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Hunger - Suffering From Elation
A Survivor's Tale
tania
tania
Hunger
I don't have many close online friends. Recently I let one go. After years of hearing about his personal problems, I suggested that a therapist might be able to help him. He did not take the suggestion well.

After growing quite angry, he calmed and asked why he should go and talk to someone who didn't really care, someone who was just paid to care? Around the same time, he'd stated that all he needed to solve his personal problems was for just one or two people to show him that they cared: a small solution to a big problem.

However, quite a number of people had already told this person that they cared. Many of them had told him multiple times. For a short time, those assurances made him feel better. Then, eventually, his personal problems reared up again and he felt awful and required, once more, for people to shore up his crumbling foundations with assurances that he was a Good Guy, that everyone liked him.

That's not a solution. It's a cheap hit. It wears off and he'll need it again and again. There's a hole in him, a hunger that needs feeding, and he can't feed it himself.

He doesn't need derision, but equally, he doesn't need sympathy. He needs help. He's not the only one.

Some of the hungry ones give up on getting what they need from other people. They fill the hole with actual food, or drugs, or anything else that makes them forget the need for a short while. Some keep struggling on, trying again and again to get what they need out of people, and they wonder why they are constantly losing friends and partners, when those people grow tired of the neediness and walk away. And some - the truly unfortunate - wind up with people who feed off that need; wolves-in-disguise who realise they've found someone who will put up with any amount of bullshit provided they receive an ocassional bit of 'caring' lip service in return.

If you're emotionally wounded to the point where you need to continually fall back on reassurances of love and care from friends, you're no longer treating them as friends, you're feeding off them. You don't realise it, but you're using them. And if you've reached the point where you accuse your friends of "losing interest in you" when they don't supply the sympathy you constantly demand, you have become Needy, and at this point your behaviour is probably driving them away. This can begin a cycle: you feel that nobody cares about you, you state it publicly in a sympathy-fishing attempt, and your friends, tired of being baited (tired of having to prove, again and again, that they DO care) don't respond in the way you'd hoped... leaving you to feel that nobody cares about you and starting the cycle anew.

Your friends may even tell you it's time to seek help. At this point you will feel even worse, because now you're privately thinking that, 1) Your friends think you're looney, and 2) You're being told that you need to PAY for friendship.

This conception is inherently flawed. A therapist is not your friend. The point of a therapist is not to care. The point of a therapist is to teach you to care for yourself.

There is a saying: "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for one day. Teach a man to fish and he feeds himself for a lifetime."

Sometimes the most unkind thing you can do for someone is throw them a fish. It's a cheap and easy feel-good solution for you, and for them, but that person'll be hungry all over again the next day. More often than not, if someone can teach that person to love themselves, they won't grasp and clutch at everyone else's love. They'll take the love they're given, and give love in return. That's all.

I know I can come across as forceful when I write, so I think I should make it clear that I write this not in judgment, but in empathy. I've been on both ends of this equation.
26 have fought ~ fight the power!
Comments
From: amoux Date: September 26th, 2008 01:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Very good post. I've experienced it from both perspectives myself, and I think that what you've said here is realistic yet still compassionate. Each of us can bear only a limited burden, so it's neither fair nor sensible to expect anyone else to shoulder ours for us.
(Deleted comment)
tania From: tania Date: September 29th, 2008 04:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I get the impression that you took a lot away from it. You come across as very centered and at peace in your journal - I've always admired that about you. :)
justascream From: justascream Date: September 26th, 2008 02:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I have also been on both ends of this situation. You have worded this exceptionally well; this post is the sort of explanation of the view that one would hope to see in articles on the benefits of therapy.

Therapy is not "judgment," I try to explain to friends. It is not a way to deal with a crazy person or such. It is a way to treat a malfunction in the system, to rehabituate the mind and body to a more whole and satisfying mode of operation.

Similarly, I advise people I know who have been prescribed antidepressants or other mental health medication for a problem to stop thinking bitterly of the treatment as "drugs" or "chemicals" and to begin thinking of it as "medicine." Medicine that, given the person is well enough and can accept and learn from the situation, can one day be weaned away with a smile and a sense of, "Well. That was actually worth it."

Personally, I always recommend therapy first and foremost. Cognitive therapy has been proven to be, often, more effective than medicinal or other treatments for mental insecurities or illness. Sometimes a combo works best. It all depends on the person.

And anyway...with all the testimony to the effectiveness of therapy, what reason is there to not give it, at the least, a try?

