I like what you’ve written about friendship and especially a recent piece on what you referred to as the “social flush.”
What I can’t figure out is how do you get past being really screwed over by a friend?
I don’t want you to publish the details (let’s chat by phone, maybe) but I was devastated to learn recently that “Marissa,” someone who I had helped over and over again and who I thought was one of my very closest friends, was not at all a friend. In fact she was quite the opposite to say the least.
I flushed her several months ago and even though my life is pretty awesome the thoughts about this woman and what she did to me keep popping up at random times. I know she is a shitty and horrible person so why am I even still thinking about this stuff?
Thanks for chatting with me on the phone last week. I’m sorry you are going through this.
Readers, I can’t say much about what happened between these two women because Jane does not want me to, so you’ll have to trust me when I say (if I take Jane at her word) Marissa was a very, very bad friend. Details aren’t really important for me to answer her question so here we go!
Perseveration is a Bitch
“Perseveration,” defined in the psychological sense, is “the continual involuntary repetition of a mental act usually exhibited by speech or by some other form of overt behavior.”
“Perseveration,” as defined by me, is “why can’t I stop thinking about this crap that makes me sad, worried, ashamed, embarrassed, insecure, or fearful?” For the purposes of today’s work let’s stick with my definition.
Mental health practitioners who are reading this to steal my ideas to use with your patients: please forgive me if you think I am misusing this term. However, I established long ago the right to create words or shift meanings to suit my purposes.
If you don’t like it, get your own damn blog.
Perseveration, rumination, and toxic cyclical thinking can be overwhelming. You can be having a perfectly pleasant day when suddenly your mind is spinning with these thoughts and feelings of anger, depression, betrayal, and the ever-present question: why did this happen?
The loss of a friend or partner is hard enough. We’ve all been through that.
But in situations like Jane’s in which someone we love is actively seeking our downfall while pretending to be our friend, the emotional fallout after discovery can be very difficult to manage and eradicate. I know you all understand this feeling, because it’s not uncommon.
I have a close friend now whose wealthy husband just walked out of the marriage and is taking actions and positions that are not only deeply selfish and unreasonable, but will actually have the effect of putting this woman and her three children on public assistance.
She has great days and is happy in general, but when she ponders what this man is doing to her she is overwhelmed by the enormity of having lived with, trusted, and loved someone who was apparently the opposite of the man she thought she married.
Advice for Jane
Jane’s question was:
How do I stop thinking about someone?
The problem is our brains have a mind of their own and we can’t simply switch off the negative when it pops in for a visit. There are plenty of articles on the web about this subject so have yourself a Google and see if any of them speak to you.
Rather than crib from those sources as some advice writers would do, I’ll just share with you specifically what has worked for me.
Robin’s Approach to Eradicating Negative Thoughts:
What’s My Role?
It’s hard to move past pain until we fully examine the part we played in whatever went down.
If there is blame to be shared by you accept it, forgive yourself, and do better in the future. If you are truly an innocent player, you still played a role in your selection and retention of an unsuitable friend, lover, or spouse.
Or pet. Don’t get me started on Archie the Drunken Chihuahua.
What’s My Lesson?
My paragraph above may have struck some as victim-blaming, but I don’t see a “victim” here. What I do see is a woman who was terribly misled by someone with a near-professional talent at using and hurting the people in her life.
Jane’s lesson is not to be so quick to let people into her inner sanctum. She only knew Marissa for 5 months before committing much of her time, money, and efforts toward this woman.
Am I Busy Enough?
The worst periods of toxic cyclical thinking for me are almost always when I don’t have enough going on in my life.
It’s much easier to focus on pain when there isn’t much else to do. Schedule your day each and every day and make sure it is replete with activities that are productive, positive, and challenging.
By way of example, my day is strictly regimented from the moment I wake up with activities that enrich my life, including: working on my new business, writing, working out, spending time with my family and friends, teaching myself how to play the ukulele, and responding to trolls on the Internet in a rapid and hilarious fashion.
What am I Doing to Make the World a Better Place?
This goes beyond simply keeping busy.
Volunteering your time (not just money, but actual time) can be immensely rewarding to the ego, making it stronger and more resistant to negative thoughts about people in your past. Volunteer work can also lend you some much-needed perspective on just how much worse things are for so many others and bring you a new appreciation for your life.
You live in San Diego, so click here for some ideas: Volunteer Opportunities in San Diego!
Make Something Ugly into Something Beautiful
Jane told me Marissa left an expensive Italian ceramic platter at her house the last time she visited for a dinner party. Jane has fantasies about sending it back to Marissa with a nasty note or simply throwing it in the trash.
I have a better idea.
Jane, go buy yourself a really beautiful pot and some gorgeous flowers to plant in it. Take them home but before you plant them, grab a hammer, a towel, and Marissa’s fancy platter.
Wrap the platter in the towel and give it a few good whacks with the hammer until it is broken into several pieces. Carefully put those pieces in the bottom of the pot, cover with potting soil, plant your flowers, and place your pot in whatever location pleases you most.
Don’t forget to give it a good watering!
Over time as your plants grow and prosper, look at that pot and remember that pain can beget progress, growth, and beauty.
Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.