How do I form stronger friendships and cope during a PhD transition?
September 4, 2014 11:46 PM   Subscribe

Why would someone have a hard time getting people to want to be friends with him, yet be great at listening to people talk about deep personal issues? Is my personality "intense" in ways that amount to immaturity--and if it is, how do I hold onto my idealistic, nonconformist streak without coming across as a jerk or a child with it? And how do I deal with all of this while keeping my career in academia afloat?

Somehow I've reached a point in life where I have no emotionally satisfying friendships at all. By and large people seem to "like" me, but they also seem to prefer (need?) to keep me at a certain distance: I am nobody's "go-to" friend, and people seldom call me when they just feel like hanging out or doing something casually fun. I haven't had a best friend in years and I highly doubt anyone would consider me theirs. Strangely, people seem comfortable discussing difficult personal issues with me and opening up to me when they're feeling depressed or alienated (I think I've helped more than my share of misfits feel less alone in life, and I'm proud of that), but that rarely translates into consistent time spent together or the sense of any real connection or durable loyalty. Even the people who say they "love" me don't, in practice, call very often.

And the biggest part of the problem is that I don't feel like I really know what the problem is. I'm told I have an intense personality (I'm also very tall), but that personality isn't backed by much confidence, so when I'm out living my life it doesn't occur to me that people might find me intimidating. My personality can modulate from emphatic to withdrawn to flamboyantly silly, and maybe this comes across to people as incoherent? A good friend once told me that I always look like I'm lost in thought, and that if we weren't friends she would probably be afraid to approach me. None of this "feels" like it's the issue--I know plenty of intense types who are great at making friends precisely because of their intensity--but, I dunno...maybe it's a piece of it?

This has become a bigger concern lately because I'm getting older (I'm 32) and am coming up on some pretty big life changes that could be negatively impacted if my social skills are as bad as I'm worried they might be. People around me are starting to form long-term relationships, pursuing careers, and generally getting themselves involved with major, decade-consuming life commitments, all of which means that they're slowly drifting away from me because I'm not close enough to the center of their lives. Plus, I'm coming to the end of a Ph.D. program and will be going on the job market in a very small field very soon. Getting an academic job is hard under any circumstances but I'm worried that my chances of advancement will be permanently compromised if all of my contacts and friends (some of whom are already out in the field and on hiring committees) see me as "politely tolerable" or "talented but very, very weird." For the last month my Facebook feed has shown a lot of pictures of people taking road trips to the locations of their first (or in some cases second) jobs. The thought of having to take that trip by myself--of not even being able to rustle up a couple of friends who feel like driving across the country in the middle of Summer--makes me sad and scared for my future (and I love road trips more than pretty much anything.) Plus, I'm leaving a place that's been very in tune with my values and has helped me develop more confidence to voice some of the less "pragmatic" beliefs I have (e.g. I support decriminalizing hallucinogens, and I think people need to examine the impact and question the inevitability of maintaining dualistic gender roles in a deeper way than they usually do)--a place full of poets, radicals, historians of psychology, people who still believe the humanities matter, and just generally people who know how to question everything (all of whom still manage to pay their bills on time despite possessing those qualities.) The range of places I might end up next is so huge it makes me feel like my brain is burning--and I'm afraid that, if I end up somewhere more conservative than where I've been, it will change me in ways I don't necessarily want because I won't be strong enough to live among different values without freaking out and subconsciously appropriating them. (To be clear: I'm perfectly capable of getting along with "red staters" and people I disagree with; I'm just not great at confrontation and afraid I'll lose a little of myself in a different environment.)

Basically: I've come to a point in life where I recognize I need to commit myself to something and stick with it despite its imperfections and frustrations--that if I want friends, I'm going to have to make an effort to find them and maintain the friendships; and that if I want to be at the top of my field, I'm going to have to work pretty freaking hard (against my daydreamy tendencies), knowing all the while that even that won't guarantee anything. At the same time, though, there's a very big part of me that suspects that the thing I should be committing myself to isn't *necessarily* another person or a career. That maybe, to make peace with things, I have to seek fulfillment elsewhere and accept that I am different from most other people, particularly other people in my field, in certain rather basic ways--among lesser issues, I fundamentally do not believe that hard work and productivity are inherently "good," I think what most people call "being practical" is always partly cynical (even though we all have to be practical to avoid being a burden to others), and I am hypersensitive to and deeply mistrustful of the power dynamics that emerge when people interact in groups (and feel like I suck at navigating them.)

