[et_pb_section bb_built="1"][et_pb_row _builder_version="3.0.92" module_alignment="center" make_fullwidth="on"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_image _builder_version="3.0.92" src="http://www.brendashiekh.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/cropped-IMG_3748.jpg" show_in_lightbox="off" url_new_window="off" use_overlay="off" align="center" always_center_on_mobile="on" force_fullwidth="off" show_bottom_space="on" /][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text _builder_version="3.0.92" background_layout="light"] This could be just me, but does any of this sound familiar? I remember being really horrible at friendships all the way through my twenties and thirties. I’m not saying I’m nailing the friendship thing now, but I’ve managed to shake some pretty nasty patterns in the past few decades. When I was younger, often when a friendship or a close relationship beyond a simple acquaintance would present itself in my life, I would start being inappropriately giving. In fact, I would try to guess what would make them happy. I would offer unsolicited advice about how to solve their problems, and I would go out of my way to spend money, and give my own items to them if I thought they would like them. I would also try to regulate their opinion of me by not being fully me around them. I did this with some more than others, and I knew what was coming next, but I just wasn’t awake enough to step beyond it.
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After a while, some small event, like they cancelled on me last-minute, or they returned my car on empty, or it was the third Tuesday of the month, would trigger me to run a pattern in my mind about how that person was an ungrateful so and so and that I was just being taken advantage of. It sounds so sick and twisted writing about it now, but i feel so happy that I don’t do that anymore.
I absolutely acted that way toward my husband in the beginning. I poured myself wholeheartedly into the relationship and mentally put myself in his business all the time. Then I would snap and accuse him of either keeping me from doing the things I wanted to do, or not reciprocating love. My husband was completely non-reactive and would let me take off and slam doors and then very lovingly ask if I was feeling better later, totally without judgement. After while, because I couldn’t get the reaction I was looking for, it got boring to run that pattern on him. I stopped doing it in my marriage, but for many years later I continued that passive aggressive, perpetrator and victim friendship cycle with many an unsuspecting soul.
It was so frustrating because I believed my thoughts about how these other people were ungrateful, and at the same time I knew that it was a dysfunctional pattern. I rationalized it by assuming that I was just attracting terrible friends. For a while, I avoided friendships all together thinking I just was just better off as a lone wolf.
I had a huge Ah-Ha moment in a completely unrelated event with my son who sustained a brain injury. It made me acutely aware of how believing my thoughts about anything was sketchy at best. That’s when I started challenging every single thought that I would have that made me frustrated. The process of challenging negative thoughts became so alive in me that I could almost instantly recognize the victim pattern the moment it started and could redirect immediately.
Habits are not easy to break, but with effort, I learned to recognize the impulse to solve someone else’s problems. The thought would be something like “they need my help.” I learned to turn these thoughts totally around and trained myself to ignore the impulse to help by focusing on how they don’t need my help, or how I needed to help myself not try to help when I’m not being asked to.
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I bet my friends are going to read this and think “Hey, why couldn’t I have met you back when you were giving your stuff away and anticipating your friends needs!” Trust me guys, minding my own business makes me the best possible friend.