Anyway, good post.
tania From: tania Date: September 29th, 2008 03:47 am (UTC) (Link)
You put that very well; I like your way of thinking both about therapy and medication.

I think the issue (especially with the former) is that from a very young age, most of us - especially those with a secular upbringing - are taught that our mind is who we are. "I" is a composite of your memories, thoughts and feelings - ie, "I" = "my mind". So when someone feels as though they're being told something is wrong with their mind, it's like they're being told there's something inherently wrong with who they are.

But the mind is a machine, just like the digestive system, the nervous system, the skeletal system, etc. We take problems with those areas less personally because though they are "a part of me" they aren't actually "me". There's some distance there.

I noticed one of the first things I learned in therapy was to manually put distance between myself and my thoughts. If you catch yourself thinking something negative, like "I'm ugly" / "Nobody loves me" / etc, stop and think, "I'm having the THOUGHT that (I'm ugly) / (nobody loves me) / (etc)"

It seems like such a small thing, but it can be a huge relief to be reminded that we don't have complete control over our minds and thoughts, and that both can go awry sometimes. This is a problem no less important (and no less worthy of treatment) than a broken bone, a stomach ulcer, or misfiring nerves. You wouldn't try to fix those things yourself... but it's amazing how many people think that when there's a problem in that gray organ in their heads, it's something they can fix by themselves, without help.

And re your final line, I really love hearing that attitude coming from people. So many people are afraid to take a chance on... well, anything in some cases (I've seen grown adults refuse to try new foods simply because... they've never tried them before.) If there's a chance something good could come out of an action, and unless said action is likely to maim or kill you, why NOT try it? To do otherwise is to let fear of the unknown rule you, and that limits your life, and robs you of opportunities.
peterchayward From: peterchayward Date: September 26th, 2008 02:56 am (UTC) (Link)

I can't emphasize how much I like this post!

This post is fantastic. You should take out the references to an ex-friend, and unlock it, or repost it as an unlocked post.

Failing that, can I quote large sections of it?
tania From: tania Date: September 29th, 2008 03:38 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I can't emphasize how much I like this post!

Unlocked, do with it what you will. :)
peterchayward From: peterchayward Date: September 30th, 2008 12:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

Just to let you know that I didn't ask for unlocking just to do absolutely nothing about it.

I will be doing a post either linking to this or discussing it when I get a chance!
thelauderdale From: thelauderdale Date: September 26th, 2008 03:35 am (UTC) (Link)
I too have been on both sides of this. And I second the request to show this to others, if it is ok and under whatever conditions you deem appropriate.


On a stupider note, I never understood the fish analogy as a kid, or rather, I understood it through a special Lauderdale filter. When I heard "Give a man to fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for life," I thought it meant that if you give the guy a fish the first day that will take care of the matter, but if you try to teach him to fish he'll always be hanging around you trying to learn how to fish and never really getting it and you'll just end up giving him fish every night...
thelauderdale From: thelauderdale Date: September 26th, 2008 03:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Give a man to fish...

>_
digitalis From: digitalis Date: September 26th, 2008 03:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I think if we ever got to hang out in real life, we'd get along well. :)
tania From: tania Date: September 29th, 2008 03:38 am (UTC) (Link)
I'd like to think so, and hopefully someday we'll get the chance. :)
stokerbramwell From: stokerbramwell Date: September 26th, 2008 03:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Amen.
From: tigrr_wildcat Date: September 26th, 2008 05:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow. That was very well written, well said. I have been on both sides of this too and I third the request to show this to others. I've tried talking to friends too about therapy to show them how much it helps. It helped me out with some things, but some people just don't want to help themselves. It's hard to convince someone that therapy is the best option, they almost have to hit that rock bottom before they'll come around. You never know if it will be too late though. If you push too early, they'll get defensive, too late...speaks for itself. Man, hard spot, best wishes.
tania From: tania Date: September 29th, 2008 03:37 am (UTC) (Link)
It's unlocked now - if you want to show it to anyone, be my guest. :)
From: tigrr_wildcat Date: September 29th, 2008 04:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Awesome! Thank you very much. It will get some good use. ;)
miltjones From: miltjones Date: September 26th, 2008 08:17 am (UTC) (Link)
I saw a band on the leaderboards of Rock Band 2 with your LJ name. That's all.
c_eagle From: c_eagle Date: September 26th, 2008 10:27 am (UTC) (Link)
*sighs... sorry to hear of this needed transition... hopefully they will indeed get some help soon...* ... :/
dustmeat From: dustmeat Date: September 26th, 2008 01:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lord knows, I agree with this entire post. But the part that stuck out for me:
This can begin a cycle: you feel that nobody cares about you, you state it publicly in a sympathy-fishing attempt, and your friends, tired of being baited (tired of having to prove, again and again, that they DO care) don't respond in the way you'd hoped... leaving you to feel that nobody cares about you and starting the cycle anew.

