This post is going to be about friendship and the twisted mechanisms that push friends to discourage you and kill your enthusiasm and projects with their negative views. An acquaintance of mine (who whoever seems to be quite a faithful reader of this blog), has scolded me because I’m not being faithful to the name of my blog. “Where’s the sex? Where’s the dating?”, he complained.
Well, Mr Faulty R (do you like your nickname? Or do you prefer Mr Irons? Or Mr Coach of my ass? ;-), I could add an -S and transform this post into “The crabs mentality”, tackling the delicate issue of sexually transmitted disease, but I’d rather not. This post is going to be about the first element, Love, which is at the basis of every Friendship. And yet it seems to me is that some people use the word “love” and “care” to hide a very sick, fearful and selfish mechanism. They probably hide it even to themselves.
But let’s go in order. Three very similar situations have happened in a short span of time, and just when I had started pondering about what really hides behind people’s words, I received my answer. And I’m here to share it because we can save ourselves a lot of paranoias and self-doubt, if we are able to spot it.
Two weeks ago I had a very disheartening Whatsapp chat with a friend, M., that left me quite shocked. We were talking about my desire to have children, motherhood and adoption, three topics that are particularly important for me. I didn’t want to spend too much time explaining her my views, since a few days before, as coincidence wants it, another friend, A., had spent around 1 good hour of her life telling me how much her friends who had just become mothers were devastated by the lack of sleep, by the little support they were receiving from their partner or family, underlining that there is no turning back, and many other banalities that all of us are perfectly aware of.
Oh, before we go any further: neither A. nor M. have children or seem to want to have them, which is perfectly fine. Yet, A. was getting quite heated in trying to point out a long list of negative sides to becoming a mother, and the whole conversation was irritating me. Not only I could have given her two positive examples for every negative one she was giving me, but she seemed too determined to convince me. It all struck me as weird. Why talking at such length, why all that involvement? What was really hiding behind her words?
“Excuse me, A., I don’t spend a single word trying to convince you of how amazing it would be to be a mother, so why are you spending 5.000 words to make me change my view? Are you sure you are not in fact trying to convince yourself?”
This question seemed to sort the desired effect. A. moved the shift from me, to her, and I think it had given her some food for thought on her own. However, the whole thing saddened me a bit. I’m not asking for a proper cheerleader, jumping and screaming : “Go, Roby, that’s an amazing plan and I will be there for Y-O-U!!!!”, but at least don’t discourage me like that with YOUR views. You decide where to concentrate your focus. I see the things you mention. I see them all, don’t worry, but to me they don’t carry much weight in comparison with the positive ones that accompany them.
A few days fast forward, and on Whatsapp my friend M. inquires about my views on adoption and motherhood. As I said, I didn’t really feel like getting into another long discussion, so quickly and drily I mentioned a few ideas…
And the dam of the usual clichés and banalities opened. But it opened with an impetuosity that took me completely by surprise.
“Having a child alone, without the support of your family, would be so incredibly hard! I have friends who are going crazy because nobody helps them, plus you might be given a child with traumas and problems of all kinds! How are you going to manage that economically? You are just naïve and irresponsible, you have not thought this through, you only want to fill a vacuum in your life…”
On and on she went. I was literally hurt and shocked. I asked her repeatedly to stop it, that that conversation was not leading us anywhere and that clearly we had different views, but she went on saying I totally lacked practicality, that I was not able to offer any solutions to all the issues she was raising, that I was closing my eyes in front of reality, and I really felt insulted by the poor view she was having of me.
And yet, M has known me for 15 yrs. She knows what kind of person I am. Why did she had a total lack of confidence in my resources and in my decision making process?
If the conversation with A had been a 5 in the scale of hurt and intensity, the conversation with M had been a 10. Both A and M explained that they were talking like that for my own benefit, to help me see things, because they care for me. Was that really so? I didn’t feel any care or love or genuine concern, especially in M’s chat. Rather, I was left dumbstruck by all those negative judgements on me and my ways of thinking.
I just couldn’t understand why people get so heated up about other people’s choices, especially when they were different from theirs. There had to be something personal, behind their words. So vehemently did M speak, that I started thinking she was just giving herself a lot of excuses to justify her own life path.
With M’s harsh words still bruising my heart, a few days ago I was contacted by another friend, who is thinking of going travelling to India for a month. She wanted to have some tips and reassurance, given I’ve been to India 4 times.
“You know, F. is making me getting a bit paranoid about India, saying it’s very dangerous and that I cannot make it”, she told me. Her precise words: “I cannot make it”. As if travelling was an terribly insidious and hard task that requires incredible skills.
This F is a friend in common we have, who has been outside Europe only once, on her honeymoon, and who must have visited less than 7 countries in all her life. And who, clearly, has NEVER been to India.
This thing infuriated me. Once more, I was presented with a person projecting her fears and prejudices on others.
“F is worried for me, she says it out of friendship”, my friend reassured me, when she saw me getting irritated. But where is the friendship here? My friend was excited about the idea of going to this new, fascinating country, and another one who has never basically travelled in her life, and who will probably never do it on her own because she is afraid of so many things, is trying to stopping her doing it. It’s seems to me that, out of friendship, F has ruined this girl’s excitement, and she has ruined it by talking about something of which she doesn’t have a clue.
Am I the only one that sees F clearly projecting her fears and limiting beliefs on this other girl? Am I the only one that doesn’t buy this “I say that out of friendship” bullshit?
And finally, with a perfect timing ,I got my answer to all these questions.
I spent the past weekend at a life coaching event. One of the speakers was warning us that some of the people near us will probably try to discourage us from this path, ridiculing it or coming up with all sorts of negative views about coaching as a career.
“Remember: don’t expect to be supported or understood. Some people behave like crabs. Do you know what happens when you put many crabs together in a bucket? When one of them manages to climb on the others and is almost about to get out of the bucket, the other crabs pull it down. They stop it from escaping. If they are not able to escape, nobody can escape.”
Wikipedia informs us that “Crab mentality, or crabs in a bucket (also barrel, basket or pot), is a way of thinking best described by the phrase “if I can’t have it, neither can you”. The metaphor refers to a pattern of behaviour noted in crabs when they are trapped in a bucket. While any one crab could easily escape, its efforts will be undermined by others, ensuring the group’s collective demise.
The analogy in human behaviour is claimed to be that members of a group will attempt to reduce the self-confidence of any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, resentment, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings, to halt their progress.”
So, next time people oppose your views and try to put you down, ask yourself: “What’s really hidden behind their words?”
Or, next time you get very heated up about other people’s choices, ask yourself: “What is really pushing me to talk like this?”
I bet that love and care have little to do with it.