Reader’s question: I try to be a good friend and my friends tell me they appreciate the way I listen to their problems. When I know there is something wrong, I will check in and see how they are, drop off flowers and so on. My problem is that when it is my ‘turn’, I feel this care is not reciprocated. I suffered a big disappointment recently, and I needed people to talk to, but it felt as if many of my friends just evaporated. I am hurt and angry about it. What can I do to feel better? Name supplied
Mary’s answer: I wonder what might change if you placed a higher priority on being a good friend to yourself. Perhaps you won’t drop off flowers for others, because you need to rest; or could you phone a friend and say: ‘I feel hurt and I want to talk. Is now a good time to do that with you?’ The hidden danger of being a helper is getting stuck in the role of ‘the strong one’ or the person with all the answers. I know this even in my writing here: other people’s problems can feel simpler to solve than our own. We all have a need to be vulnerable, or unreasonable, or to admit that we just don’t know where to start. If you are not used to asking for help, it can feel difficult to open that door, or particularly crushing to feel that it’s been slammed in your face. Perhaps you could start by telling one person exactly what you’ve told me. It doesn’t have to be an accusation that this person has let you down, but more along the lines of ‘I had this experience; have you ever had it? What did you do? What do you think I should do next time?’ You don’t have to take the advice, but the simple act of saying these words out loud will open up new possibilities for better understanding.
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