I realize there a lot of very loose threads here, and I'm sorry about that. I guess the main reason I'm posting this is because I'm looking for some feedback on how to handle this next phase of my life. Why do I have so much trouble making friends, and how do I make more? Am I an unappealing person? How do I stop being so withdrawn around people--or fluctuating between withdrawal, hyperactivity, and frustration at being unable to express myself properly? Should I look for friends who are...spacier? Should I become a Buddhist? Any advice on how to negotiate the academic hiring process and the tenure track when you tend to be pretty idealistic (even if not always outspoken about it)? Should I look for a public venue to express my views--and if so how do I deal with the fact that so many of my attempts to express those views seem to turn this (i.e. circular, self-effacing, and kind of backhandedly narcissistic)?

****Maybe the most important question I can ask, though, is just how I'm coming across in this post? Do I seem like an asshole? Because I feel like I'm going out of my way to not seem like that, yet that every positive assertion I make about myself ends up sounding like something an arrogant teenager would say.****

Please feel free to respond to any part of this you want. Sorry again for the loopiness.
posted by urufu to Human Relations (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
As far as I can tell, one makes friends by

a)being somewhere with other people frequently, ideally in a social situation
b)Hanging out with people who your personality jibes with in some way
c)Spending more time socially with said people, getting used to each others flaws
d)Maintaining that connection.

If you are finding you can't make friends at "work" (your PhD) you can try joining social clubs that interest you, and then joining everyone at the bar/pub afterwards. Its not easy making strong connections, and it will take time. I have some good friends from earlier in my life, but to be honest haven't made many strong friends since moving to my current location.

I think people tend to find they lose friends as they get older rather than gain them, as individuals get busy with relationships/jobs. It might be worth concentrating on family connections, although you didn't mention how good/bad your relationship is with your family in this question.

You also mention being worried by a new location: remember that wherever you move to is not necessarily a permenant commitment, and if you really hate it, you can leave.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:05 AM on September 5, 2014

Maybe the most important question I can ask, though, is just how I'm coming across in this post? Do I seem like an asshole? Because I feel like I'm going out of my way to not seem like that, yet that every positive assertion I make about myself ends up sounding like something an arrogant teenager would say.

You don't come across as an asshole, but you do come across as particularly humorless. That probably is one of the reasons why people "seem comfortable discussing difficult personal issues with [you] and opening up to [you] when they're feeling depressed or alienated," but don't form long-term bonds with you. Where is the comic relief to your intense personality? Is there any? What do you find amusing, fun, funny? Do you like to joke around and have a good time? What do you do when you're not studying or turning your focus onto your own belly button?

I'm not saying that you have to become the life of the party, but you might consider that your unrelenting intensity is hard for most people to take all the time. Hell, it sounds like you find it hard for you to take and you're it. Idealistic and non-conformist does not necessarily always have to be straight-laced and humorless. Try to find something(s) to laugh at and let other people in on the joke.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 12:36 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

GoLikeHellMachine: It's interesting you should say that, because actually I take a lot of pride in my humor. I've done standup (once, but still), I've had the experience of making auditoriums full of very tense people laugh (hard) in spite of themselves, and...let's just say I've done stuff to Shakespeare at parties.

What I'm not good at is dynamic, multi-person interaction where I'm not obviously the center of attention or where multiple people are trying to one-up each other. I tend to keep score in my head in those situations--to obsessively calculate who's cooler than me and who isn't, and to get angry and withdrawn when I think I'm losing. Earlier I mentioned how I'm "deeply mistrustful of the power dynamics that emerge when people interact in groups": I think, really, a big part of the problem may be that I've never experienced group interaction as anything other than a power struggle. I would love to be the life of the party--I am absolutely not an "introvert." The problem is that shit gets bad in my head when I'm not the life of the party. (In the last few years some things have happened that have made this worse for me, but I won't go into that here.)

So I guess one way of reframing the question would be: how do I stop feeling threatened by other people--even when I have to live in an environment that is, objectively, highly competitive (intellectually, culturally, and however else)?
posted by urufu at 2:10 AM on September 5, 2014

how do I stop feeling threatened by other people--even when I have to live in an environment that is, objectively, highly competitive (intellectually, culturally, and however else)?

