False F(r)iendship, Feeling Unseen, Unheard and Dressing Very Old Wounds

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This is gonna be one of my deeper “self-knowing” posts.  It is the culmination of a learning process I’ve been consciously on for almost 10 years. Don’t worry, I include typical moments of humor, to deflect what I’m really feeling ;), so you’re safe.  I propose that you leave only if you’ve never had a friend show you that you don’t matter to him or her anymore. This post also efficiently shows you how to be immature about it if you’d like to do the same (or to serve as a reality check if it’s happening to you).

5….4….3….2….1

I thought so.

OK. I started a post about a month ago, it started with the line, “Sometimes deciding to dislike someone isn’t enough.” Where I was going wasn’t pretty. It involved fantasies of freak and extremely isolated tornadoes, an unexpected job transfer, a mystery case of amnesia, a diagnosis of multiple personality disorder, imprisonment, even winning the lottery if it meant the person would move far away. Hey, I’m not moving.

The post was a knee-jerk reaction to seeing someone I don’t like anymore on my online space, despite the fact that we’d been out of touch and blocked by each other for months. Oh, yes, I have a few of those. I actually find it a badge of honor to be blocked by someone, and I feel that same special endearment for those I block.  Here’s my take: my Facebook experience is like a deck party.  People can come, everyone’s invited.  But if you’re gonna be a dick?  Or nice online but a freakin’ douchebag in person…?  Here’s the gate, use it. So regarding this online-generated froth I had, I had two choices: deal with it because they don’t like me either or quit being online.  I like being online. It’s no secret that I prefer life off the grid, but I like the social “pokes” and kindnesses I see via social media.

So I must put on my big-girl panties and deal.  That’s OK. I will. I am. I do.

I decided to wait on that post, because I wanted to step back, assess my feelings and not let it get the better of me. I’m glad I did that because it turns out I “wasn’t mad at what I was mad at” (thank you dear Fr. John J. O’Connor for that life-learning phrase) and what I was really feeling was jealousy and I got over it.

I stopped in that post before I got to talking about the feelings –emotional and physical– I have when I encounter a former friend or significant other. I get a pain, or more likely, a sensation that rises up in my very lowest gut, almost in the pelvic region.  The only thing I can equate it with for many of us who speed in our cars, is the sensation felt when the Five-O pulls us over.  What the what is that?  What is that feeling and where does it come from? I know I’m not alone in this; I’ve talked to other people about it — I won’t divulge my sources. But it’s a fantastically primitive sensation. Is it guilt? It sucks, whatever it is, and I know it means something, likely knowingly doing something wrong and doing it anyway and then getting busted.  Must be guilt.

But why do we have that feeling when we see those people again? Read on…  

I’m writing today because I got burned recently by someone whom I thought was a near-and-dear, but someone whom I realize was just as messed up, if not more so, than I was when we met.

I wrote this as my status on Facebook yesterday, “the lessons will continue until we learn them. then we become a teacher; then we will be free.

Carl Jung, the brilliant father of theory of archetypes, the collective unconscious and his studies of the human psyche has said many amazing things; I have thought that maybe I will write a blog post per my favorites. “A month of Jung…”  His most personally frustrating quote, which is indelibly written on my brain, is this: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Gah! I even hate seeing it!

I have lots of people in my life whom I’ve either pissed off or whom have pissed off me. You can’t be who I am, or someone like me: scarred, learning, fearful, bold, tenacious, loyal and quick with the biting wit and slicing tongue and not have a few foes.  Hit one of my pressure points, the unseen or unheard thing, and I can become unholy. Most of those foes have become so because I have either recognized a part of myself in that person and denied it or I have let the other person deeply into my heart and soul and they exploited my soul like a … a … cockfight trainer. Sad and true.  I know it, I see it and I usually work on it. You can’t get off this bus of self-awareness once you’re on it.  It’s like a case of … herpes, I guess (not that I’d actually know…): it has flare-ups.

