A loyal reader recently posted a comment regarding perspective and pointed out how mine could use a bit of tweaking! And she was right. This got me thinking about the struggle with perspective in general and how we all fall off the wagon sometimes, and that is ok. Here is how we can recover.
I recently came across a story in which a man described his perspective of being around his ex wife for the first time, with her new partner. He described how replaceable and worthless he had felt as he watched the people he used to know – his ex-wife’s friends and family, greet her and her new man the way they used to greet him. He described watching his ex-wife’s easy smile and relaxed demeanor as though he had been merely a plastic playing piece in a game that would be replaced as the game continued without him. He questioned what signs he had missed and how had he never realized he was so unspecial. (Oh how I love making up words!)
While he speaks of a marriage, I can relate this back to friendships too. As some friendships grow apart or come to a close, it is easy to look at the other person’s life (without you in it) and assume they don’t care. It is easy to assume you were the worst, the problem and allow your brain to tell you that nobody will ever like you and you are destined to be alone and friendless forever. My psychologist likes to call this extreme thinking, and yes it is something I do, quite a lot!
The conclusion that this guy draws is that, ultimately, all of that comes from our ego. So while we might indulge in these feelings somewhat, getting lost in them is a terrible idea! It is too easy to see pictures of your friend hanging out with her other friends and think “see, she doesn’t even care that I am gone.” I have thought this myself. I have let jealousy consume me and jump to conclusions about how someone does or doesn’t feel about me based on things that have nothing to do with me. When your ego is bruised it howls so loudly in your ear it is hard to hear sense from nonsense.
However you need to ask yourself if it is possible that the person does care for you, even if they are not missing you in this moment as much as you are missing them? Is it possible she is onto something if she is off enjoying life while you focus on hers instead of your own? Is it possible that thinking about it achieves nothing except making you feel worse?
My psychologist continues to work on this choice of perspective with me. I know it isn’t easy. I get into healthy patterns then before you know it I take another step backwards. Patterns of thinking are hard to break, but we can break them and create new ones. We can choose to think of things in different ways. We can even choose not to think of them at all.
The trap I most commonly fall into is assuming that by thinking about an issue I can come to terms with it or resolve it. I am also guilty of focusing my attention on what someone else is or isn’t doing and why it hurts and justifying that to myself. Sure it does actually hurt a lot and I shouldn’t need to justify that. However as my trusty psychologist (have I mentioned she drives a BMW?!) points out, I need to spend more time on deciding what I am going to do now, regardless of what they do. I need to accept that sometimes the solution doesn’t include the person who created the problem. And if I must focus on it, I must focus on what I can learn from it and ways I could have been different. If a door closes, don't keep knocking, find a window!
Ego is quick to play the victim, and it is NOT big on accountability or reflection. With practice I learn that perspective is a choice and if I focus on making choices that will make me feel happier and healthier it starts to matter much less what other people are doing. And at times like these I advise you to stay away from social media, and engage in your actual life. But that is another post all together!!
I had a best friend in high school, wise beyond her years. Her favourite quote, and I may have shared this before, but it is worth sharing again is: “True happiness is knowing that what other people say and do is a reflection of themselves and not of you.”
You know what else is common in extreme thinking? An all or nothing attitude. If we cannot be friends the way we were then we cannot be friends at all. And you know where that typically leads you? Right down the path you didn’t want to go down. Proceed with caution!
If a friend is meaningful to you, and your friendship seems to be ending, I suggest you focus on what it is and what it can be instead of what it isn’t and what it cannot be. The beauty of friendships is that they are not monogamous so to settle for less temporarily may be better than to push for more. All relationships ebb and flow, when they ebb, if you flow in another direction for a while, you may grow together again in the future. This is still true even if you push for an ending and get one, but it is much harder to recover from an ending than from a prolonged pause.
I can hear you thinking “But I deserve more! She is being awful and doesn’t care that I am hurting!” And I tell you she is taking care of herself right now and for the good of your friendship, you need to do the same. You do deserve more. So go and find it, with someone else. You’ll be glad you did, and in time this wont matter nearly as much as you thought; So long as you are open to changing your perspective. If you really believe your friend is so awful then why do you want to be friends with her? And if you really believe you are so awful why would you expect her to be friends with you? You struggle because you know neither of you is awful or deliberately hurting the other. You want to feel important and cared for. How can you achieve this outside of your friend? And how can you care for yourself in such a way that it isn’t important to you if someone else cares for you or not?
There is an old proverb that says “perspective is reality.” Which brings me to the question is perspective fact or fiction? The answer my friends, depends on your choice. Think about it
What will your choice be?
Your Best Friend ForNever