stimulant which can be difficult for the perpetrator to break free from. Around you they are the expert and the salvation of a lessor individual. No matter how many improvements or level & depth of personal growth gained, you'll remain in their hearts the poor little fool in the dunce cap who will forever be in debt to them. You make them famous and needed.
Generally people are pressed to immediately break ties. Often times they may be advised to sit and talk with the individual in an assertive manner. Yes, this would definitely address the issue head on...
With Friends Like This...
LET'S FACE IT!
If you were strong enough to engage them in an assertive manner, this scenario would not ring true. Similar (NOT same, only similar) to an abusive love relationship, facing your abuser head on in an assertive manner may NOT end well. They are stronger because you both have an unspoken rule that they are the stronger individual in this dichotomy. There is a long standing agreement that they have the last word, their word is wiser and sounder than yours, and you have a history of fouling things up, you cannot be trusted. Although portions of this may have been true in the past (remember, we are being honest here), this does not mean your future is sealed in a never ending relationship of substandard treatment and disrespect.
So, lets look at some less confrontational methods of extracting yourself from a toxic friendship. As in abuse, there are times you may be forced to RUN
R: Reinvent your life without them. Gather more friends around you. Chose to stay busy in situations that give you happiness and make you feel good about yourself. Close the door to any invitations that will allow them access. This may be a class, reading group, blogging, coffee klatch, exercise group, anything you enjoy that will happen around the same time they generally try to enter your world. this can be any activity of your choice... but SHUT THE DOOR & Don't Let Them IN!!!
U: Unburden yourself of guilt. You have the right to save yourself. It may be true that you leaned on them for everything, you may have used them and drained their strength in the past to supplement your own failing and weakened will. However this does not mean you are beholden to remain in this state. This can be difficult, but it helps sometimes to keep things in perspective. If you were seeing a counselor three times a week for three years, when you begin to feel stronger and are ready to move on, you are NOT beholden to continue setting up appointments out of loyalty. You have the right to say, thank you I'm moving on now. If this is a family member, the situation is a little more complicated, but still unburdening your guilt is possible. It requires reminding yourself whenever the urge strikes to take your OLD place on floor-under their boot, with purpose and conviction remind yourself "I will not carry their weight, I WILL unburden myself NOW". Then make a break for it!!!
N: Negotiate if all else fails! Negotiation is a process of finding common ground. This can be used to make peace treaties and even diffusing potentially dangerous situations. A hostage negotiator is skilled in knowing how to allow the perpetrator to feel in control although they are not. This is important because the ultimate goal is to get everyone out unharmed. Being the Negotiator creates an immediate position of power for you and a perceived position of power for them. it appears on the surface to be weakness, yet it's your source of power, THE most powerful position in the dichotomy. You become the one who runs the show. How do you create this?
1) Recognize what they NEED - they need to feel important again at your expense.
2) Recognize there may be a bit of jealousy involved if you have truly moved on, especially if yours is a more comfortable life than they enjoy.
3) Recognize they just might be mean spirited people with little care for you. They may be ready to end this relationship as well but don't know how.
So, immediately throw them a bone "oh, that's how you do it? I would have never thought about doing it that wayyyyy - you're soooooo smart". This takes care of both points one & two. Yes, it's more of the same, but you are running remember, get out quick! Save yourself. Like a hostage negotiator, you may give in a little "sure, we'll get you the ticket to the Bahamas’ and a sack full of cash, just let the hostages GO!" but we know the truth... That guy may not make it past the front door, and you’ve put on your sneakers and are headed for the back door!
Lastly, if they are mean spirited, there is still a way out. Deep down inside they do still have a heart, so act as a mirror to show them their heart. When they say something ugly, repeat it and say something such as, "wow, that really hurt my feelings" or in the case of repeated embarrassing stories (with a smile & a laugh) "it almost seems like you hate me , like your trying to destroy my self esteem, with friends like you ha-ha…". The key is to allow them an opportunity to hear the toxic garbage coming out of their own mouths. That may be enough of a wakeup call for some, others who are truly hardhearted it may not; but in all cases RUN, get away quickly. The key is to DIVORCE YOURSELF from this situation rather than engaging repeatedly. These are only bottom of the list, last resorts until you are strong enough to assertively address these individuals head on.
Please understand it is always healthier to address them with the intention of resolving conflicts. Of course the best case scenario is to communicate openly in an honest and assertive manner. Of course, it is always best to choose friends wisely and remove 'friends' who are unhealthy These suggestions are only for situations when a person does not feel strong enough to carry out conflict resolution and is unwilling to call in a third party to help you negotiate your friendship. It's OK to run if you must!
There is absolutely nothing wrong with using strategic tactics to shield yourself from harm until you are stronger and more able to right a lopsided friendship. As in any situation that is unhealthy or abusive, it may be safer for you to RUN first to protect YOU, and then when you are at a safe place, evaluate the reasons behind your acceptance of this type of treatment for such a long period of time. It is important to recognize patterns in our lives. If you find that some of your relationships (friendship or otherwise) tend to take on this same theme and pattern, it may be time to re-evaluate the core issues you are facing. Until that time, keep yourself happy, safe, and healthy.