Friends who work for The Man?
December 14, 2008 11:46 AM   Subscribe

My oldest friend got a job in the justice system. How can we stay friends? (long. sorry.)

For the last 2 or so years one of my oldest, dearest friends has had a job that's put him in a position of authority in the juvenile justice system. He's good at his job. He gets a lot of respect from important people. He helps a lot of kids who are powerless and in really bad situations. His work is is life. In the last few months he's had to cut back because his workload had severely affected his health, but he works a lot and is still on call 24/7.

I grew up deeply distrusting The System. My counter culture parents hated and distrusted authority and raised us to be the same. On top of that I grew up in an abusive home and turn into a terrified, trembling 4 year old in even the gentlest confrontations with authority. A lot of the confrontations my friends and family have had have NOT been the gentlest or most just.

1) My friends' work stories about all these kids who'd be utterly screwed by their therapists, the cops, juvenile hall, the psyche wards, their lawyers, etc. if he hadn't stepped in has made me terrified of the system in a way that is nearly debilitating. To him it's just his job- making sure kids don't fall through the cracks in a system with too few checks and balances, a whole lot of court mandated forced medication and institutionalization situations, combined with criminally inept bureaucracy and insane families. The therapists in particular seem to have no one to question their decisions and they have a wink wink system set up where they sign off on everyone else's 5150s without even meeting the patient. (Even worse, staff members sign off on patient orders using the names of MDs not even on duty, if they're in a bit of a rush.)

These things make it into our conversations because my friend is scandalized about them. In theory this means they aren't the norm, but somehow they make it into our conversations about once a month, and this isn't a big community. The tentative truce I'd made with the criminal justice system in my head is long long shot, to my detriment. (And I'm straight, white, middle class, educated- all the things that are good to be when you're dealing with police.)

I have to live and function here. How do I do that, knowing what I know?

2) My friend is now an Authority Figure. He works 70+ hours a week (down from way more than that.) His social life is limited to his employees, his S.O., and me. I don't deal well with authority figures, and being one has become his default. To be fair, as an authority figure, he's the farthest thing from obnoxious about it. As a friend, any of it at all is obnoxious, and pushes too many of my buttons for me to be able to laugh it off, the way I can his other potentially-annoying character traits. For example, he's gotten used to wording things as orders, a la "I'm going to need you to do me a favor and .... "

I've automatically started watching what I say and what I do. I live a squeaky clean life but don't want to feel required to and anyway, this is no way to feel around close friends.

Not only that, I feel betrayed on a fundamental level- this was a friend who used to share my horror of this system. He got into it to change it, (and he has!) but it's changed him even more.

My basic question is: I know other people get along with authority figures just fine as friends. How do you do it? How do you get them to leave their work at work? Since it's 90% of his life, it's about 75% of our conversation which would be a big gap to fill. (I very deliberately picked a dull and drama-free life; there's not much to talk about there.)

How irrational am I being about this authority figure thing? Should I give it more time and see if I can't get used to it?

Right now I'm looking for excuses NOT to hang out with him, and I feel like a complete jerk for doing it. I feel like I should be happy that he's a success and respected and all that. Instead, seeing him count on his cop and judge friends for inside information, etc. turns my stomach in a way I can't explain.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is not about your friend. This is about how much you need therapy becoming painfully obvious to you and unavoidable.

You are irrationally focussing on your friend when you should be focussing on your own issues.
posted by Brockles at 12:00 PM on December 14, 2008 [31 favorites]


To be honest, it does seem that you are being a bit irrational about this.

How does his being an authority figure in the juvenile justice system affect you? His position doesn't give him any authority over you, seeing as you are an adult. You didn't grow up in the system, right? Why do you feel traumatized by a specific authority system you didn't actually have any contact with?

