Tea for two

teapotI had a troubling interaction with a friend on the weekend. It is still bothering me and I don’t think we’ll be friends anymore. I wrote Ron about it, trying to work it through, as Friday seemed a long ways away. That made things a bit worse, so now I’m mad at both this (ex) friend and at Ron. This will be a bit whiny, so please skip if you don’t like to read complaints about people.

I met this friend in my group. Probably it’s a bad idea to try and make friends from a therapy group. There were so many simmering tensions, and I think they come back to bite you.

We met at small cafe for tea. It was a charming but difficult location, because it was very loud, so we had to almost shout to hear each other. It was small and full of young people talking.

The last time I’d met her, I had ended up dissociated, and I figured out it’s because she reminds me a lot of my mother. This time, the resemblance was even more strong. Her favorite author was the same as my mother’s, she listens all the time to our public broadcaster, she thinks clothes are unimportant. Many details are the same. She is my mother’s age.

However, the main thing, the point for me, is that she is super shy, super sensitive, and she shies away from things. Because we’d met in therapy, so to speak, I felt it was OK to talk about it. Maybe I talked too much about my problems. Very likely I did. The more I talked, the more reserved she became. She would only talk about food or weather.

This is exactly what my mother would do. So, I brought it up. I did it in therapese, which was maybe not the best choice. I said she was reminding me quite a bit of my mother, and I mentioned some of the similarities. She was very offended, and ‘defended’ herself, saying she was not like my mother. I just listened – I know it’s my problem, if someone reminds me of my mom.

Then she said that she had lots going in internally, but she didn’t think I’d be interested, so she saved those things for when she was with other people.

Which really hurt my feelings. Why waste time meeting with me then, why not hang with the others? I didn’t say that. I just remarked that this was similar to my mother, who does not talk to me, but does talk to my sister. My friend had talked only about the tea and the decor in the cafe. It was kind of weird, and it is just what my family would do – try to shift the talk to food.

We let it go, and chatted a bit about other things before parting. There were no raised voices or nasty things said.

At home, I became more and more upset with this situation. I don’t do well with people who with hold – I get more and more desperate for a response. I remembered this woman in the group – how she with held most of her thoughts and opinions, how irritating I found that sometimes.

When we met for the first time after group, I was so relieved that she also had been angry with the people who attacked me, and that she had felt bad for me. Now I think – OK, how come she didn’t say anything? I know her struggle is an inability to speak up. But not this irritates me again. It would have made such a difference to me to know that not everyone was against me. Her silence was pretty deafening.

I know some of the turbulence of my feelings is due to being triggered. Still. Someone who tells me she doesn’t think I’d be interested in her thoughts so she saves them for others is not my friend. I suspect actually she’s judging me – some of the things I talked about I believe she finds quite strange, so she didn’t feel much similarity between us. We are a different generation for sure.

I wrote some of this out and sent it to Ron, as I was so upset I couldn’t sleep. I asked for a response, so he responded to an obvious thing. I’d stressed that what I emailed was confidential. So I poured my heart out, and he responded by saying everything I write is confidential.

Yesterday I wrote again, again very distressed and emotional. I didn’t ask for a response, given how he’d responded last time. So today, he replied to this saying that he hadn’t found something I’d lost last session.

It is so hurtful to pour your heart out and be ignored like that.

I don’t care for either of them at the moment.

Do you work things out with friends or do you end the relationship?

Art: Ria Hills – Tetley Tea Time

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31 comments
  1. Tilda said:

    It must be hard to have friendships with people outside of group.
    It sounds like you were really hurt by this meeting, but I wonder if the hurt has less to do with this ‘friend’, and more to do with your relationship with your mother?
    Your ‘friend’ didn’t sound very nice though. And Ron’s responses were weird.
    Take care.

