Friendships: Great, Terrible, Ambivalent, and Non-Existent

An article on friendship in yesterday’s Guardian (US edition) by Elle Hunt got me thinking.
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/nov/09/toxic-friends-why-dont-we-dump?utm_term=618b1992bbc375563d7fcb4eb383989f&utm_campaign=GuardianTodayAUS&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&CMP=GTAU_email

Friendships have always been problematic for me. There was nobody I could count as a friend until I was about twelve. I then made two best friends, a winter and a summer one. The winter one was a girl in my class – we bonded over our passion for horses, drawing them, talking about them, dreaming about owning one. The other was a boy, also my age, whose mother was friends with my mother. We bonded over feeling that we were the least valued child in our families. 

Both friendships lasted two years. Then the girl’s family moved away for a year, and when she returned, she had outgrown horses, and we had nothing in common. The boy’s family also moved away, and we did not stay in touch. I saw him once when we were adults and felt no connection.

High school was odd. I thought I had no friends, but later, at high school reunions, I learned that several girls really liked me and still considered me a friend. I feel that my college roommates were friends, but that’s it. And the pattern continued as an adult – I had one close friend, and that was all.

After I remembered my hidden childhood, things changed rapidly. I loved being with other survivors, and it showed. In turn, they liked being with me. Some friendships had their rough spots, of course, and some relationships couldn’t be mended. This tended to happen when we triggered each other and were not experienced enough to recognize it. For the most part, though, we enrich and cherish each other.

In the article, toxic friendships are defined as a mixture of positive and negative feelings and experiences. You never know what you are going to get, and that is stressful. If a relationship is all negative, you may be miserable, but there is no uncertainty involved. You can trust them to be awful. That is not as stressful as “ambivalent relationships.”

The article gives many examples. The negative behaviors described included being self-centered, always talking about themselves. I remember one man I met in college who was like this. I amused myself by timing him to see how quickly he turned the conversation back to himself. It was almost always less than a minute! Why did I put up with him? Well, he was well-intentioned and he could be interesting. He was never hurtful.

More harmful behaviors involve back-stabbing and other forms of betrayal. Gossiping about you, saying negative things about you to others, lying about you. Stealing your boyfriend, your money, or your possessions. Insulting you to your face and then telling you that you are too sensitive.
 


Why put up with these people? Maybe you are scared of them and feel helpless. Maybe they are funny and charming and flatter you. Maybe they are rich, beautiful, and glamorous and just being with them makes you feel a little less poor, ugly, and dumpy. 

So…what’s the solution? One approach is to stop seeing them. This is very hard to do because the part of you who likes/loves them will be desolate if you no

Another approach is to fade out gradually, seeing less and less of them. This is not as much of a shock internally, but the tug-of-war, although less intense, is still going on. Your friend may become demanding and clingy if you withdraw. It’s not guaranteed to be easy.

A third approach is to sit down and have an honest talk. Keep the focus on, “I feel, I think, I react by” and “not on you do this, that, and some other terrible thing.” It’s far less threatening to the other person. At some point, it will be clear if it’s better to give up or to progress to, “I wonder if we could try and figure out something that would make both of us happy.” You might be surprised to find you have underestimated your friend’s level of insight and maturity.

One final thing I would like to talk about is what happens to friendships when there is a major change in your life. (This wasn’t discussed in the article.) More often than not, you lose a great many friends.

You become sober, your drinking buddies no longer want to be around you because you are no fun, and you avoid them because they threaten your sobriety.

You come out as gay, and your straight friends are appalled or feel they have no common ground and drift away. At the same time, your attention is focused on the whole wonderful new gay world that is opening up to you.

You tell your friends you were abused as a child, and they don’t believe you, say you should forgive and forget and get on with your life, or don’t know what to say.

When I realized I was an RA survivor, I lost everybody except my children, my therapist, and my best friend. They just vanished. My therapist told me, “Nature abhors a vacuum. You will make new friends.” It took a loooong time, but he was right!

The train of thought this article set off was really helpful. It gave me an overview of how my childhood abuse interfered with making friends and of how things changed over the years. Now I like where I am among people and wish I could have gotten here sooner. I also like no longer thinking that there was something wrong with me, that it was my fault, not having any friends. I get it now. Understanding is a huge relief.

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Upcoming Holidays

November
11/11 (?) Veterans’ Day
11/18-19 Partial Lunar Eclipse
11/19 Full Moon
11/25 Thanksgiving Day (United States)
11/28 First Sunday of Advent
11/30 St Andrew’s Day

December
Sundays of advent: 11/28, 12/5, 12/12, 12/19
12/4 Total Solar Eclipse
12/18 Full Moon
12/21 Winter solstice/Yule/St. Thomas’ Day
12/24 Christmas Eve
12/25 Christmas Day
12/31 New Year’s Eve

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
11/9 Kristallnacht
11/29 -12/16 Chanukah/Hanukkah (Jewish Festival of Lights)

 (NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices, and the equinoxes.)

