When we feel abandoned by our friends, there are things we can do that help us feel better, and things that make us feel worse. This post will cover some of what makes us feel better, what makes us feel worse, and what you can do to move forward.
This is both long, and also extremely basic at the same time. Depending where you’re at – it may feel very raw. You asked for what you can do to not feel so depressed. You asked what you can do to make new friends (after having lost your other friends) – so I’m posting this. I trust that if you need to take a break from reading, you will.
It can be hard to face some of what I’m going to say. It’s okay if it’s hard. The fact that you’re putting in the effort means so much! It’s worth acknowledging to yourself the amount of bravery it takes to face where you’re at – and where you want to be – and then taking action to learn new ways of showing up for yourself, and your friends.
We always have so much ‘proof’ that our thoughts are true, it’s easy to dismiss the possibility that they might be wrong.
This is what I want to challenge you about.
What I have to say is not meant to make you feel good or make you feel better about your situation. That would involve pretending all the crap you’ve gone through (and are going through) doesn’t exist – pretending life is great doesn’t work. In fact, it makes things worse.
Imagine you do/say something unkind – it hurts others, and you feel bad. Your thoughts turn to shame (those are the thoughts that say you’re a bad person).
Trying to ‘be positive’ leads many people to try to pretend they’re great and didn’t make the mistake in the first place, “Why are they even upset, it’s not like it’s that big of a deal! I mean I was having a bad day…” and other things that excuse the behaviour.
The problem with this is that we still know what we said/did was hurtful to someone else – so even if we try to brush off the negative with barriers, walls, and bulldozers, we’re left feeling even worse inside b/c deep down we know the truth.
Toxic positivity is worse than pure negativity. Pure negativity can be seen for what it is. Toxic positivity tries to pretend that life is amazing, we’re amazing, and everything is perfect. But it’s impossible to get better if we won’t admit that there’s room to improve.Tweet
Our brains are weird. When we tell our brain to look for ways in which our life sucks, the world sucks, and we suck, then our brain will look for all kinds of proof that those thoughts are true. But if we try to pretend everything is fine, our brain won’t stop running the previous ‘look for proof I suck’ program. Instead our brain keeps on looking for that proof that we suck.
There’s two quick ways to shift our thoughts.
- Laugh at the thought
It’s helpful to challenge those thoughts, or at the very least change them.
Think Harry Potter’s ‘Riddikulus’. You still have the same thought, but you shift it slightly. Put it in your grandmother’s dress before sending it roller skating across the floor. The result makes the whole thing just a little bit less scary, a little bit more funny – and a lot easier to move past.
- Admit when we’re wrong
We begin to feel better when we admit, at the very least to ourselves, that what we did was unkind, while ALSO allowing ourselves to still be worthy of love.
“Yes, that was unkind. I was upset, and instead of controlling my emotions, I took it out on them. It WAS unkind. But that doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. Even good people make mistakes. Even good people can hurt others.”
Being wrong is not a reflection on our worth as a person. In fact, despite what our fears tell us, other people often don’t change their opinion of us based on mistakes we make. People’s opinions are formed by what we do after a mistake more than whether we make mistakes.
(Yes, it’s true. Some people may be angry no matter what. And yes, some mistakes are huge. Sometimes we will lose friends. That isn’t a reflection on our value as a person).
I once had a friend say something to me, about her previous friends, not being there for her. She said they just couldn’t handle her being anything less than happy. If she wasn’t cheerful, they would stop talking to her. I felt really bad for her – and vowed to not be like those other friends.
But when it got down to it – she was not kind – it wasn’t that she had a lot going on. For me, it wasn’t that she was sad, didn’t show up, or needed me to show up all the time. It was that she was mean when I did show up. She said rude things, questioned my friendship constantly, and in the end intentionally tried to cause problems in my relationship.
Because I didn’t want to be like those other ‘bad’ friends, I put up with a lot for a long time – I had a new baby, was barely sleeping, but drove an hour to her place every few days because it was ‘too hard for her to get out’ – I almost died on that drive a couple times because I was too tired to be safe. When I told her I couldn’t go to her place one day, she got mad. When she insulted me over and over again, and I told her that wasn’t okay, she lashed out.