You do this by being you and owning it. Sorry if that's sounds trite, but it's the very best advice I have. I work in a similarly intense cultural/academic field that is very competitive and something of a social minefield at times (for me at least) but I've come to recognise over the years that what I do and the perspective that I bring to my activities in that field are what's of value to those that I connect with, and that's not necessarily everyone, I too am not necessarily 'everyone's cup of tea', but that's OK too. I've learnt to live with that. What's important is maintaining good relations with those that * do * get it.

It sounds to me as if you haven't found 'your people' yet in your field, and that's a tough one, but if you remain open to new offers and continue to explore and generally maintain as positive an outlook as you can about what you can bring to the table, then it will happen in time.

FWIW I don't think you come across as humourless at all, I suspect it's more the case that anxiety about this particular life transition (which is a tough one) is getting you down and perhaps slightly getting in your way.

Don't forget you always have friends here too. Feel free to memail me if you want to.
posted by Chairboy at 2:30 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, and grad school can be a lousy place to make friends anyway...
posted by Chairboy at 2:31 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

It has been my experience that people who (especially routinely) come to you with deep, personal problems to discuss and solve and agonize over . . . . are really crap at being good friends. The reason they come to you has little to do with your worth as a friend; they just want someone to dump on and aren't really interested in reciprocating. I would look for friends among people who don't do this to you.
posted by chainsofreedom at 3:27 AM on September 5, 2014 [14 favorites]

From your updates, it sounds like you approach social situations as a power struggle, and that in and of itself would make it hard to be your friend, I think. I'm sure grad school is a pressure cooker and I'm sure there are a lot of competitive people there, so that attitude may partially be due to your environment, but I think you would be well-served by finding some social situations where people are not competing for anything (a hiking club, a knitting club, whatever floats your boat) and then practice not keeping score when you're with those people. I find it works better, when you're trying to make friends, if you approach them like, well, potential friends and not potential enemies.
posted by colfax at 4:00 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

So your question Maybe the most important question I can ask, though, is just how I'm coming across in this post? And I answered. And you came back with examples to try to prove to me that I was wrong about the impression that I get from you. Are you saying that I am wrong that you impress me as being humorless? Because I'm not wrong. That *is* the impression that I get from you.

You certainly don't have the ability to laugh at yourself or to take any kind of critique without coming back on the defensive--not hostile, at least, but pretty well defensive. I'd guess that you also come across that way in real life, too. People get real bored of that real quick. Well, I do anyway.

I've worked with lots of scientists and researchers who have a personality similar to yours. They're not overtly unpleasant to work with, but ultimately they seem like detached, lonely people to me. (Are you talking around your loneliness? Intellectualizing it?)

I think colfax's advice to find a group or hobby where you are not the center of attention (or don't have the opportunity to be) and not competing all the time is a good one. Otherwise it doesn't really seem to me like you really want suggestions/answers, but rather another reason to argue and defend a position that you're really super duper invested in and don't really want to change.

Good luck to you.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 4:32 AM on September 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

It has been my experience that people who (especially routinely) come to you with deep, personal problems to discuss and solve and agonize over . . . . are really crap at being good friends.

This is a really great point. I would never go to someone who I wasn't very, very close to in order to discuss deep personal problems. Even with my closest friends I'm still guarded about that kind of thing. However, I have definitely known people like that, and I do find on the whole they're looking for free therapy not friendship.

As far as the rest of it, I think you come off like you might be trying too hard, and unfortunately that's a turn off for most people. It's nice to feel like someone wants to be your friend, but it's not so great to feel like someone needs to be your friend.

I also think it's worth bearing in mind that there's a big difference between doing standup and being a fun friend to be around. I do look for sense of humor in friends, but I like it when it's natural and interactive. If I wanted to just sit around and watch people make jokes I would go to a comedy club.

deeply mistrustful of the power dynamics that emerge when people interact in groups

Then there's this whole power thing. If this is something that crops up a lot, then I would say you either need to find a new group of people to hang out with or you need to stop trying to read power plays into all your relationships. I could see this being the case maybe if you're dealing with peers in a competitive work or academic environment, but I don't ever feel this way when I'm just hanging out with friends, no matter what the size of the group is. It's not about who can get the most laughs or be the center of attention or be the coolest. It's just about enjoying each other's company.

Now, maybe there are some people who would see these power dynamics in a given situation, but frankly, that's there problem, not mine. This isn't a game that you have to play.

