Watching The Wheels

Monday, January 9, 2012

Friend or Fiend: Love and Friendship in 2011

Patterns of sick behavior can be disguised by what appear to be the most honorable of intentions. And, like a land mine, these patterns don’t emerge until it is too late, when you lose and arm, leg, heart…or the will to fight any longer.

A bit late, but nonetheless relevant, this piece reflects lessons learned by this writer in 2011. By means of disclaimer, I would emphasize that this will not devolve into a smattering of news stories that formed the output of what is left of our media. Instead, I will simply wax nostalgic about the teachable moments from my life in 2011.

Doubtless some will see themselves in my reflections. I would caution such individuals that this article is not about you. For once I have decided that this is about me: my turn. A better part of my life has been spent with the ability to see another’s point of view, often to the extent of ignoring or minimizing my own. This was done in a herculean effort to keep the peace; to avoid conflict. And it was done to further punish myself for what I do not know. But this has been a pattern. I would take the heat and feed my self-loathing.

On clear-minded reflection I have decided that I am done with the victim mentality. With my tail pried from between my legs I trundle on to 2012 and maybe the end of the world, or so some say.

I began 2011 with the clichĂ© that it was” the first day of the rest of my life.” Instead it was a gauntlet; a marathon running through hell. It was journey through my worst fears. In each instance I was convinced that I had brought things upon myself. In fact, I had been skillfully manipulated by passive/aggressive puppetry wrought from decades of profoundly warped parenting, marinated in steroid and stimulant addiction as well as puerile fantasies of relationships.

[NOTE: To those playing along at home, forgive the big words. I find what most people view as honest is nothing more than bluntness. Being honest is not the same as being blunt. It does, however, make you something that rhymes with it.]

A not-so-subtle theme weaving through the year was that it takes a certain kind of person to take advantage of another who is in a weakened state of being. To psychologically torture someone with polarized expectations and conditions, coupled with a brutal pounding of shattered promises, would be the envy of any sociopath. That idea that it was all subconscious is chilling in that it was seemingly natural and right in this person’s mind. Second nature, if you will.

Sounds frightening. And it was.

I have always been a huge fan of irony. The fact that the person who perpetrated the above scenario was an employee of Disney World: The Happiest Place on Earth has its own kind of perverse humor. This is funnier still in that he had a sealed drug trafficking conviction while working directly with the safety of children. And he still works there, no doubt still pumped with steroids, supplements and stimulants. Stealing hundreds of dollars of my property – some of great sentimental value – pales in comparison to the above scene.

But this is just one example of lessons learned in 2011. While it may sound to some like sour grapes, I assure you it is not that childish. No, it is the result of a conscious decision to quit beating myself up over the acts of others no matter how much I may have contributed to the situation. Letting someone fail so that you may become a hero to them – that they may grow to depend on you entirely – is another such sick form of manipulation. This should be completely unexpected from someone considered a friend, particularly a friend of a decade or more.

But friendship was an ideal colored by the frame of mind in which I found myself over a decade ago. And there was always the glimmer of hope that people had changed in the intervening years.

They hadn’t.

People who have led sheltered lives, or lied to themselves about who they were, cannot change in any meaningful sense. Like an alcoholic or drug addict, they too remain stunted in maturity in precisely the same way. But in their case there is no chemical, just the endless feeding off the emotional table scraps of others. They do not generate any real emotion of their own. All that is left are the butchered remains of their hidden expectations and agendas. Then the blame will be placed upon others.

And then the cycle will begin again, this time with some other tortured soul.
Patterns of sick behavior can be disguised by what appear to be the most honorable of intentions. And, like a land mine, these patterns don’t emerge until it is too late, when you lose and arm, leg, heart…or the will to fight any longer.

As for friendship and love, be assured that they are NOT:

- Making promises and offers, and then placing conditions on them when it is after the fact or just plain rescinding them.

- Thinking that an infatuation of years ago (while living a lie in intervening years) was somehow a star-crossed event, entitling you to cast judgment upon someone you really don’t know.

- Switching someone off completely because of their personal misfortune while claiming “I will always love you.”

- Constantly threatening to throw someone to the curb because of bumps in the road in a relationship. Make no mistake: passive/aggressive manipulation is abuse just the same as physical abuse. Threatening someone with murder, for instance, tends to be frowned upon by the legal system.

- Taking things back given to someone you claim to care deeply about. When you give things to people, especially when they didn’t ask for them, it sort of makes you look really small when they end up missing.

- Refusing to hear the whole story after you have accused someone of lying or otherwise deceiving you. No one has the right, in a loving relationship, to have black and white cut-off points: “You either do/don’t do this or it’s over”. No one has that power and it is most definitely not the language of love. It is abuse, plain and simple. Depriving someone of making human errors screams of the inability to look at yourself.

And finally:

- Washing your hands of someone or some situation will not absolve you of your responsibility in whatever events occurred. It didn’t work for Pontius Pilate and it sure as hell won’t work for you.

Not everything I have alluded to can be solely attributed to “bad decisions”. In my own case, my bad decisions of the past year were based firmly in bad decisions I made decades ago in my choice of friends. When you’re young these things happen.

One thing I have noticed as I have gotten older is how, when I was younger – say, 17 – I was not “allowed” to be 17 by friends, girlfriends, etc. For some reason I was expected to be better than just a teenager. It seems I wasn’t permitted to have immature ideas and unrealistic expectations of the future. And as I have gotten older my friends of my younger years – the ones I dreamed with and made plans with – have all given up on their dreams and opting for existing instead of living.

Today I am in my forties and it seems that I have not been allowed to change, for better or worse. People I once spent my teen years with have actually said to me, “Why haven’t you done” this or that, while they nurture their baldness and waistlines. It seems that now I am not being allowed to have lived a rich life, following my own dreams, and making mistakes as large as my accomplishments. No, that seems to have been measured by how much of an inconvenience that has become to these others.

You see, the importance of envy cannot be underestimated in the motivations of people. There are those who see people of considerable talent and accomplishment as a threat to their own lack of same. So when such a gifted person has run upon a hard time, there are those who see this as an opportunity to control, subdue and downgrade him so that those insecure individuals can ease their self-hatred.

Good luck with that.

Self-hatred is a cancer that is, in some, incurable. And when it is under the cloak of loving, giving and caring it is a scorpion filled with soul poison. It seems there are those who believe that good intentions can justify most any act, no matter how warped it may seem on its face. And they have no problem finding what P.T. Barnum said was “born every minute.”

It is a certainty that folks like I have described will not change. After all, it takes a lifetime of practice to truly become such a psychic menace.

At one point during this past year I was going through a particularly rough patch. Someone like those described above asked me, “Was it me who drove you to this point?” I lied and replied, “No, it’s just my own doing.”

The truth is I should have said, “Yes, it was you. You were the sick, twisted nightmare that damn near pushed me over the edge. How does it feel?” But when your back is against the wall and you don’t hold the cards it is unwise to always be truthful, especially when mere survival depends on it.

There is an article I wrote quite a while ago that may be of some value. It was called The Snapping Turtle Syndrome and it was about toxic people. You can find it on my blog, or at and under my name. As for this current article, it was meant to be a personal companion piece to the original, albeit an unexpected one. I just found it astounding how I could fall into the same old traps even though I was armed with the knowledge of how the traps worked. I guess intelligence doesn’t follow where the heart dares to journey.

Otherwise there would be no Romeo and Juliet, Doctor Zhivago or Sleepless in Seattle.

And, for that matter, no Fatal Attraction.

Copyright 2012 by Andrew T. Durham

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