If you don't like his work stories, ask him not to tell them to you. Other than that, there doesn't seem to be any reason for all of this fear.
posted by fructose at 12:01 PM on December 14, 2008


Kind of confused here about your friend's ratio of helping kids vs. screwing them over. If it's the latter, it's reasonable not to want to hang out with someone out of that movie "The 400 Blows." If it's the former, I'd say you have some issues to sort out as regards your feelings of defensiveness around this guy. Not that you don't have the right to drift apart from old friends whenever you feel like it.
posted by Kirklander at 12:02 PM on December 14, 2008


2nding Brockies - this isn't actually about your friend. Find someone to help work through the issues you have, because you are being irrational about this.
posted by Picklegnome at 12:09 PM on December 14, 2008


I'm sorry you are having these problems. Based on everything you have said, I really think that you could benefit from therapy, not only for the specific purpose of getting along better with your friend, but in order to work through the broader authority issues that you have. Some fear of authority is healthy, but your fear is irrational and apparently debilitating if it is interfering to this extent with one of your closest friendships.

On preview, what everyone else said.
posted by gatorae at 12:10 PM on December 14, 2008


Your thought process feels alien to me. You say: He got into it to change it, (and he has!) implying he's not like "the rest of them". If your fear is so intense, you need to look inside yourself and consider why you can't treat someone who you consider your friend, who you think is a good person, as a normal human being. There are ethical people in positions of authority of all kinds, from judges to hippie commune leaders. Think of how much you value this person, and then make a choice for yourself.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 12:11 PM on December 14, 2008


Yeah, I mean on further reflection I think you really need some help working towards not lumping together all government workers as The Man. On the one hand, sticking it to the Man is an honorable stance but it doesn't sound as if your friend is The Man.
posted by Kirklander at 12:13 PM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's important to realize that there's NO SUCH THING as "The Man" or "The System" or "Authority." Almost everyone has authority to some degree over someone else -- in fact, every time you eat in a restaurant, you are the Authority to the server. Nthing the above advice that this is really about you and the need for you to seek therapy and evaluate the lessons your parents taught you.
posted by proj at 12:23 PM on December 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


How irrational am I being about this authority figure thing? Should I give it more time and see if I can't get used to it?

Completely irrational. Your reaction seems really immature, and frankly, insulting to your friend.

You should be happy that the system you distrust so much now has a decent, compassionate person occupying a position of authority. Instead, you're assuming that because your friend occupies a position of authority, there must be something wrong with him. That's insulting to your friend, and reflects a very passive attitude toward the possibility of changing these institutions you distrust so much.

Not only that, I feel betrayed on a fundamental level- this was a friend who used to share my horror of this system. He got into it to change it, (and he has!) but it's changed him even more.

Has it occurred to you that, rather than the system "changing him," perhaps he has matured, acquired some perspective, and now realizes that it's not correct to paint every government institution with the broad brush of "oppression" and other liberal-slacker generalities?

It sounds like you are dealing with jealousy and envy about your friend's success, and you're justifying these unpleasant feelings with this "betrayal of principles" explanation.
posted by jayder at 12:27 PM on December 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


Your friend is not in a position of authority over you is he?

This is 100% your problem and 0% his, like everyone else is saying.
posted by adamrice at 12:28 PM on December 14, 2008


Your friend is in a position of authority. He is not, however, in a position of authority over you. The fact that you can't seem to functionally recognise this indicates that you need some help around issues of self esteem, confidence, boundaries and assertiveness.

Get therapy. I suspect life will feel a lot more comfortable if you do.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:30 PM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I agree with everyone saying this is about you and not him, and that therapy might help.

But I'm also going to say: have you ever told him any of this? It sounds like he's a close friend. Does he know about your past? Does he know you distrust the system?

I ask because I have a couple very close friends who completely and totally distrust everything about the legal system, which, as a lawyer, I'm part of. We have lots of really good discussions about the system, how it works, my part in in, etc. It has helped me understand their views-- and the views of others -- and has helped make me a better lawyer. I fully recognize that people can distrust the way the system works without that being a personal attack on me. And while talking about the law and related matters remain topics of discussion, I know that bringing it up to certain friends is going to result in push back and talking. So, in addition to therapy, talk to him about it, too.
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:57 PM on December 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't deal well with authority figures, and being one has become his default. To be fair, as an authority figure, he's the farthest thing from obnoxious about it. As a friend, any of it at all is obnoxious, and pushes too many of my buttons for me to be able to laugh it off, the way I can his other potentially-annoying character traits. For example, he's gotten used to wording things as orders, a la "I'm going to need you to do me a favor and .... "