    • Ellen said:

      It’s hard to tell what caused the hurt, which with me turns to anger. Someone’s behaviour can trigger my issues, but their behaviour may still not be great. I don’t know. This friend actually is ‘nice’ in that she doesn’t say anything unpleasant – she just avoids. It’s just not a quality I’m comfortable with in a friend. It’s ‘too nice’.

      I was wondering whether Ron’s responses were so cold because the friend is his client also. Still, he could say something like ‘sounds difficult’ and I’d feel at least heard.

      Nice that you’re back Tilda. Thanks for your thoughts.

      • Tilda said:

        Thankyou Ellen, it’s good to be writing again.
        I hope you are feeling a bit better about all this today.

        • Ellen said:

          Yeah, I’m tired today but am feeling calmer about the friend. Thanks

  2. laura said:

    I wonder who SHE thinks YOU are… someone (apparently) who wouldn’t be interested in anything she has to say. Perhaps that’s what your mother thinks, too.
    If a friend is someone you like, and who likes you, I’m not sure you’ve established that yet.
    and it seems very rare and difficult to find a friend.

    • Ellen said:

      Could be. That’s true – liking hasn’t been established. I thought it had been. And it is difficult, yes. Thank you.

  3. brokenbutbeingrepaired said:

    Sorry you’ve been left feeling so let down by both this friend and by Ron.
    Could it be that she maybe doesn’t have many friends, herself and only feels safe with small-talk? Can imagine it must be difficult to make the transition between the relationship you both had in the group to friendship. (?)
    Hope you can speak with Ron about how you’ve been left feeling by the way he responded when you were so in need of support.
    Sending lots of support your way…

    • Ellen said:

      I think the transition from group to friendship is trickier than I thought it would be. I thought it gave us a base of knowing each other. It’s true, she is very solitary, so maybe she always does just small talk. At first, we talked about the group, which was meaningful to us both, but now, that has faded, so maybe there’s nothing left in common.

      I replied to Ron’s emails saying I’d found his response hurtful, to which he hasn’t replied at all, so now I feel worse about that actually. I might cancel my next session.

      Thanks for the support BBBR.

  4. Hi Ellen. There was a lot I wanted to write to this post, but the thing is–whatever my opinions might be, I don’t think my opinions on what’s causing this for you cannot help you much.

    Because, in the end, it’s just a bunch of stuff that you’ll read and throw in the mix with all the other thoughts spinning.

    What I would like to point to is something much more basic and foundational then theories about what happened between you and your friend. The foundational point I’d like to make is that everything you’ve said boils down to bodily tensions and sensations (which includes the worried and anxious thinking).

    Bodily tensions and sensations can be worked through multiple ways. But I’ve found that the best way is to begin trying to physically relax and allow myself to breathe rhythmically, let my body breathe, and let my muscle tension begin to let go. It isn’t always an instantaneous shift, but eventually it does work. There are physical things at play here–fight or flight response and elevated blood pressure, heart rate, etc. These physical reactions need to be dealt with because they spill over into the arena of thought.

    When I am tense and anxious, my thoughts turn very dark and even the world looks yellow and ugly and bad.

    The moment I begin to consciously change my approach to how I am handling the situation (and my relationship to my body and the world), a shift starts to occur. And in the space of minutes, the world can start to look brighter, painful situations become manageable, and I see that it’s all been mind stuff, confusion, tension.

    If I allow the sensations and pain and tension to overwhelm me, then I can start panicking and trying to explain everything through various thought processes. I can start trying to assign blame, create reasons, but in the moment the thoughts and reasons are clouded by my tension and sensations. I’ve found that in order to really have clear thinking, I need to get control of my body, my breathing, and my tension.

    It’s just a simple case of anatomy. We don’t function well when our body goes into fight or flight mode. This is scientific fact. It seems to me that your descriptions hinge a lot on being profoundly triggered physically, and this physical triggering puts your body into a state where it does not function well. Your thoughts become confused, dark and anxious. From there, it’s a downward spiral. The way to deal with the spiral is to start finding ways to pull out of it that engage your body.

