I really am a people person. Really. But go away.
December 12, 2014 7:28 AM   Subscribe

YANMT, but maybe you can help me figure out why I push away the very people I'd like to get to know better, both in romantic and platonic capacities. I'm asking as sort of a follow-up to this question but I really wanted help exploring that specific facet of things a little more deeply. Snowflakes inside.

Possibly due to social trauma ( feeling like a burden on other's ever since my experiences in the gauntlet of the school cafeteria and following the fall-out of a few intense, borderline-y friendships in my late teens ( with sexual tension on my end- I was an affectionate, bi teen, they were straight, attractive and, for a while, emotionally available), possibly due to high expectations or pressures on myself, possibly because of a lack of life experiences, I always tend to become a recluse the minute the getting-to-know-you phase of a relationship ends- generally after about a week.

I want these people in my life. They're from school and through online dating sites and internships and what have you They're either professional contacts or cool, funny, supportive potential friends- who I would get along with if I just kept. things. up. But it's always a slow fade. I gradually begin to need to grasp at straws to find things to talk about, the pressure begins to build. I first put off a and eventually just stop responding to messages and calls when all the initial excitement has been replaced with overwhelming guilt that gets harder to ignore with each passing day.
I've lost SO many people and opportunities in my life this way. Help me stop isolating myself, hivemind.
PS: In therapy, on Prozac, and exploring the possibility of borderline personality disorder.
posted by marsbar77 to Human Relations (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: There's so much more to this question than what I was able to gather above, but I'm not in the right state of mind to be any more expressive than that right now. If anyone needs more detail, feel free to ask. The previous question I linked to is a little more nuanced in explaining things.
posted by marsbar77 at 7:32 AM on December 12, 2014

You're rejecting them before they can reject you.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:46 AM on December 12, 2014 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: That's what I've come up with too, after some soul-searching. But how do I get past that?
posted by marsbar77 at 7:57 AM on December 12, 2014

Do you think it might also be some fear of how different, as in potentially awesome but also a big change and readjustment it would be to have more social interaction? Like, if you have idealized an image of a life where you have friends and go out and do things and are funny and popular and outdoorsy and drink dark amber drinks in smoky jazz bars (or whatever your image is of what you want to be and would be if only things were different), does it feel like that entire imagined life is on the line when you're on the verge of making that one phone call?

I would say, try talking yourself into lowering the stakes. For example, emphasize that you have a lot of these back-burner acquaintances, and so if one of them doesn't blossom, there are a dozen others that still might. Don't visualize so far into the future. Just imagine your side of the next phone call, like it's a piece of performance art you're going to enact. Marsbar77 as himself. Collect little mildly interesting things that are going on in your life that you can put into a verbal collage. Marsbar77's life as art. The audience's reaction is out of your hands.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:06 AM on December 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

That's what I've come up with too, after some soul-searching. But how do I get past that?

Be nice, and open and caring. Show how you feel. Treat people in the honored way you feel about them.

Then you sit in the fucking terrorizing fear that you have no control over people. The people you love may or may not love you back and that is Reality. You are putting your heart on the line, and that is Living.

Marinade in this fear. Feel the scary feelings, and let them wash over and through you.

Know that after you sit in the fear long enough, the feelings will lift; you will achieve a sort of liberation, and can then love without expectations, attachment or fear.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:41 AM on December 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I look at this in many ways.

One thing that I would consider based on this question and many of your other questions (and I hate internet diagnoses) is that even though you are receiving medication, your mental health issues are not being treated. I would either talk to your physician or even print out and bring in some of your questions so that they can see this. There are things that one could still explore for treatment, whether it be increasing dosage, an add-on, switching therapy... but I really think that when your underlying health issues are addressed, energy levels will return and you will be able t conquer some of these things.

I also wonder if that in your head, you believe acquaintance --> possible friendship, no action your part---> will fall through the cracks and the end of any potential friendship is a loop that is in your head and reinforced because eventually people will stop calling/reaching out, etc. I think that there are small steps that you could do to break this loop.It does not require going to meet even more people because I believe that will be overwhelming for you right now. What you could do is look at your list of top 10 acquaintances/possible friends that you let fall of the map.