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You can find more information on the following holidays at:
Thanksgiving – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/thanksgiving/
Yule/Winter Solstice – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/yulewinter-solstice/
Candlemas – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/candlemas/
Valentine’s Day – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/valentines-day/
Spring Equinox https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/the-spring-equinox/
Easter: personal – (for background, see Spring Equinox) – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/easter-blues/
Walpurgisnacht/May Eve – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/walpurgisnacht/
Beltane – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/beltane/
Mothers’ Day – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/mothers-day/
Fathers’ Day – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/ritual-abuse-and-fathers-day/
Summer Solstice (corrected text) – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/well-this-is-embarrassing/
Lammas – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/category/lamas/
and https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/august-ritual-dates/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 1 – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-feast-of-the-beast/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 2 – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/feast-of-the-beast-part-ii/
Fall Equinox – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/the-fall-equinox/
Halloween (personal) – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/halloween/
Halloween (background) – https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/samhainhalloween/

 

A New Friend

* Detailed instructions for making comments are in “News Items.”

A while ago I was so very lonely for real life, face-to-face interaction with survivors. I vaguely thought how to go about creating opportunities, as most all of the people I had known had moved out of the area for various reasons – mainly the ridiculous cost of living around here.

Since I was doing nothing except day dreaming, the Universe took over. The Universe’s solution was to motivate a RA/MC survivor to find other survivors and hopefully create some community and mutual support . I’ll call her Starling, just to give her a name. She Googled and found me and another woman! She emailed me and gently asked if I would be interested in meeting and perhaps starting a support group for survivors. You bet!

There were only the two of us at our first meeting and it was at a public place with easy parking, good coffee, and lots of space and empty tables for privacy. We liked each other, felt safe with each other, liked that we were open to different group formats, and, most of all, thrilled that we had connected. Most subsequent meetings have been at my house because that solves my parking problem. And I serve frozen blueberries.

The core group consists of Starling, me, and the other woman she found through Google. One woman from of town came once, and a friend of mine will hopefully attend regularly once things get settled. We all are very grateful to be together. Each time we meet we leave energized. It is such a blessing to be with people who understand, who get it without needing a lengthy explanation, who laugh at the same things.

Now this is a lot in itself. But there’s another blessing – Starling and I have become good friends. A couple of years ago I had a run of making new friends, but then they all moved out of town, far away. One even moved to Africa. Then there was a long dry spell. Looks like things have turned around for me.

We are so different! As teens, she was part of the punk scene and I was preppy. She is very spiritual and if I am the least bit spiritual, I don’t know it. She is into raw foods, I am an omnivore trying to eat things with a lower carbon footprint. She’s into alternative medicine, and has been for years and years. Me, I am Western medicine all the way. (I’m open minded enough to have tried other approaches, but they just didn’t seem to work for me.) We don’t try to convert each other, we don’t judge, we just learn things.

We’ve started to do things together outside of meetings. Girly things, like getting our hair cut together, and slightly more serious things, like Starling coming along for moral support when I need to take my cat to the vet. We’ve talked about day-tripping into the country to get a taste of the ocean and redwood forests.

And then there are opportunities for activism I never would have thought of. I didn’t know it, but there are ‘zine conventions and alternate book publishing conventions. (A ‘zine is a homemade booklet or pamphlet.) We could share a table and put out RA/MC material! I could finally finish a few of the dozen half-written pamphlets sitting in my “current projects” file. We could print up bumper stickers, a source of instant gratification as they roll into the printer tray.

Starling found an independent radical newspaper that reviews books and ‘zines and sends issues of their paper to prisoners for free. Her first ‘zine, on her experience with ritual abuse and Nazi mind control, got reviewed by the newspaper and Starling now has sent out over fifty copies to prisoners who wrote her requesting it. Imagine how much that must mean to a survivor who is imprisoned and unable to locate the sources of support that we can freely access.

So thank you, Universe, for the loss of my loneliness, for a new survivor group, a new friend, new doors opening to fun and rewarding opportunities for activism. You did real well by me!

Upcoming Holidays

October

10/13 Backwards Halloween
10/24 Full Moon
10/31 Halloween/Samhain/All Hallow’s Eve/ Hallomas/ All Souls Day/Start of the Celtic new year.
November

11/1 All Saints’ Day
11/22 US Thanksgiving
11/23 Full Moon
December
12/21 Yule/Winter Solstice
12/22 Full Moon
12/24 Christmas Eve
12/25 Christmas Day
12/31 New Year’s Eve

Dates important to Neo-Nazi groups

9/1 N Start of WW2
10/12 Hitler’s half birthday
10/15 Death of Goering
10/16 Death of Rosenburg
11/9 Kristallnacht
(Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lamas, Halloween