The kind of role and commitment he has taken on can be overwhelming and you do not cope and progress in that kind of environment unless you take on the responsibility and ask others to do things with authority. But this is not just a result of his work, it is also a normal part of maturing. How you react to his perceived betrayal is entirely up to you. The only way you can maintain the friendship is by maturing yourself, changing the way you react so yes, therapy would probably be a good thing.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:03 PM on December 14, 2008


A couple things:

1- You say that your friend is one of the good ones, but it sounds like you're just saying it and not really believing it. Really, truly, believing it might help.

2- Him talking about it a lot is not necessarily a bad thing. If he's running into a lot of fucked up stuff, he's going to have to process it emotionally somehow. If he turns into the type of person who can just "leave his work at work", that change may come hand in hand with him becoming the sort of cold and numb person who lets kids fall through the cracks.
posted by CKmtl at 1:05 PM on December 14, 2008


My basic question is: I know other people get along with authority figures just fine as friends. How do you do it? How do you get them to leave their work at work?

I don't ask them to leave work at work. It's natural for people to talk about work, especially when they care about it (as your friend seems to). The issue here is your relationship with the idea of authority, which is in turn having an effect on your relationship with your friend.

If you can learn to cope with authority, your relationship will improve, without requiring your friend to adapt to you. This seems like the healthiest thing to do.
posted by zippy at 1:10 PM on December 14, 2008


I was in a similar situation at one time, and so I take some empathic umbrage at the "Get Therapy! You need it! chorus; quite apart from that I would also agree that the juvenile justice system is deeply flawed.
My oldest and best friend, with whom I grew up in the 60s smoking dope and dropping acid, many years later would floor me with the statement, "To be successful, one must embrace the ideology of the people in power." To me that sounds like "You have to give head to get ahead." And I suppose it's true--I wouldn't know.
We drifted apart. I just accepted the fact that we had taken different paths. My friend was killed in an accident in 2005--I choose to remember all the really great times we had together, and I have his picture hanging on a wall in my home. But towards the end we were seeing each other maybe once a year, and those meetings were awkward and uncomfortable. These things happen.
posted by Restless Day at 1:22 PM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was reading your question and thinking it was pretty overstated (and overheated) but maybe I could sort of understand it if I try.

But then this:

"I've automatically started watching what I say and what I do."

... cannot possibly be understood, because it makes no sense. That's almost a dictionary definition of "paranoid."

I don't have much to add to the excellent points others have made ... I'd just say: re-read your question and try to understand how irrational it is. If you're still not seeing it, maybe therapy would be a good idea.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:22 PM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


You need to focus on that your friend is your friend, first and foremost. You know he is a human being, and you get the privilege of seeing his human side. Remember that. You're not someone he has authority over - you're someone who is part of his private life.

You do need to find a way to work out why you're projecting your old issues on that person. Yes, therapy, yes journalling, but ultimately: self-examination. So far, all you've done is examine your friend. You need to catch your feelings and take a good look at yourself. Once you understand why, you need to do something that doesn't involve your friend that will bring you into adulthood and the authoritative shift that comes with it.
posted by medea42 at 1:26 PM on December 14, 2008


Maybe the fact that it is an authority position that is changing your friend is incidental. I had a friend that became a computer programmer and didn't like the way it changed him. I have no fear of or problem with computer programmers, just that in that instance his new-found success made him into a prick. So we didn't hang out for a while and when he came back down to the place the rest of us are at, started hanging out again.

The authority thing might bug you, but maybe your friend is just changing and you're not feeling the new him?
posted by letahl at 1:27 PM on December 14, 2008


I'm with most of the above who say this isn't really about your friend at all, he's just a convenient object for your confused emotions, but this small bit might help:

These things make it into our conversations because my friend is scandalized about them. In theory this means they aren't the norm....

How about noticing and reflecting on the fact that your friend is the kind of person who does not think those sorts of incidences are good, fine, or nothing to worry about?