Such is the beauty of the universe: its magical insistence upon flare-ups balance: You can’t have hate without love first. You can’t have spite without benevolence. You can’t have scorn without admiration. You can’t have silence without sound. It just doesn’t work. Jung said this too:  “Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”

Whatta know-it-all jerk.

Anyway, I have been on a journey for many years shedding toxicity (sometimes that means I have to shed entrenched behaviors) from my life.  This shedding means owning things: my temperamental tendencies, my reactivity, my fears of inadequacy and how those feelings transmute into trying harder, working harder, pushing harder, pulling harder, jumping higher, shouting louder, crying longer, hurting longer and just generally over-performing. It was part of my elemental and deeply primitive “see me, hear me, notice me, don’t leave me, i’ll do better” and layers-deep behaviors left over from growing up in a multi-generational dysfunctional trend in a family of truly gifted and brilliant people.

And guess what: it was bloody exhausting. Nothing quite like working your ass off to have someone notice you (bitter irony alert) who’s totally self-involved (too) because of shit that was also done to them when they were younger.  Boy, that was hard to admit. 

It’s an old habit with many people like me who are Adult Children of Alcoholics (I love my parents, so don’t think I’m being a brat, I’m just being honest). It’s also something that can come up from being a child of a mentally ill parent.  One of my sons had a preschool teacher who grew up in a world where her mother was so emotionally fractured and reactive that this woman as a child had to learn to show no emotion, none at all, so as a result she was like Spock. But she loved being around children because of their raw emotion that it sustained her, even though she was fairly ruined. I asked her about it one time and she said that getting help from a psychiatrist or other professional would be admitting that her mother did this to her… and I said, “so… uh, … what’s the problem with that?” and she simply couldn’t do it.

This journey of mine will continue and I’m grateful for it. I see the lessons now and I can write the lesson plan: listen to and feel the intuition, my true inner teacher, telling me what to do: “OK… here we go. Here comes one, feel that prick in your gut? that’s me (you, actually) telling you to … NO. Ugh… don’t make eye contact, don’t talk, dammit, ok… don’t talk much more. Shit! You shouldna said that, now you have a con-nec-tion, remember those? Ok, don’t say anymo– alright… reroute: look at your watch, look over the shoulder, there’s Bipsy, by the window, go to her.  Really?: ‘Why won’t she come over here?’ She’s not stupid… Don’t resume contact with this one …no. NO, don’t say THAT… Gaaad, OK, we can still save you.  You still have time to NOT SAY THAT… you’re on your own now… good luck with this stray… you now have a new project… initiating ‘fix this person’ mode. I’ll be here … in the corner under the dark felt blanket… being ignored by you for the next, oh, six years…”

But I am closer now. I think I’m really getting it. No, I swear!  In fact, when those relationships go pear-shaped now, I’m fairly ready and waiting. Sometimes I’m the dumper, others, the dumped. Despite the sting and the big hole, it’s OK though, because the lesson has been learned.

Feeling unseen and unheard for the formative years of my life has definitely had an impact on how I relate to people.  My mother used to tell me that when I was in kindergarten, I came home with “Five Steps to Making a Friend.” I believe it was a simplistic list adorned with my potato(e) (hahah, I miss me some Dan Quayle, anyone else?) people.  My mom said it went along the lines of,

1: Say hi to the person.

2: Tell the person you like their hair or clothes.

3: Ask the person their name.

4: Tell the person your name.

5: Ask the person to be your friend.

I think it worked. I remember many friends when I was little. I hope we all did. I don’t know what’s happened since kindergarten, but it seems that it’s harder to make good friends as an adult and the ones I have, I really want to hang on to. There’s the one I’ve had since 8th grade CCD and she won’t let me say how long that’s been… There are the built-in friends: cousins, and they are truly, anchors. My cousins have never let me down.  The adult / married built-ins, in-law siblings and their spouses have also been a blessing to me. And then there’s the cousins of the spouse which have also enriched my life.