Isolation

Upcoming Holidays 

November
11/23 Thanksgiving
December
12/3 Full Moon
12/21 St. Thomas’ Day/Fire Festival
12/21 Yule/Winter Solstice
12/24  Christmas Eve/Satanic and demon revels/Da Meur/Grand High Climax
12/15  Christmas Day
12/31 New Year’s Eve
January
1/1  New Year’s Day
1/7  St Winebald’s Day
1/12 Full Moon
1/13 Satanic New Year
1/17 Feast of Fools/Old Twelfth Night/Satanic and demon revels
Dates important to Neo-Nazi groups
11/12  Birth of both Rosenburg and Goering, Nazi leaders in WWII
1/30 Hitler named Chancellor of Germany

 

Isolation 

As ritual abuse survivors, we have probably suffered alone for most of our lives. Most of the survivors I have met were amnesic for their abuse until adulthood. I did meet one young woman who had learned of her abuse when she was a child, but, although she believed it had happened,  she did not remember any of it.

This means that, as children, we started off feeling – and being – different from others. Since I cannot speak for everybody, I’ll share my experiences with isolation; I do believe, though, that they are pretty typical.

I had few opportunities to be around other children before entering first grade. I did notice that other kids knew more than I did, and it was embarrassing. I remember when I was three or four watching my cousins color. I watched them carefully and copied what they did as I had never seen crayons or coloring books before then.

When I got to school, I thought that the other kids knew the rules of the game of life and I didn’t. I was mortified and hid it the best I could by being shy and aloof. Of course I didn’t have friends. Slowly, I watched and learned how to jump rope, play tag, make Cats’ Cradles. By sixth grade, I had made a friend, and in seventh grade, I made another. Both friends were, like me, outsiders.

Inside the cult, all the children were pretty much in the same boat. It was easy to imagine how they felt and easy to imagine that I would feel comfortable with them, if only we had been allowed to talk to each other or play. The children were kept apart deliberately as a means of controlling them. If any two children were allowed to get attached in any way, it was only to put them in double binds and make them hurt each other.

I didn’t belong in grade school. Or high school. Or college. Not at work, not at home, not as a wife and mother. I felt like I was from Mars, simply because I was the only person I knew, or thought I knew, who grew up in a cult but didn’t know it.

When I remembered, two things happened almost immediately. One was that most of my “friends” disappeared when they heard about it, either from me or second-hand. Looking back, these were not friends, they were people I knew. Luckily my kids and my therapist at the time stuck around. I remember my therapist consoling me by saying, “Nature abhors a vacuum. You will attract new people.”

The second one was there was an instant connection between me and other ritual abuse survivors. (My therapist was right! And it only took three weeks!)

I felt so at home with ritual abuse survivors. We did not reject each other because of the enormity of the abuse. There was no need to walk away in order to protect ourselves from the knowledge of how deeply cruel people can be: we already knew. There was a kinship that cut across  boundaries of gender, race, age, nationality, and social class. We understood each other and nobody was shocked by my twisted sense of humor.

Of course, survivors are like any other people. Some got on my nerves or hurt my feelings and I hurt people, never on purpose, but from ignorance, misunderstandings, or my own hang-ups. There was the ever-present possibility of triggering somebody or being triggered, sometimes without knowing it. The initial glow wore off and I learned that even if there was a strong connection, being friends with a survivor can be hard work.

I was blessed to be living in a place where it was easy to meet survivors in person through twelve-step meetings, conferences, peer-led groups, task forces, and poetry readings. There was so much out there that it was, at times, hard to choose.  The Internet was always there and I e-met people from many different countries.

For a variety of reasons, it became harder to meet people in person, most notably because of the chilling effect of the False Memory people. We became much more cautious, even fearful, around fellow survivors. But for about twenty years I did not feel isolated. I was not a Martian, an alien, an outcast, but a regular human being who had had a horrific childhood like so many others.

These days I’m starting to feel isolated once again, but in a different way. Part of it has to do with the difficulty in meeting survivors; you have to work at it. Many of my friends have moved away and some have died. Others have broken with me and we are no longer in contact. Luckily it’s much easier over the Internet. I do not know what I would do without my beloved computer.

Another part has to do with aging. Now isolation is pretty common among older people, especially those who can’t get around very well. I’m no exception: I have arthritis and don’t have the stamina, physically, mentally, or emotionally that I did thirty years ago. I sure wish there were an easy way to hang out with other survivors, preferably with parking close by.

I recently spent the day with a survivor I have known for years. We didn’t even talk about abuse or healing. We talking about the present and did everyday things, like have lunch and go to the supermarket. But the connection, the understanding, was there all the time. We didn’t have to worry about saying something too intense and chasing the other one away. Our backgrounds were a given, like the color of our eyes.

It was such a treat to catch up on our lives and struggles, to implicitly honor each other’s strength and perseverance. Such a treat to be reminded that I belong someplace after all.