    Thinking will only improve AFTER the body has been dealt with. This is why you often find things getting better after a walk, or a change of scenery, a long and restful sleep, etc. This is because your body will eventually let go of some tension on its own, but you don’t need to wait for that point. You can help yourself jumpstart that process. And then all of this will begin to make much more sense.

    Hope this helps. If not, that’s fine too! 🙂

    Best,

    Aaron

  5. Another point, if I haven’t already rambled on well past what’s reasonable.

    There is a reason that thinking about things and working them out mentally (psychological) feels so necessary and helpful. My whole life, I’ve lived through my thoughts. Everything I do comes through my thinking process. And when I become mentally and physically upset or off-balance, then it only makes sense that I would use my thinking process to try and alleviate it.

    So I begin sorting through my thoughts and trying to find a place where “I” agree with my thoughts. Sometimes, when I come up with a mental explanation that “I” can agree with internally, there is a release. Something clicks and then I feel better.

    The problem occurs when I cannot seem to get that release of tension through thinking. I can hit a place where my thoughts are not releasing me, instead they seem to be getting more and more upset and dark, and rather than finding release, I fall deeper into imprisonment and confusion. The thoughts get darker, I cannot tell what is up and what is down, and I spin faster, trying to find relief through my thoughts.

    But what I am searching for through my thoughts is actually more of a PHYSICAL release. Because I’m totally consumed in thinking, it seems that what I need to solve are my thoughts. But in reality, it’s a physical body response that I’m truly trying to deal with. My heart racing, my stomach hurts or is tight, and even the quality of racing thoughts is actually from a physical cause. The heavy, panicky feelings and anxiety–it’s ALL physical in nature.

    There is a quicker, more efficient way to deal with this problem than through total dependence on thought to save me. But it always seems, at least initially, that I need to solve the problem by THINKING about it. And yet, somehow it never quite works, and I always end up back dealing with yet another emotional/psychological issue.

    That started to change for me when I began addressing the fundamental problem through my body first. Thinking can still be addressed, and I can and do still think through problems and deal with psychological pain or issues. But now I also know that my thinking isn’t clear when my body is under stress, so I’ve learned to look in a different direction to start with.

    Hope that explains things a bit better.

    • Ellen said:

      I guess I can relate to this in two ways. One thing I try and do is just feel the feeling without thinking about the story that’s attached. So I found when I came home from my outing, I felt furious, and had the accompanying churning thoughts. Concentrating on just the feeling, I realized underneath are hurt feelings, So then I felt just the hurt for a while. That’s one way I try and get away from thoughts.

      The other thing is because I suffer from dissociation, trying to get back into my body is very pertinent for that problem. When dissociated, I can’t feel much except a sense of unreality. Trying to not do that in the first place involves paying attention to how I feel and how my body is doing. It’s very hard to remember to do this at stressful times, but it’s what I’m trying to do.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience with me.

      • Hi Ellen, thanks for your response. What you do sounds great. One thing I’d add, from my own trials and tribulations 🙂

        It is difficult to be in the body when triggered and experiencing very strong emotions. That is why I’ve found it is actually helpful to try and be more in the body during the times when things are not very chaotic. And also to practice being in the body and breathing and relaxing during minor upsets.

        It’s a lot like playing an instrument. You don’t start trying to play Mozart, you start with Mary Had A Little Lamb and work your way up to Mozart.

        In this case, the huge emotional upset would be like trying to play Mozart without having first practiced with simpler things.

        My light suggestion would be to occasionally practice being in body and relaxing during stuff that is easy, or a very minor upset that isn’t really even bothering you much. Try and enjoy the process, because it can be very enjoyable–and then it can be a huge help when things really get rough!

        Best of luck, glad to see you still putting one foot in front of the other with your healing journey.