I'll also add one piece of advice when you're in the early stages of getting to know people:

I think you'll have better luck if you tone down the more extreme elements of your personality until you've gotten to know each other better. I'm not saying you have to completely hide who you are, and if you don't want to do this you don't have to, but I do think it will increase your odds of making friends. For example, I can be very intense, competitive, and sarcastic, and that's less likely to turn people away once they've gotten to know me better, and they realize that even though that is one aspect of my personality, I'm also very social and friendly and not actually a miserable human being to be around (or at least so I hope).

I'm also just okay with the fact that I might rub some people the wrong way. I'm very outspoken about my opinions when I feel strongly about something, and I can be blunt, although I always try not to be mean. Even still, some people won't like that, but you can't please everyone, and if you can find a way to be comfortable with that, it will probably make socializing easier.

I also try not to take myself too seriously to balance out the fact that I can be kind of intense. If you can master the art of poking fun at yourself without coming off as insecure or self-hating, that will serve you very well.

I'll just wrap up this very, very long answer by saying: There's a good chance you're in better shape than you actually realize. I think I do pretty well in social situations, and I have some close friendships, but I don't have a best friend, and my phone isn't ringing off the hook with people who want to hang out with me. In fact, most of my socializing is done at work or after work with coworkers, or at the occasional party, or at regular "activity" groups that I'm a part of. Once you graduate from college, it just becomes a lot harder to maintain that same level of closeness.
posted by litera scripta manet at 7:23 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

What I'm not good at is dynamic, multi-person interaction where I'm not obviously the center of attention or where multiple people are trying to one-up each other.

Sometimes I find conversations like that a lot of fun, and sometimes they seem exhausting and superficial. When the latter feeling hits me, I realize that I need to spend more time around people who aren't (groups of) grad students. That sort of playful jousting about who is the most brilliant or can say the cleverest thing is a very specific conversational structure you just don't often see among people who aren't totally immersed in academia. Sometimes when I'm away from home I miss it like hell but other times, I just need a break and a chance to actually connect with people as individuals. Try it; you might like it. Group therapy might also be of interest to you, because it can give you a chance to explicitly explore group dynamics with immediate feedback about whether what you are perceiving has any basis in reality.
posted by teremala at 7:35 AM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

You have to be willing to be vulnerable to build strong close friendships. You don't come across as a jerk in this post to me. You come off as someone building a wall out of words to protect yourself, maybe because you don't want to come off as sad or pathetic. But it's ok to be sad that you don't have more close friends. You don't have to argue that maybe you don't really need friends.

You say people don't call you or seem to value you as a friend. If you want good friends, I would say that you have to really make an explicit effort to be a good friend to specific people because you like particular things about them. Call them up, or text them, and invite them to do things with you. Ask them how they are. Learn about them. Host events that you think they might like. Follow up on things you've talked about before. If they told you about their cat or dog or hobby, ask them about it next time you see them. Show them that you are interested in them.

Most importantly, perhaps, be willing to let them reject you.
posted by ewok_academy at 7:36 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

You remind me a lot of someone I used to know and whom I had a bit of a crush on. He was definitely considered an intense personality and he had very few, if any, close friends. He spent tons of time alone, was very studious, and was probably writing a lot (maybe even stuff like what you've written here, I can totally picture it). The funny thing about him, though, is that he's quite a comedian. He's absolutely one of the funniest people I've known, he easily becomes the center of attention and cracks jokes which every person likes. They're not just goofy jokes though, they sometimes seem partly planned and, if not planned, very well articulated and constructed nonetheless. I generally find this kind of funny person intimidating. He is judgmental and it's hard to keep up with him. I'm not a funny person and I become even less funny around him because he's so serious about his jokes. I think the root of my friend's intensity is his judgmental, inflexible, and cold character. By judgmental, I mean he was constantly measuring everyone up (like their level of humor) and he had a similar approach to power dynamics in social circles as you do.

I say all this because I think you do come off as humorless in this post, but you say you're funny and have done stand-up.

I get the impression your insecurity and your approach to power dynamics is off-putting. I can't approach that kind of person, they make me so nervous! I'm not looking to compete when I'm looking for a friend. The most approachable people in my experience are those who are goofy, those who share things about themselves in light-hearted and interesting ways, or those who very clearly show me they like me. The last of which is definitely the most important to me (and probably to most people). So, the best advice I can render is that you should perhaps be more open to people and go out of your way to show them you like them. Compensate for your weird intense character by smiling more and reaching out to people. You don't mention in your post whether you usually try to pursue your friends by calling them and asking them out. Try it if you don't! And do your best to show them you like them and find them interesting (even if you don't, still do it! it will help you like them more and warm up to each other).