Clearly he has a conscience, and from your own experience, more people like that in the system will be a good thing.

It also sounds like he's a fine person. Keep him.
posted by rokusan at 1:28 PM on December 14, 2008


Are you just really rationalizing, trying to come up with reasons why your friend has changed (and trying to find something to blame other than *him*)? I am kind of feeling like letahl, maybe this is about how your friend has changed and not about him being "The Man".

For example, he's gotten used to wording things as orders, a la "I'm going to need you to do me a favor and .... " If he's automatically assuming a tone of "authority" and it bugs you, then you should probably tell him. Stop analyzing it so much.
posted by KAS at 1:36 PM on December 14, 2008


Sometimes you can't be friends or have to limit your friendships with people for various reasons that don't have to do with them being bad people or making general judgements on them. Sometimes the grief the friendship would cause you can make the relationship detrimental rather than beneficial.

At issue here, while this guy is your friend, being around him causes distress by reminding you of the fact that the local justice system is a disgusting engine of misery. It is good to be aware of this fact, but it seems not so good for you to have to be thinking about it all the time when you're trying to relax with your friend.

You could attempt to fix this problem by sucking it up and finding other topics of discussion, flatly telling him these stories are giving you upset and to please stop telling them. On the other hand, maybe merely hanging out with him while knowing he's involved in this shit, even though he's trying to change it, is too much for you. Or maybe from his end, being able to commiserates about this crap is central and essential to your friendship.

The more subtle annoyances seem something else, and lesser. For example, requests may be phrased like orders but hopefully they are not. You should be refusing his "orders" as you might refuse a request he made before becoming The Man. I'd consider it a quirk of his speech. If a few new annoying habits are getting to you you could again say "Hey, this thing you do bugs me and please cut that shit out," but there's a limit to how much you can do that.

I've automatically started watching what I say and what I do. I live a squeaky clean life but don't want to feel required to and anyway, this is no way to feel around close friends.


For me too this is the bit that doesn't make sense. If you really do have nothing to hide but still really expect that your friend would use his position against you, then you really should have nothing to do with the guy. It seems more likely, though, that you just need to realize you don't need to watch yourself around your friend.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:36 PM on December 14, 2008


My oldest and best friend, with whom I grew up in the 60s smoking dope and dropping acid, many years later would floor me with the statement, "To be successful, one must embrace the ideology of the people in power."

Not really a good comparison. From anonymous's story it doesn't appear that his friend's values have changed.
posted by grouse at 1:50 PM on December 14, 2008


I've automatically started watching what I say and what I do. I live a squeaky clean life but don't want to feel required to and anyway, this is no way to feel around close friends.

Paronoid neurosis at work.
posted by captainsohler at 1:56 PM on December 14, 2008


Oh, grouse, here's the thing: I don't think my friend's values changed either; to engage in the fruitless exercise, What would I do differently, if I could go back in time, knowing what I know now?, I would sidestep the recreational drugs and stick to my core values of working towards a paradigm shift (which, granted, still has yet to occur, and let us acknowledge Anonymous's mention of childhood abuse as a factor in the perpetuation of a seriously fucked up system), a paradigm shift which becomes with time only more justified and necessary and Right . . .

This "therapy" you all speak of sounds Orwellian and wrong, to me.
posted by Restless Day at 2:18 PM on December 14, 2008


I don't know what most of your last response means, Restless Day, or what it has to do with answering the question. But I do know this: I disagree that someone voluntarily going into therapy to resolve internal conflicts bothering them is "Orwellian" or wrong.
posted by grouse at 2:28 PM on December 14, 2008


I'm going to disagree with most people answering.

Your friend took a job inconsistent with your values, where (you believe) his daily activities involve treating people unjustly, or facilitating that, or covering it up by omission.

I doubt you'd be so criticized if your question had been "I'm a vegan, and my friend just got a job at the slaughterhouse". Or "I'm, gay, and my friend just got a job promoting Prop 8". Or even here, "I'm a devout Catholic and my friend just joined the staff of an abortion clinic."

