Am I "my brother's keeper"? My friend's problems drain my energy - how can I take my power back?
The questioner's philosophy
For the past 15 years she has been struggling with her marriage breakup, and cannot let go of the anger and the hurt, which I believe is what is holding her back now and preventing her from being the person she knows she is deep inside.
Our conversations, over the last two years, consist mainly of her money and relationship problems, which drains my energy, and she blames her parents for the way they treated her as the eldest child of four. She feels like she has always been abused by everyone in her life, and it has got to the stage now where I don't feel comfortable telling her about the good things that happen to me, because invariably the conversation comes around to her own problems again, and I feel guilty for having so much more than she has.
I feel angry with her for doing this to me, and for not recognizing that she is her own worst enemy. She knows what she should do as she is very spiritually aware, but she lacks motivation, and that is what I am always trying to get her to see.
I don't want to desert her, because she has very few friends left, but I am going to move out of town soon and I know that my motive for doing that is primarily so that she no longer has easy access to me. Currently, we live just half a block away from each other.
I would like some insight into taking back my power in this friendship. I feel as if I exist just to be her sounding board, and I am no longer willing to allow this to happen. Yet I do have faith that she can change her life around, and I want to help her, without draining my own energy in the process. Thank you so much for reading this, it has actually helped me enormously, just being able to put my feelings into words.
You have pretty much answered your own questions regarding your friend. She has completely taken on the role of "victim" and leads her life from this position. It is likely she always felt this way at some level, but now she is totally committed to it. The marriage breakup was probably a major blow, but it just fit in to the underlying "victim" script.
The test of whether someone is good for you or not is how you feel afterwards. If you feel drained then you've been spending time with an emotional vampire. These people, although not intentionally, just drain the life out of whoever they are with. Your desire to move and create some distance between you two is wise. You must take care of yourself. And why should you feel bad about the happiness and progress that are part of your daily life? That needs to be celebrated because you are growing.
Unless you want to continuously feel drained and angry at your friend for not turning her life around, then you have to let go. These are her choices, not yours. You are not responsible for what she does, nor do you have any power to change her. You know she has to do this herself. Presently, she is committed to being a victim and complaining to whoever will listen about how sad her life is.
Your eagerness to help is a good quality which is being wasted in these circumstances. Move on. Build your life on the positive foundation you have erected and let good things come to you. Hanging on to her will only slow your own growth. She will complain that you are leaving her, without realizing that she has driven you away.
This is sad. Have a good cry about it. Grieve the loss of who your friend used to be. But more importantly, celebrate who you are becoming. This is a valuable lesson for you. Your heart is already telling you what you need to do, so do it!
Jet Li, August 2009, comments:
Maurice highlights some very important points in his reply. Yes she is playing the role of a victim, the things that have happened to her are unfortunate, her friends slowly backing away, family problems relationship problems.
It's completely understandable to feel drained, after someone you care about has spent a long time talking about all the bad things that have happened. Especially if they have been problems that have been agonized about over and over again. Which can lead to another problem of the conversation in your own head at the same time, there's massive amounts of energy spent in trying to keep that all going!!!
And in a funny way it's a good thing to feel a little drained in that situation, sounds crazy and insane right. It simply means you are a good friend who cares about what she is going through.
Another point Maurice makes is: Unless you want to continuously feel drained and angry at your friend for not turning her life around, then you have to let go. These are her choices, not yours. You are not responsible for what she does, nor do you have any power to change her. You know she has to do this herself. Presently, she is committed to being a victim and complaining to whoever will listen about how sad her life is.
This is a geat point, yes she is committed to being a victim right now, one important secret about a problem and its called THE ACCESS STATE PRINCIPLE. A good example of this is like, a student having a really important test to take for uni or school maybe, and he spent weeks reading and studying calmly through that time. Suddenly it comes time for the test and the student gets so nervous that literally all that information that was there before, while nice and calm the information learned can be easily remembered, when that state changes it is much more difficult to access that information while nervous, because now, he is the fear room instead of the calm room.
You believe your friend has all the knowledge to get her life back on track, you bet she has, the problem is she is just stuck in that fear room, getting her into a resourceful state is the only way she will be able to get herself on track. The worst thing to do is to try to resist these feelings. Sure we can try for a while, but I know from doing that myself for a long time, those feeling only knock louder and louder. Every one of those emotions has a message.
When it comes to peer pressure, if one person is not doing as well and the other is doing well and they are good friends, one of three things happen -
- The person who is not doing so well will be inspired by the person who is and balance out positively
- The person who is doing well may slowly drop their own standards unconsciously, matching negatively
- One person will become sick of the other and nobody talks at all