There are a couple friends that I thought I had for the long haul, despite my intuition tsk-tsk-tsking, rolling its eyes and filing its nails the entire time.  The friendships that go from:

A: hi

B: heeeeyyyy…

A: i never knew my father.

B: my mother was an arsonist.

A: i was raised on dry dog food and two hours of sunlight a day.

B: i ate canned cat food and peed outside near a tree.

A: let’s go on vacation together.

B: i’ve got clothes in the car, i’ll drive.

within the first hour are likely doomed.  It’s sorta like dating: the people who are ready to jump in the sack within the first sip of the drink are probably not gonna be able to make the relationship stick without some serious attention, slowing down and patience.

The ones that seem to last are the ones that are slow to percolate (she knows who she is if she’s reading this, the poor thing) and that’s what my lesson has been: the people who take a while to get to know me and let me get to know them are the ones who see me, who hear me and who know that it’s important to take time.  It’s a lot like how I met my husband. (I started a blog on that too — how my life has been saved, so vibrantly enriched and blessed by simply having him near — and I put it on the back burner because I really wanted to honor it; he has been in my life longer than out of it now.) We weren’t hot and heavy for a while (you can come back out, Dad) as we spent many months talking and getting to know each other.  We let each other be seen and heard (even though I didn’t know it was happening) over years, and it’s still going on. Good! It has to.

If you’re incapable of having a mature, face-to-face conversation about the state of your relationship, here’s how to show a friend who trusted you that s/he doesn’t matter to you any more (or: Here’s how to mess with someone who trusts you):

1. Pose: frequently and openly preach authenticity, but don’t dare actually practice it.

2. Control: be reactive and maintain the friendship on your secret terms; expect your friend to read your mind.

3. Betray: tell your friend you don’t have time, but be openly friendly with others and definitely be friendly with people whom you know have hurt and don’t like your “friend.”

4. Confuse: when things are awkward and you’ve walked out on that “friend,” definitely dance around the perimeter of the friendship but don’t make meaningful contact (Facebook “likes” are an excellent tool for that).

5. Ignore: be unresponsive to your friend’s apologies, heart-felt vulnerability and soul-baring attempts at reconciliation.

Yes, this still happens to people at 44. Feeling invisible and feeling unheard is a very deep wound with some (most!) of us. It can have some good side-effects: ambition, success and audacity and guts.  It can also have some really (swear alert) fucked-up side-effects too: unrelenting flamboyance, outrageousness, loudness, larger than life-ness, chips on the shoulder, anger, disregard for how we appear to others because, dammit, we’re gonna LIVE, BABY!  Here’s a concrete example: I think almost all of The U.S. House of Representatives and New York City feels unseen and unheard.

The physical “guilty” feeling and getting that “I told you so…” tug in the belly must come from ignoring our intuition. It’s the knowing disobedience we inflicted on ourselves and the crash of “oh shit, now we’ve done it; mom’s gonna kick our butts” in our souls.

Those of us who feel (deeply) unseen and unheard are likely drawn to one another so so so strongly that we don’t realize we are simply repeating the pattern. Consciously we think, “This person gets me, s/he knows what it’s like, we’re gonna get along great!” but unconsciously, our bodies, hearts, spirits and souls are saying, “You’re gonna get ignored again. You’re also likely going to ignore this person when s/he needs you desperately not to.”  We might feel a “connection” but it’s really an attachment, which is waaaaay super-duper, I-can’t-tell-you-enough-or-how-very-deeply unhealthy.

We are lining up with people who are very likely to never see us and never hear us because they, themselves, are too busy working very hard to be seen and to be heard, hence betrayals and other acts of desperation to be seen and heard.  This was my pattern and that was my lesson to learn: I can not have an earnest and healthy relationship with another person who is as wounded as I am if that person isn’t working as hard as I am to beat the inner feelings of invisibility and irrelevance and truly listen and see the other person.