I was being ‘just like all the other past friends. Forcing her to be cheerful all the time. Why can’t anyone accept me as I am?’
The thing is – our friends are not required to put up with being insulted, or otherwise hurt. It’s okay for someone to be upset, it’s not okay to hurt others. It’s okay for people to walk away. I suspect you can look into your past and recall times you’ve walked away as well.
When we’re in a place of struggle, we often treat others unkindly. Often we don’t even notice it (I was there in the past too – I was the one who expected so much, but gave so little in return – when I thought I was there for my friends, I realise I was actually adding to their load, not making it lighter).
If we start to see the ways in which we contributed to our own problems, then guilt and shame often come to visit – we feel badly about the things we said and did – and we wish we could hide. We wish we could bury ourselves. It’s almost harder to pull ourselves out of the hole because of these feelings than it is to stay in the hole where it’s a lot easier to avoid this type of personal confrontation.
If we stay in the hole, it’ll be hard to have so little energy/desire to do anything. It’ll also be hard when we see the way others pull back – then we feel rejected on top of all the other crap we’re dealing with. But when we’re in the hole, it’s easy to see the way others aren’t good enough – the way others won’t be open or honest. The way others just won’t let us be ourselves.
Climbing out of the hole means we have to face the possibility that we contributed to that situation.
The good news is that when we see our own actions – we also open the door to see the ways in which we’re actively making a difference in our own life. We can say, “Yes, this really, really sucks right now – but look at this! I have faced what I said to my friend – and even though I can’t change the past, the way I’m showing up now makes a difference in the relationships I still have – and I will make new relationships even better than the old ones because I’m learning how to treat people more kindly!!”
Often we look at how much effort we put toward a relationship – and then tell ourselves that if we’re putting in so much effort, then we *must* be a good friend. We compare this to what we receive from others and see that it doesn’t balance out. We put in so much effort, and all we got was a 2 sentence text?! WTF is up with that!?
The problem with this is that we’re basing our judgement on our perception – and our perception can be very wrong.
Imagine trying to dump water out of a sinking boat. Water’s coming in through a hole, you’re using a towel to mop the water and wring it over the edge. You put in so much effort, but each time you shift to wring the towel, a little more water seeps in over the top. You’re putting in a ton of effort, you’re exhausted, but your effort is making things worse.
Changing what we do allows us to stop the hole, and instead of using a towel to mop up water, we notice there’s a bucket. Once we stopped the water from coming in through the hole, switch to the bucket, then we start to gain momentum – the water left the boat, we stayed afloat, and everyone around us sighed in relief.
This is the problem with perception. We know we’re putting in a lot of effort, but we don’t see what kind of effort our friends are putting in. Our friend may be using the bucket, but all our efforts make it so their efforts seem insignificant in comparison. Even though their efforts are more effective than ours.
When we feel abandoned by others, look at the ways in which we contributed to the situation. What might you do in the future so that the situation doesn’t repeat the same way? How would you rather it turns out?
Question the ways in which your negative thoughts about yourself, life, etc might be wrong. And if you’re ‘thinking positive’ question how those thoughts may be wrong – but don’t stop there – then look for ways in which you are/or could actively work toward being more like the person in your positive image.
It sucks to feel abandoned. I wish I could make that feeling go away, but it doesn’t. This, I think, is really the difference between those who do well, and those who struggle for so long. Those who struggle want that feeling to go away, and then feel frustrated when it doesn’t. Those who cope well, understand the feeling doesn’t go away, but they use the questions and reframing I listed above to diminish the power those feelings have.
In my Power of Connection course we lay the foundation necessary to regulate emotions, rethink situations, and cope with these hard moments in life. Then we build on this, give tools to strengthen connections, improve relationships, and develop new skills that make social situations enjoyable again.
If you’re interested in joining this program, please schedule a call with me.