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    Finding Your Power In Friendships

    Let’s talk about friendship. What exactly constitutes friendship and what does it entail? It’s a topic that I’m learning more about every day and I’m realizing that I’ve taken my friends for granted so much in my life and I’ve often looked at my friends as people I can rely on to help me to give me pleasure to make me laugh to join me on fun excursions to invite me out. But I never really saw it as a two-way street. Friendship isn’t always about getting what you want from them. It’s about being there for someone else and I’m finding that much more fulfilling.

    Of course there is a balance to be struck. We all know people — it might even be yourself — who give too much in those situations and so you have to be mindful that you’re getting back as much as you’re putting in. But similarly you have to make sure that you’re giving back as much as you’re getting — and I have a feeling that I’ve been a bit of a taker in a lot of these relationships that I’ve had and it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve really kind of grown up and been there for friends. I might have been trying to take my mind off of my own life for a second, so I’d throw myself into their problems and try and make them happy and make them laugh or smile, without expecting anything in return. It’s incredible the feeling that you get from that when your friends thank you and tell you how much that your friendship means to them. It makes you feel so valued and powerful in someone else’s life.

    The friendship with (dangerous) benefits

    I had a situation recently where a friend of mine became intimate. We had a thing going and it was a kind of confused relationship. We weren’t quite sure what it was and we decided to just stay friends. Then I had to watch him meet someone else — this wonderful guy who makes him happy. Things are looking pretty serious for them and it’s been a real test of my resolve and my selflessness to put my personal feelings to one side, my niggling disappointment and loneliness and be happy for him for them — to be there for him — despite what I thought may have come of our relationship. I found myself saying that our friendship was the most important thing to me, but the sight of him with his new partner was sometimes so difficult for me that I contemplated whether or not I should have him in my life anymore. At times it felt too gut wrenching to bear. But I’m so glad that I didn’t push him away and discard what is a fantastic friendship with someone that I continue to share wonderful times with. This is a real turning point for me in how I address friendships: putting my personal feelings and discomfort to one side and truly being the friend that you

    I say I want to be. It’s one thing to say, it’s another thing to really do it (I’m very good at talking the talk, but not so flawless in execution!)

    The (tempestuous) best friend

    Another friend of mine, in London, my best friend in fact: she was the girl I came out to when I was 13. I let her down recently. I said a lot of hurtful things to her in the heat of the moment. We had an argument and it got out of hand and I’ve tried to repair things but she needs space and that’s hard to hear. It’s hard to not have this drama repaired as quickly as it erupted. I’m someone who wants to brush over these problems as quickly as possible and forget it ever happened. But not everybody can work through their pain as quickly as that.

    Often in the past when that’s happened, I’ve just discarded the friendship. I’ve walked away from it because it’s too hard to feel the chill and to have that distance between us, so I just convince myself that I’m in control and that I’m deciding we’re done. I’ve lost so many good people for my life in doing that and I am so determined not to let that happen with this friend.

    I’ve written her a letter I called her when I was in town and she’s told me she just needs some space and I completely respect and understand that. And I’m actually OK with it, for the first time. I’m okay with not being able to force a reunion of sorts. If we’re meant to be friends again, then it’s meant to be. From my perspective she will always be my friend but I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s strongly reconsidering her feelings about me now and she’s probably justified in doing that. But all I can do is try and think of her feelings before my own.

    Put others before yourself — within reason of course. Don’t be a doormat, but don’t treat others like one either. Don’t expect other people to be your whipping boy, your scapegoat, to take your shit time and time again and when you say sorry, they shrug and say “it’s fine, that’s just your way”. It’s not fine. I’m still learning this every day.

    Know the power of your friendships.

    Don’t don’t underestimate your power in the friendships and relationships that you have. You have so much power with your friends: to help them, to comfort them, to make them laugh. You also have a lot of power to hurt them as well. So be mindful of the power you yield in their lives. Don’t focus all your attention on their power over you. It’s very easy to go through life feeling like the victim to everybody else’s crap. We all put crap on other people at times and that has an impact. We all lean on each other.

    Gone but not forgotten

    Lastly, never forget the friends who have helped make you who you are today. The ones who pushed you, supported you and watched as you flourished, perhaps knowing that they might lose you to a new office or foreign land in the process. Those angels who are no longer in our daily lives. Those who have drifted to the backs of our minds, but were once so prominent. We are all just one phone call away from reigniting what was a great relationship. So if you do one thing today to improve the quality of your friends, pick up the phone and reach out to an old friend, to see what they’ve been up to. It’s more than likely they’ll be thrilled to hear from you — and you never know where it might lead.

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    This is the REAL reason you have trust issues

    Trust, faith, belief, expectation are all different words for the same concept.