        Aaron

        • Ellen said:

          Good advice, thanks. I do practice bits of meditation, but don’t often think of it when out and about. I’m on a mission now. 🙂

  6. Gel said:

    Gosh I can relate to so much in what you wrote and everyone elses comments. I too, get angry when I’m triggered with hurt in relationships. I think it’s a kind of protective reflex. But it makes everything more complicated and less likely to help in feeling connected with the other person.
    Oh and this what you wrote in a reply to a comment: “Someone’s behaviour can trigger my issues, but their behaviour may still not be great.” EXACTLY!!! I often feel that way. My hurts can be triggered..stuff from the past – and not be caused by the person in the present, yet what they do in the present can be the source of new pain. (it’s not all my fault). I try to remember that it’s often about them not being skilled or having their own issues rather than that they want to hurt me. But I still react and I still want to close them out.

    Something someone told me that has helped a lot is that I can have different levels of closeness with different people. One friend might be a person I only want to have light conversations with while we go on a walk…they might not be a person I want in my inner circle of closest friends. Where as someone else I can be more intimate with….etc. It sounds really simple but I guess I didn’t know this. It was always all or nothing….very close friend or not a friend at all. So now I am learning how to have all different kinds of friendships with varying degrees of closeness and activities.

    Thanks for Being you. x

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, I think underneath anger is often hurt or fear, which I don’t feel in the heat of the moment.

      Those are good points too about people having their own issues. I can see clearly that my friend has difficulties with people in a way that is different from me. Plus I was anxious at the time so likely came on way to intense for her comfort. Maybe this is the time for non-violent communication? 😉

      That’s interesting regarding different levels. I guess that’s very true. I have a very old friend who doesn’t relate to problems at all, unless they are very concrete, so we never talk on the phone, and our interactions are activity based. She is still valuable to have. I was just hoping for a deeper friendship. This tea time friend actually has physical challenges, and also many fears, so there are not a lot of activities she can do with me unfortunately. Still, I’m calming down, and am going to see how things settle. I won’t cut her off or anything, if she decides to contact me again.

      Thank you Gel. xox

  7. Hello,
    I think I can imagine how you feel, even though… in real life, I tend to act like your friend did, and suspect that it has much more to do with who she is than with who you are.
    I often withhold when I am with my friends, especially if I know that they have current “stuff” to talk about, because I don’t feel I deserve their attention, and “feel” that talking about me would be harmful for them. Still I don’t deflect by talking about food and… I try to open up more when my friends tell me it is hurtful. For me, it is a protective action: during my entire childhood, I have been told I should not bother people with my life, especially if they have other problems, so… to me, sharing my feelings would lead to being rejected. And while my adult self suspects that this may not be true, all my feelings tell me that it is dangerous.

    I really don’t want to invalidate your feelings of hurt, as they are legitimate, but… it might be worth “working things out”, since you are triggered by her and previous experiences, and friends are precious? (Yes, I also believe in unicorns!)

    • Ellen said:

      I’m really pleased you shared your experience Nocturnal. That makes a lot of sense. Hopefully bit by bit you’ll develop more comfort with people and be able to share a bit more of yourself, for your own sake, not theirs.

      Maybe we will be able to work things out. Thanks for the perspective and nice to meet you. Unicorns are essential aren’t they?

  8. I was going to try to say something insightful and helpful, but I think all I’ve got tonight is that I don’t like this friend very much. And I’m sorry Ron was a doofus and didn’t respond to any of the emotional content. One way to approach this is to use this experience to try to understand what’s going on with your mother. It’s a much safer relationship.

    • Ashana M said:

      Oh, and I think the moral of the story is that this friend is not a safe person to “drop the waterline” with so to speak. She took your confidence personally and used it as an opportunity to attack you in an underhanded kind of way. In group, the expectation was to share for the sake of it, but elsewhere that’s not the case.