Your friend, by taking the job, has shown that his values and yours are fundamentally opposed. You should explain this to him in as few words as possible (as you have no real chance of convincing him, and attempts to do so will only cement his position), and further explain that therefore you must cut off contact with him.

Whether or not we on Mefi agree with your values, or see you as over-reacting is immaterial. As a non-vegan, I'd see dropping a friend for working as a butcher silly. But then, I'm no vegan, and those aren't my values. Your values are your values, and right or wrong, while you might change them, you should not compromise them.
posted by orthogonality at 2:35 PM on December 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


My opinion is that your upbringing has totally skewed your viewpoints-to the point it almost-no, not even almost, DOES-sound like you are having some ptsd symptoms triggered by your friend's profession.

It couldn't hurt to talk to a counselor.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:45 PM on December 14, 2008


I doubt you'd be so criticized if your question had been ... "I'm, gay, and my friend just got a job promoting Prop 8".

You mean something along the lines of this one? There were lots of people urging him to try to maintain that friendship, ranging from neutral-toned ones to overtly critical ones.
posted by CKmtl at 3:04 PM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


orthogonality's advice is not good advice, I believe. The behavioral responses that the OP is exhibiting don't fall into normal "differing values" behavior. One of the first criteria that behavior must meet to qualify as a disorder in the DSM is that it must disrupt behavior to a noticeable extent. The original post certainly seems to meet that criteria.
posted by proj at 3:26 PM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


proj writes "The behavioral responses that the OP is exhibiting don't fall into normal "differing values" behavior. One of the first criteria that behavior must meet to qualify as a disorder in the DSM is that it must disrupt behavior to a noticeable extent. "

If you're a health proffesional, you know that it's unethical to make a diagnosis of someone who is not your patient and whom you've never seen.

If you're not a health professional, it's unethical to pretend to make a diagnosis, even if as a non-professional you happen to have read a medical text.
posted by orthogonality at 3:53 PM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't see any kind of diagnosis in there -- merely that for behavior to meet the criteria of being a disorder, it must meet be disruptive. I am not a health professional, nor am I making any claim to be one, nor am I pretending to make a diagnosis! I am saying it sounds like the OP's behavior is troubling him/her and that is usually cause to seek advice from a professional. It's no different than saying "Well, the first sign of a heart attack is bad chest pain -- go to the ER! I'm not a doctor so I"m not going to sit here and tell you it could just be indigestion." Instead of claiming to be totally ignorant and saying "Well, gee, I wonder what could be going on here. I'm no health professional, so I'll just totally ignore what I see as warning signs for mental illness in the post." If you'll see my above post, I explicitly said to seek professional help.

Since you are also not a health professional, you're in no position to say that you disagree with everyone else's assessment and that the individual should just talk to his or her friend about their differing values. In essence, you've diagnosed this behavior as perfectly OK which is also totally unethical, in my opinion.
posted by proj at 4:00 PM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nthing all the people who say you may want to seek professional help regarding your attitude to authority figures. This isn't just because of your relationship with your friend, but because nobody goes through life without running into the authorities at some point and you're better off dealing with your extreme reactions to 'the system' now, than having a meltdown at some future date when you're called in for jury duty or something.

Anyway, getting back to the part of your question about maintaining friendships with people whose jobs are Serious Business, I have friends working in the criminal justice system, for the immigration authorities, in hospitals and at a shelter for battered women. When they vent about their shitty day at work, it is generally on a totally different scale to when I vent about my shitty day at work.

I do my best as a friend to listen to and sympathise with them, when they have stuff to get off their chests, but they don't think less of me if I hit my limit on 'horrific stories about bad things happening to good people' for the day. It takes a special sort of person to do their jobs (or at least to do their jobs without becoming an emotional wreck) and they know that their friends outside of work can't necessarily cope with the details. It's absolutely okay to change the subject to your local sports team or last night's TV or something that isn't going to give you nightmares or destroy your faith in humanity.
posted by the latin mouse at 4:08 PM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


How irrational am I being about this authority figure thing? Should I give it more time and see if I can't get used to it?