What’s worse than any of this? I’ll tell you: being rejected by someone who is totally vapid and self-involved. Why is it worse? Because that hits the unseen and unheard nerve like a cannon ball.  And if you’re asleep spiritually, you’re gonna do one thing and one thing only: GO AFTER THAT PERSON MORE. I’ve done it myself, but I stopped about two months ago and I see other people do it all the time.  In fact, I saw someone do it yesterday.

It’s a deeply old pattern and it’s gonna keep happening until, and ONLY until, I (you, we) stop it. Yesterday, I stopped it. I showed someone the gate. Lesson learned. I am free.

Did you know that band was all white guys? I had no clue!

Thank you.

19 responses »

  1. Whoa. I’m not even sure what to say right now, except for “some of this sounds VERY uncomfortably familiar.” But still, thanks. And I love the Jung quotes – right on and awesome.

  2. I love Carl Jung, but yeah sometimes what he says hurts too! I can relate to your encounters with toxicity and with feeling unseen or unheard. Sometimes I have rules about people. If they tell me too much personal stuff the moment we meet I put the breaks on. My friend is always telling me we attract what we put out there so I try to hold onto my humor and lightness. It’s not easy, but I want to be the kind of person I would want to become friends with. Thanks for writing this. I am sure it wasn’t easy to put it all out there like that! I am glad you are free! Make room for some good people in your life by shedding all the nonsense.

    • i appreciate all this Lily. it’s hard to be funny all the time! 😉 i like your rules and they are my rules too — have been for about two years now. this person was a legacy stray. it was a matter of time. the lessons we learn from the toxicity are not easy but they are not bad. the toughest ones are the best ones, i think. i am the kind of person i would want to be friends with now; i don’t have any more baggage. i don’t tell anyone everything about myself anymore up front, i actually put up some boundaries for everyone. when the flags go up, i see them instead of put them at half mast. the lessons have been priceless. i don’t mind so much putting it all “out there” – the people who know me off the grid know how i am and if this kind of stuff scares them away, i never needed them in the first place. if someone’s gonna get all woo-woo about me being open, honest and real with myself about being sad (!) and losing a friend, they have shit i don’t even wanna know about. nonsense shedding has commenced. 🙂 -m

    • but wait, lily – if you hold onto your humor and lightness then you might not get it back. … this person, is very funny and very smart and i am grateful for the time i had with her; but in the back of my head a lot of the time was sadness and a yearning to go away, to leave. i wonder, if i was picking up on how she felt about herself. …? -m

  3. Remember, when we were kids, and the adults had it all together. They didn’t seem to have problems with friends or insecureties and they had an answer for everything? Come to find out, they didn’t have all the answers and were still trying to figure stuff out daily. A lot of people never figure out the lesson of dropping a toxic relationship and not looking back. They are worse off for lacking that lesson, as much as it may suck having to learn it.

    • yes, eric. they drank a lot too – so they probably never looked too deeply inward. life is a process. i am better for having the guts for feeling what i’m feeling — there’s plenty i don’t announce or share because it’s not that big a deal; but i don’t know anyone who’s not ever had their heart broken by a friend who simply wasn’t true. from the playgrounds to the boardrooms… everyone has felt pain. 🙂 thank you. -m

  4. I realized half way through reading I was shaking my head… yes. yes. yes. ME TOO!!! I relate to a lot of what you shared and like someone else mentioned that uncomfortable feeling of familiar!!!! Sigh. Oh so familiar.

    “Feeling invisible and feeling unheard is a very deep wound” … ack. yack. ugh. YES, it is!!!

    • Amy, you’re back! Yes, I deal with assessing my invisibility and feeling unheard a lot. It’s such a trap. Seems so familiar… That’s not always the best… Eek.

      It can work (depending on one’s definition of “work”) between two deep narcissists, but I think that’s only because they don’t imagine the other not being interested in them… It’s a huge lesson. One I’m ok with not having to learn again any time soon…
      -m

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