  9. I think the comments you have gotten here are amazing and they have given me a lot to think about. However, I would feel like you did when your friend from group said that she saved her internal stuff for other people but like you I can’t imagine spending the time and energy to go out with someone to talk superficially. I’m sorry that you are thinking of cancelling your next session because it feels like Ron doesn’t care. I hate when I doubt my therapist. It is so painful.

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks Di. I kept thinking I would cancel the session right up to the morning before, when I could still do that without paying for the missed session. Then even Fri morning, I considered not going. I was sure Ron would not be on my side and I’d feel worse. Then, he turned out to be very sympathetic, and I was so surprised.

  10. i hope with a little distance you are feeling better about the interaction. for me, i have found that with groups we develop a “false” intimacy, in some ways, with other members… or should i say “easy” (but that’s wrong too, ‘cos it’s hard work)… this is kind of like blogger friends, too… we come to know each other’s intimate thoughts and feelings and fears and desires… but we never do all of that other groundwork that a good and strong and lasting friendship is built on… for me it’s also sharing music, and stories, and favourite authors, and going camping, and dancing, and cooking for each other, looking after each other’s pets, chatting about kids, sharing photos, buying little gifts or cards because it reminded you of the person, and just all around enjoying the give and take of another person’s friendship. for me all of that takes time… usually years… maybe this friendship couldn’t move from the emotional intensity of group to the small kindnesses of ongoing friendship. are there things you like about her other than the fact she spoke up for you in group? would that be a basis for trying again? thinking of you and hope you managed okay this long weekend. c.

    • Ellen said:

      Well, we exchanged some emails and things did not improve. I think I’ll give this friendship space for now and see how I feel in a few weeks.

      I agree with your point about groups. I thought we’d established a kind of intimacy which we really had not, so I launched into my problems, and what was happening for me in therapy, when really, we weren’t close enough friends for that. Just, I find it difficult to go backwards – go from a lot of sharing, back to a more conventional back and forth relationship. But you’re right – friendship does take time. I think this one is toasted, but it’s good to remember for the future.

      I thought we did have things in common, but she didn’t think so. We both read novels, and she’d lent me one, which I read and enjoyed. We both took a class in creative writing. We’ve both shy. We both go for therapy with the same individual. It seemed like a fair amount of common ground to me. I just feel fed up now though. And in the emails, she kept telling me I have all these serious problems and need to solve them in therapy, not with her. I feel condescended to at this point and not positive about the friendship at all.

      Thanks for the insights Catherine.

      • ouch, i hate that feeling of being looked down upon… i’m sorry that happened. and we *all* have serious problems, right??? it’s all a matter of perspective… what’s “heavy” to one person is “manageable” to another… and vice versa… it’s all so individual, so that’s no excuse for being unkind. are you going to take another writing course in the spring?

        • Ellen said:

          Yeah, it’s a bad feeling. I feel like a person with three heads.

          Maybe I’ll take another course….haven’t decided. Cheers

  11. Cat said:

    Oh gosh, I can be guilty of ending friendships rather than work through a problem. I suppose, years ago, I would have tried to work through it, but today I’ve got enough of my own problems!

    • Ellen said:

      I’m the same. I’ve given up on this one. I think she wants to stay friends, but I don’t. I am guilty of just cutting people off. Thanks Cat.

      • Cat said:

        There are some friendships that are not good for us. She doesn’t sound very nice!!

        • Ellen said:

          Yeah. She is ‘nice’ when not feeling threatened. But I think she is not a friend for me. Cheers

          • Cat said:

            If the friendship doesn’t make us feel positive and at ease, then I think we have enough on our plate without having to tolerate someone who can be a pain. Hope you’re weekend is going okay….

            • Ellen said:

              A difficult weekend, but today is looking up. I don’t know….I’m scared of ending up with no friends. I think I could have saved this friendship by backing off for a few weeks, perhaps. Anyway, thanks for the input Cat.

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