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Trauma And Drama: Why Are Friends And Family Rejecting Me?

Question:

Dear Anne, I am afraid this may have the tone of venting because the most recent catalyst happened just today. I just had someone who until now I would have called a friendly acquaintance (I’ll refer to her as Sam) behave in a totally unprepossessing manner toward me. We were the first two people to get to our classroom today, so I said "Hi, what’re you up to lady?"… she said none of my business, in a rude way. OK, I went through an entire class after this, and, because this was out of character, after class I asked her calmly why she was having a problem with me, and she went off about how she’d had a problem with me for the last 6 months and she wasn’t going to be my new crutch (this comment was based on a friendship that she only witnessed the end of.)

This and other events in my life force me to conclude that almost all people tending toward type A personalities, view me as emotionally weak. I am not weak… I admit am not strong.. I am human, I have had my problems and I feel that I have the right to have them, and I am sick of people condemning me for it; my sister, the ex-friend, who Sam is basing her conclusions on, and now… Sam.

I recently lost my father, I have spent two years attending counseling, and trying different medications for chemical depression and anxiety problems, and although I am aware that these are only the actions of three people; I feel targeted, and not really sure how to handle the situation, much less how to improve it. So I would appreciate a fresh and neutral eye.

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Answer:

You were rejected today by someone you had hoped would become a friend, and that has hurt you. Some people would become entirely defensive in such a situation and think nothing more than, "What a B*tch!", but I’m glad to see that you are more thoughtful than that. Sure, you’re upset, but you are also trying to take a lesson from what has occurred, and to understand it from perspectives that are broader than your own. That is a sign of growing maturity, I think, and something to be proud of.

This is the third time that someone you care about (or would like to care about) has rejected you. You’ve noted that there are characteristics in common that these people who have rejected you share. You write that they are all "Type A" people, which is another way of saying that they are hard-driving, ambitious and sometimes hostile, impatient people. You also note that "Sam" accused you of trying to use her as a crutch, and it seems that this is also a pattern. You are not being rejected because you are ugly, or like the wrong music. You are being rejected (you think) because you are coming across as too needy and dependent, and these people don’t want to deal with that neediness.

You know why you are needy. You’ve sustained a terrible loss with the death of your dad; one that knocks many people on their ass no matter how old they are. People react differently to grief situations. Some people wallow in it, while others push it away and try to contain it and separate themselves from it (to describe the extremes of how people typically cope). I’m guessing that you lean towards the wallow side of the spectrum, while your "Type A" sister is more of a container and a distancer. These are style differences that occur because of how different people feel comfortable or not with feeling extreme emotions. Some people cannot tolerate them (at least when the tone of the emotion is hopelessness such as is the case with regard to grief). Other people are good with feeling them, not because they feel good, but because they feel meaningful. What may be happening here is that people are pushing you away, not because you are leaning on them too much, but because their own tolerance for discussing the emotional things on your mind is far less than your own. That is a positive but reasonable way to look at the situation. Another which is also reasonable but less positive is that you may actually be failing to respect reciprocity expectation and monopolizing conversations with these people, and they are rejecting you because you are actually coming across as too demanding or intense in comparison with the average person. I don’t know which characterization is more accurate, and both might be true at the same time, too.

I think it reasonable that you examine your interactions with people, specifically looking for how well you balance the topics you want to talk about with the topics that your partners want to talk about, and also whether there is a conflict between the level of emotional depth you want to talk about vs. the level of emotional depth that your partners want to talk about. If interactions seem one-sided or not balanced, then this rejection you’re facing may be a socially reasonable response, but you have the ability to alter your behavior to balance things out better, and that will make rejection less likely to occur in the future. If your interactions balance out more or less, then what you may be looking at is a particular set of people whose emotional coping style and comfort level is simply incompatible with your own, and these people will not likely make good friends for you anyway. In this case, you’ll want to seek out other people who are more on the "wallow" side of things as friends as they will better understand where you are coming from.

People sometimes resist the idea that they should censor what they share with the people around them, because, they think there isn’t anything wrong with "speaking honestly about things the way they are". This sort of attitude doesn’t get people very far, however, because the social reality is that people who are not selective about who they share emotional and personal information with can alienate others by not being sensitive to those other people’s needs, or lack of interest. Since you are a thoughtful person as well as a grieving person, I don’t think that this is probably what is happening, but it is worth thinking about and adjusting how you are coming across if it is the case.

You will never please everyone around you. Instead, what is reasonable to shoot for is to find people with whom you are compatible and focus your attention there, being careful to attend to the needs of those you become friendly with so as not to overload them at any given moment. When other people inevitably reject you from time to time for reasons that are more about their own needs than your behavior, then understanding what is happening can help you not take it too personally.

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