Your post was interesting to me and I like the way you think! It was navel-gazey but I don't mind that when it's introspective and interesting. If you are indeed like my friend, I would like to know you, but I would want to be approached by you because you make me nervous.
posted by poilkj at 7:50 AM on September 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Grad school is about competition, getting jobs is about competition. Facebook is often about competition. Friends are about not needing to be smarter, funnier, cooler, more active, more intense, or more anything than they are. As ewok_academy says, vulnerability. It can be nearly impossible to go up to someone who you're trying to outperform academically and put them at the center of your attention, allow them to be cooler than you, invite them to be the one telling the funny jokes, showing you the "best" bar, etc. Everyone enjoys hanging out with someone who appreciates them, but the hidden secret is that one sure way to get people to appreciate you is by paying attention to them and appreciating them first.

Grad school is good for throwing people with a common interest together, but for anyone who doesn't define themselves by that field of study, there's only so much they've got in common with their peers there. Relax. You'll find your people sooner or later. But for now, practice up: invite your fellow students to hang out, and try your best to meet them on their terms.
posted by aimedwander at 7:59 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lots of good advice here. Based on your post and follow-up I probably won't be good friends with you because you seem to want to win in front of an audience. I am not interested in competing and I am too busy living my life to be in anyone's audience.

Don't exhaust people.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:18 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have a lot more thoughts on this and will come back later when I'm more free, but for now:

You say people laugh at your jokes; how often do you laugh at theirs? This is part of the reciprocity of friendship, and I see this tying into your competitive/score keeping tendencies, i.e. you need to get more laughs than you give. People might not be keeping score explicitly in the way you are, but they will notice that kind of thing. I say this as someone who felt many awkward tinges of self-recognition when reading your post (minus being tall).
posted by obliterati at 8:50 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

You seem a little...intense to me. And I'm also a PhD student about to go on the job market, so I get it and all. But.... you. must. chill.

Be at peace with being ALONE. Really truly get down with being on your own. So what if you have to drive to places by yourself and you aren't posting FB photos of great adventures with a group? You are smart and successful about to have some important letters at the end of your name. Yay, you! You are a lucky monkey.

The world does not owe you friends and having great friends isn't an "achievement unlocked" kind of thing. Just let that go. People (especially job-seeking PhD students) can reek of desperation and really sense it among others. It's understandable, but not attractive.

I know it's trite, but really work on tending your own gardens and that will help all the rest come together.
posted by pantarei70 at 9:04 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think a lot of people wind up with really idealized conceptions of what a "real friend" is from books, TV shows, and the media, and often this is tough to shake because on social media it seems like everyone is having more fun than you (pictures of road trips, etc). Your thinking reminds me a lot of the kinds of thought patterns I used to fall into when I was very lonely, and after discarding them I was a lot happier.

Scrub from your thinking any score-keeping about who calls who more frequently, who does the inviting, who is in the inner circle and who is in the outer, etc. This stuff doesn't mean what you think it does. Do you want to spend time with someone? Call them yourself. Some people are organizers and some people wait to be invited, and the latter usually wind up seeing less of people unless they're exceptionally charismatic.

Also try to let go of the dichotomy of "true friend" vs. "inadequate friend." It's way too easy to banish people to the second category because they don't meet your intellectual standards, didn't call you that one time, have principles you disapprove of, and so on. People come into and out of our lives for different reasons, and the person you'd spontaneously call to do something fun might be different from the person you'd call when someone close to you dies, who might be different from the person you ask for career advice or the person you grab after-class drinks with.

You might have a picture in your mind of a "best friend," who is your go-to person and you're theirs, where you gchat each other little tidbits all day and drop by each other's apartments to eat late-night junk food and watch bad movies share deep thoughts, and where you have principles in common and there's a "you and me against the world" feeling and everything is just effortless and satisfying and you feel very close to them. Most people don't have that person, despite what Facebook may tell you. Or they briefly have that person and then one of them gets married or moves away or changes.