Right now I'm looking for excuses NOT to hang out with him, and I feel like a complete jerk for doing it. I feel like I should be happy that he's a success and respected and all that. Instead, seeing him count on his cop and judge friends for inside information, etc. turns my stomach in a way I can't explain.


So your friend has an overwhelming job and you're the only friend he hangs out with, so you get it with both barrels whenever you hang out with him. This makes you NOT want to hang out with him, because he's self-absorbed and boring - and you don't like the line of work that he's in. That's fair.

I think the rest of this is just your brain trying to rationalize not hanging out with him. He's your friend, and you feel somewhat responsible because you are one of his only remaining friends - and there might be a reason for that - one that is also driving you away. If you value your friendship with this guy, then you're going to have to talk to him about how he's coming across to people. I understand, because my stepdad was a prison guard - and it got old REAL fast listening to him talk about his job, considering my views on prisons. Just step back and stop internalizing this - he's being annoying and insensitive and putting his needs to talk about his job over the needs of his friends to not hear about it. Of course you're depressed by this - but don't turn it into a big authority issue, because that's not what's going on here.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:13 PM on December 14, 2008


Wow, reading this thread is really interesting for me. I came in here expecting this to be a fairly common experience and for others to be able to relate to how the OP is feeling, and I'm really surprised by the chorus of "this is a weird and uncommon way to feel". I guess it must be then, but it's definitely a familiar feeling to me, and I'm having trouble seeing how it's an inappropriate way to react. From my point of view some of you ("every time you eat in a restaurant, you are the Authority to the server") are pretty damn naive. There's such a consensus in here I don't want to get more into it.

All I can say to the OP is that I totally understand where you're coming from, and while I don't have any great advice to offer you're very welcome to Mefi Mail me if you like.
posted by crabintheocean at 5:04 PM on December 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


How irrational am I being about this authority figure thing? Should I give it more time and see if I can't get used to it?

I've always approached it from the perspective that public servants, in the criminal justice system and every other part of the government work force, work for me. I expect them to do their jobs and to treat people with respect. I know that sometimes, perhaps many times, they do not do so. When that happens I expect them to be held accountable.

Although there are bad apples -- as there are in every part of society -- your friend is not one of them. From your post, it sounds like there is a need for reform and house-cleaning in the system where your friend works. It doesn't mean that he is the enemy, though. Perhaps its gives him a unique opportunity to improve things. Without more detail, I can't speculate.

Whether or not the system can be improved, it sounds like your friend is a good person. He has value, and is worth knowing. I hope you can work on your perceptions and preconceptions, and try not to let them damage your friendship so much.

Full disclosure: We have a friend who is an assistant prison warden. He's had a, shall we say, colorful youth. He's a great guy, and a wonderful friend. Neither his job nor who he works for is the essential factor defining who he is.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:11 PM on December 14, 2008


Would you rather your friend wasn't out there trying to help people? Would you rather he and everyone else like him, people who are out there actively trying to keep people from slipping through the cracks, just tuned out, smoked pot, and delivered pizzas for a living?
posted by koeselitz at 6:46 PM on December 14, 2008


If he was a shift supervisor at McDonalds, he's be an authority figure, would you have a problem with him then? You have no friends, aside from him, that aren't in charge of something somehow?

You describe this guy as a guy who, to me, seems to be doing the right thing, seems to care about the people, is trying to make a difference. You don't like the system he works in, but instead of ignoring it like you, he's working in it to try and make it different, make it better for the kids who get sucked in.

I'd rather be friends with the guy who takes the bull by the horns and jumps in head first than the guy who doesn't like something and just distances himself from it.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:21 PM on December 14, 2008


Your friend is trying to help troubled kids, and it sounds like he works really, really hard at it. Cut him some slack! Everyone is some sort of authority figure, unless you're a high schooler working part time at a pizza shop. Do teachers bother you? Firemen? Shift supervisors at WalMart?