Yup. Time for therapy, not more assurances. I have seen this time and again.
supinternets From: supinternets Date: September 26th, 2008 01:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Really good post, very well thought out. I really enjoy the way you put things.
spunkywulf From: spunkywulf Date: September 26th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fantastically written. Thoughtful, concise and polite. You're not attacking, you're hardly even criticizing... you're very logical through this whole thing. I have had a small handful of friends who are the spitting image of this description and I have distanced myself from one who was once very close because of it. I have never gotten over the guilt of it, but based on my own feelings and what you've written, I don't think my staying (or any of their other friends' staying) would have helped anymore. Thank you for putting into words what so many of us feel.
aibo From: aibo Date: September 26th, 2008 08:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sadly, this fantastic post was written because you had to let somebody go who was close to you. But that's the reason for many things created, and hopefully will help others to understand, and make it better. Sometimes, you realize a good friend when they not give what you ask for, but give what's best for you.

Thanks for sharing Tania. It actually came at the right time for me, too, so it is even more appreciated:-)

*Aibohuggles*
jesskat From: jesskat Date: September 26th, 2008 10:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm pretty sure I know who this is referring to, and I agree with you. I'm not really in a position to judge though, I know I'm guilty of this kind of behavior myself sometimes although I try to avoid it.

I just wanted to say that for all his shortcomings, if there's one thing I give this person credit for, it's his constant strife to learn from past mistakes and better himself. He's expressed sadness over the fact that you're no longer friends and says he can even see now where you might've been coming from.
I'm not trying to say you should add him back, that's up to you, I just think it'd be worthwhile to e-mail this text to him. I think right now he's in the right state of mind to be open to your point of view. It might not change your friendship, but I'm sure it'd at least help give him some kind of closure and maybe some food for thought.

If you don't want to e-mail him yourself, I'd like to request permission to copy & paste this text to him. If you won't give me permission, I understand and won't go doing anything behind your back. I just think this was a very reasonable, well-written post and now that he's not feeling quite as touchy he might be more receptive to your words.
tania From: tania Date: September 29th, 2008 03:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm in no position to judge either; I still catch myself going down that path now and then - mostly, these days, just with my partner. I think I self-pitied myself pretty much dry during that depression last year. o_o I won't know that for sure unless life turns hard again though; that'll be the next big test for my inner strength.

I've unlocked the entry based on your request and a few others, and you're welcome to send this to him - he may be more receptive if it comes from you. I just hope it's clear in the way this is written that I don't hold any hard feelings whatsoever; that's not why I withdrew from his life. I think I was doing more damage than good to his self-esteem; I'm very blunt and I don't think the bulldozer approach is the type of delivery best suited to him. If I'd hung around longer chances were I'd have upset him to the point where there WERE hurt feelings. Preferable to end it without an actual falling-out, I think. Not everyone has compatible communication styles and that's totally OK.

I also hope that it's clear from how this was written, and how I posted it (locked), that this isn't some sort of veiled message to/at him - I've always said what I needed to say directly as far as he's concerned. This entry is different; it's just something that runs through my head now and then, and I thought it was worth writing about.

I'm glad he's doing better. :)
tania From: tania Date: October 2nd, 2008 09:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure if you sent it to him or not, but he de-friended me (again) so if that was a result of you sending it, I'm guessing it may not have gone down as well as hoped.
whyrl From: whyrl Date: September 27th, 2008 02:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad I got myself off that particular bandwagon. ;>
(Deleted comment)
tania From: tania Date: October 2nd, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
It wasn't a terrible strain - he's a nice guy at heart, he was just lost and confused. In a way I did it for him. I've lost friends in similar circumstances (when I've been on the other side of the story) and though I regret the loss of those friends, I don't regret what I learned from it.

In a broader sense, it's like this: sometimes if someone's hysterical, the best thing for them is a hard slap across the face. Shocking, unkind, but more effective than a hug. My mother did this to me once when I was a kid (boy was I shocked at the time!)

From what I hear, he's really turned his life around in the past couple of weeks.
26 have fought ~ fight the power!