It's possible that in having high standards for your friends, you also have high standards for yourself, to the point where you think that to make people be your friend you need to be charming, witty, brilliant, available, compassionate, fun, etc. at all times. If you feel like you need to be firing on all cylinders for a social interaction to have "gone well", the dumb, frequent, trivial exchanges that are the glue of friendships might fall to the side and socializing at all might seem like too much energy. Also, perhaps you beat yourself up for small conversational errors that the others have likely already forgotten, and this fear and self-criticism makes you awkward.

You might find this recent Ask Polly column helpful.
Also, while the website aims a lot of content at the severely socially challenged, Succeed Socially actually helped me recognize where destructive thinking was creating problems for me.
posted by beatrice rex at 11:42 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thanks, everyone, for all the great thoughts! I guess the takeaway is to be more relaxed around people and more open to hearing about them (and, probably, more appreciative of what's awesome about my life.) Relaxing is something I've never been great at, but listening to all of you makes this seem like a much less intricate problem, so thank you.

Just to clarify one thing--and maybe throw out another teachable moment:

poilkj: I say all this because I think you do come off as humorless in this post, but you say you're funny and have done stand-up.

When I said that I honestly wasn't trying to argue with the people who thought I seemed humorless. I meant that it was interesting to me that people got that impression: I wasn't expecting that response because I "think" of myself as light and funny; but when people started saying I seemed humorless I totally understood how I come across that way (to them and to people in real life), and it helped me recalibrate the question to something more relevant than what I'd originally posted.

This, actually, is something that seems to be happening to me more lately--where I'll say something that I think is constructive, or a good way of advancing the conversation, and it comes across as sarcastic, or defensive, or at any rate doesn't emphasize what I mean it to emphasize. If people are still reading, I'd love to hear thoughts about what the deal is with this.

Another thing that genuinely surprised--and reassured--me is that no one accused me of being childish, impractical, lazy, entitled, or completely socially incompetent. When I was writing my original post I was terrified of getting that kind of response--almost didn't post at all because I was afraid my post would provoke a lot of exasperated yelling. The "wall of words" that ewok_academy noticed was a defense, mostly, against that specific reaction.

So that was interesting too. I think a few factors in my life (being around ultra-high-functioning colleagues, my family's preoccupation with money and lack of empathy for depressed people) may have given me a paranoid belief that everyone else on the planet is some sort of capitalist robot who's totally intolerant of all activity that's not "productive" or goal-directed and thinks the kind of elliptical, navel-gazey self-examination I like to engage in is weak, counterproductive, egotistical and totally valueless. (Maybe I should add that my mother--who LOVED that sort of conversation, could go on for HOURS with the shit--died a few years ago, and that I haven't really had an outlet for it since.)

But yeah, people aren't all either buddhas or bullies. So thanks, guys! Lots of food for thought...
posted by urufu at 8:02 PM on September 5, 2014

I found your post interesting and not ass-holeish at all - generally assholes in my experience don't wonder/worry if they are.

You're a thinker. I'm a thinker so I really get that. I have no doubt I'd find you interesting to talk to... but does your mind ever wind down a bit? I struggle with this (and good friends pick up on it).. you 'felt' more amplified than how I am. I never got on with meditation classes but recently my head felt like it was literally in melt down. I found a scabby ball in the park and bounced it off a tree for ages repeating in my exhausted, over stimulated mind "all that matters in the world, is bouncing a ball off a tree" - nuts eh?!!! I know. But actually it calmed me down (it was a fucking bad day prior).

Doing a doctorate.. wow.. I can't talk from experience, but I nearly wound up as a Uni Mental Health advisor and looked into psychological profiles of people doing doctorates.. often, so the emerging theories seem to be these are anankastic/perfectionist 'loner' type personalities.. so it could be good for you to break out of the possible over-representation of this.

As for the competitiveness streak.. this has seldom been one of my own creases.. I'm wondering why this is and not sure I can locate an answer, there is a part inside me that is sturdy in who I am I guess... I'm not a conformist and am happy about that. If you joined the rat race there'd be nothing to rebel against.. and there where would us humanties types be? ;)

Maybe some of the ideas of Buddhism could be handy about observing more than reacting but "maybe I should be a Buddhist" kind of made me laugh (in an identifying way) - there's no neat key, alas! Beg borrow and steal bits of what might help. It's a long winding road trying to figure shit out and a thinkers ideas stay prone to changing and evolving!
posted by tanktop at 9:27 AM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Newly Pregnant and Really Discouraged.   |   Help me travel to India! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.