I think the problem is not that he's an "authority figure," it's that his shop talk brings up a lot of unpleasant memories and emotions for you. I recommed you start going to a therapist, and just ask your friend to try not talking about work...just tell him hearing about troubled kids is upsetting to you. It's upsetting to a lot of people- he'll understand.
posted by emd3737 at 7:51 PM on December 14, 2008


I 'd like to add that I'm glad to hear that there's someone in the system as devoted to helping at-risk kids as your friend is.
Authority isn't necessarily a bad thing. The misuse of authority is.
posted by Sara Anne at 8:12 PM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


My friend just became a cop. I was not thrilled, and I did the paranoid dance, too. I stopped talking about certain things, and I started thinking about him differently.

BUT--and here's the thing--I stopped reacting that way. He's my friend, and this job (little though I like it) has not taken what I admire about him and what makes him my friend away from his life.

It's two years in and you still can't deal with your friend's job? To me, that is a sign that it goes a little deeper. You do sound like someone who would benefit from therapy based on your description of yourself, and from one paranoid soul with a good friend who's part of the System to another, please do think seriously about it!
posted by librarylis at 9:29 PM on December 14, 2008


Is this more of a "my friend has no life and talks about work too much" problem more than it is a problem about the kind of work? here in Washington DC I have a ton of friends who work for the government (some with high level security clearances) and the reason they don't talk shop to everyone about lawyering and military affairs is that it's boring.

Also if he's asking you to do things in a different tone than before, is that necessarily about his status as an Authority Figure? It sounds to me like the work has made him a more assertive person, which is not the same thing - it's just that maybe you are used to him being passive. I mean, your friend could be the lead in a rock band and become more assertive the same way, because someone has to book shows, settle conflicts, make sure everyone gets paid, etc. So.. I see one person who is assertive now, and another who.. doesn't like that, maybe has trouble saying "no" and thinks being assertive is acting like you're an authority over the other person.

Also, the system sucks, but from how much time your friend puts in to stop kids from getting hurt by it, it sounds like he would (at least somewhat) agree with you on that. I'm kind of surprised by some of the other answers, I support a healthy mistrust of authority frankly. Such as authoritative posts that invoke definitions of psychiatric disorders and attempt to diagnose you with one, all from reading your anonymous post on the Internet. I mean, look at this - "you need therapy, you have this disorder, this is wrong with you." This is America, dammit - question authority!!!
posted by citron at 11:26 PM on December 14, 2008


There are some judgmental people posting some pretty hard words in this thread.

It's not uncommon for present-day interactions with others to bring up old patterns, old emotions, old traumas. It is common enough in fact, that psychologists have a word to describe the phenomenon: transference. Transference reactions that trigger thoughts and memories of old psychic wounds can be deeply troubling and can interfere in personal relations.

Your friend's not doing anything wrong. Besides that, he's not going to change, and you mustn't expect him to do so.

Your options are pretty clear. Friends can grow apart; your friend's new roles and new behaviors are deeply troubling to you, and in the kind of ways that cause friends to grow apart.

The other option is to seek change within yourself. As a number of people have suggested, psychotherapy can be a good way to start that process. In that case, if this person is really still a friend, enlist his aid. Let him know you are having trouble dealing with the stories he's telling you. Don't make it personal.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:33 AM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


This may be difficult, but you have to ask yourself: WHY is he your friend? Do you share similar values, hobbies, standards? Is it a "since we were kids" thing, more of a habit and supposed obligation?
posted by davidmsc at 12:56 AM on December 15, 2008


I doubt you'd be so criticized if your question had been "I'm a vegan, and my friend just got a job at the slaughterhouse". Or "I'm, gay, and my friend just got a job promoting Prop 8". Or even here, "I'm a devout Catholic and my friend just joined the staff of an abortion clinic." Your friend, by taking the job, has shown that his values and yours are fundamentally opposed.

Actually, those aren't comparable, and we're not missing this point. The juvenile justice system can really do good things for people. It's not a black-and-white moral issue like the ones you've listed.

But the OP's question doesn't really seem to be about the merits of the juvenile justice system at all. If he were really curious about the actual issue, he could just engage his friend in a conversation about why his friend fundamentally thinks the JJS is a good thing (I know it's already been discussed, but not to the OP's satisfaction).
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:20 AM on December 15, 2008


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