Email them. "I miss you, I think about you when (scenario X, you see a rock, whatever). Sorry I haven't reached out to you I have been dealing with Y (put in what you feel comfortable with and how much you have shared in the past- ie, looking for a job, or mental health if you have shared." See what you get back- someone will reply. To be honest, depression/anxiety is more prevalent than you think it is - and people are likely to have dealt with it before whether it be themselves, friends, family, and more understanding is applied in those situations. Just reach out, a few people, and keep on going from there. Do you have other acquaintances/early friends who were dealing with looking for a job or mental health challenges, etc.? You might be able to give mutual support and this alone might give you support a friend. EVen one supportive friend can provide a lot.
posted by Wolfster at 8:46 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

One thing that helped me with the "reject them first" reaction was to work on loving myself. Because I'm the only one I can control, and I realized I spent a lot of time feeling like they Should reject me cuz I didn't really like myself, let alone love myself.

It's easier to say than do. But therapy and a lot of silly CBT-ish stuff where I'd catch myself beating myself up in my head and instead change it to something I Liked about me helped. For a long time I greeted the mirror with "hi, pretty!", despite how silly that seemed, because otherwise it was just a long list of what was wrong with my image that day.

Once you like yourself it's much easier to give up controlling behavior like rejecting others first. That said, as an adult it's hard to keep up social ties. One thing I've sometimes tried to do is look at my calendar for the week ahead, and if there's nothing social on there, asking a friend (usually someone I haven't seen in too long) to do Something.

Be gentle with yourself, this stuff is hard, and I can tell you're adding to your burdens by beating yourself up for fading away from people, too. Next time you start to do that, try mentally listing something you like about yourself, and then setting up a friend date. Good luck!
posted by ldthomps at 8:55 AM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

overwhelming guilt that gets harder to ignore with each passing day.

As someone who is on the other side of this (i.e., I'm the ignored person in a similar situation) I don't understand why you can't stop the guilt by not doing the bad thing that's making you feel guilty. I mean, you feel guilty because you know deep down that you're hurting people by summarily ignoring them, right? (I get that they're casual friends/acquaintances, so maybe they're not sobbing into their beer every night over it, but still.) So, you know, stop doing that. If what's stopping you is social anxiety or fear or what have you, could you try to not make it about you needs, but theirs? It's really, really hurtful when you treat people the way your treating them, and you need to stop it for their sake, not yours. It doesn't need to be any sort of deep response--I'm talking something as simple as hitting "like" when someone writes a silly facebook post. It's like saying "how are you," "I'm fine." It's not that there's some profound thing you are saying, but (and this is why it's so hurtful if you don't do it) you are acknowledging that they exist as a person.
posted by Violet Hour at 10:11 AM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Arm-chair psychologist here. I think you're trying to protect yourself from feeling rejected or hurt by preemptively getting out of it before you become more than mere acquaintances with people. That way, you never have to experience being pushed away or not being wanted. I do the same thing a lot, so I can recognize the behavior but am not sure how to stop it. Let me know if you find out. ;)
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:18 AM on December 12, 2014

You're rejecting them before they can reject you.

That's what I've come up with too, after some soul-searching. But how do I get past that?

It's been helpful to me to work on putting out info about myself in sort of less direct ways. I currently get a lot of my social needs met via internet. I blog and I participate in forums and group chat situations and I try to make sure that some of the potentially inflammatory information in my life is generally available so that people who feel it is a deal breaker can just walk away without bothering me and people who are fine with it can get chummier with me under circumstances that feel lower stakes to me and are less likely to make me hyperventilate.

It isn't a perfect solution, but it's more effective than other approaches were.

When I had a corporate job, I had a goal of, for example, slowly divulging to people in one-on-one settings when it was appropriate what my medical situation is. I didn't want the drama involved in making it sort of a public announcement but I did want it to eventually become general knowledge, but without drama. I was making progress, though it was going pretty slow and I was frustrated with that.

So, for example, you can try to find a way to diplomatically put out the word that you are bi so that people are likely to already know that. Then it isn't some big secret that can potentially lead to relationship-ending drama and heartache. I would much rather people just decide for themselves before we get chummy that I am not their cup of tea. It involves a great deal less pain and suffering.

best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 11:38 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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