    Some basic things we find easy to trust in:

    • The sun will come up tomorrow
    • The air we breathe will help keep us alive
    • Monday never fails to roll around right after the weekend.

    These things we trust in. They’re easy to trust in because they’re unlikely to ever change.

    But maintaining trust in people is somewhat trickier because people’s behaviors varied and unpredictable. Sometimes it takes us by surprise when people don’t do what we expect.

    When you lack trust, you aren’t actually lacking anything. Your ability to have faith is still alive and well, but you’re placing your faith in the possibility of a negative outcome.

    Distrust = pain’s stubborn swan song

    It’s all too easy to start distrusting others based on a few bad experiences in the past.

    Distrust is akin to saying: “I know what you’re going to do. You’re going to let me down. I’m ready and primed for disaster”. This isn’t exactly the type of attitude that your new partner or team member will want to deal with. That’s when distrust is a problem and may be holding you back from building something wonderful with another person.

    When we allow suspicion to take the place of hope in any kind of relationship, we are already resigned to its failure. But make no mistake. That failure will be on you, not the person on the receiving end of your suspicion.

    “But I’ve been burned in the past. Why would I willingly be a doormat and make the same mistakes all over again, like some naïve fool?”

    No-one is suggesting that you follow the same path as before, without learning any lessons. But a distrust of people is never that lesson. The wisdom comes in the form of handling the situation better — reacting better — rather than shutting people out because you think you have a sixth sense for a bastard now.

    More often than not, we distrust people who have never done anything to warrant our suspicion. It’s the lingering legacy of a previous relationship gone-bad. So you were fired and now you have trouble trusting your new boss. You were cheated on, so the idea of committing to someone else seems terrifying and ill-fated. Usually distrust can be traced back to a pretty tough experience, so naturally we have a tendency to hold on to that pain moving forward. Think of it like a milder form of post traumatic stress disorder. You might anticipate the same awful experiences repeating over and over again. It’s hard letting go of the past and keep a clear head, free of cynicism and fear. But that’s exactly what you need to do, if you’re going to lead a happier life. You wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t somewhat bothered by your inability to trust again.

    Newsflash: There is nothing naïve about trust

    There is nothing virginal or innocent about putting trust in people. We tend to think this because when we were younger, more naïve and less bruised by the world, we did indeed trust people a hell of a lot more. So we mistakenly believe that growing older and wiser means becoming more suspicious and cynical. This is a fallacy. True wisdom and peace of mine comes from accepting that people may not do what you expect them to — but that you’ll survive regardless.

    Faith in the negative has a tendency to perpetuate negative outcomes. Delusions, paranoia, resentment and rage can take over you may find yourself exploding in self-righteousness at someone’s tiniest misstep. When you distrust someone, the chances are pretty slim that you’ll be able to respond rationally if something bad does happen (and it might). Your eyes aren’t open to reality. They’re fixed firmly on the future tragedy playing out in your head. You’ll be reacting to a dramatization of your own creation, rather than the situation in front you.

    Ironically, as a person with trust issues, we tend to place an awful lot of trust in our own predictions for the future. We place blind faith in the idea that history will repeat itself and that we attract a certain type of person who is bound to follow the same agonizing pattern of abuse or mistreatment.

    How to express trust issues

    > Do express your trust issues in a rational way, if you feel it will help someone understand your doubts and concerns. If faith has been broken through direct actions by that person, then vocalizing that might be justified and helpful.

    > Don’t use distrust as a manipulation tool — to guilt or goad someone into changing, or to excuse your own unreasonable behavior. It’s easy to habitually point to the past, to explain away our own bad tempers, imperfections or hostility. Explain the reasons behind your distrust, without appointing blame. Distrust is a choice. So own it and don’t expect others to necessarily change because of it.

    Those who have deservedly lost your trust will either: understand the issue you’re having and work hard to earn your trust back — or — show no signs of being willing or able to change for you. If you are seeing the latter, then it might be time to accept that this is not a match that’s going to work for you any more. No amount of guilt-tripping and cries of “I just don’t trust you”, is going to fix things. If however, the person is truly trying to make amends and remedy the situation, you’ve got to give them a fair shot — and that means letting go of the past. A well-intentioned person will want your trust and won’t be afraid to earn it back, but they’ll only do so if they see a realistic chance of being able to redeem themselves. It’s up to you to decide whether you are truly willing to let them.

    Sometimes trust can never be regained. A person may have hurt you beyond repair — and this isn’t immediately clear. No matter how hard you try to work through your pain, you simply you cannot look that person in the eye with a clear head. In these unfortunate situations, there might be little option but to throw in the towel and move on. But the most important thing to do after that is wipe your eyes, open them wide and leave those doubts and resentments where they belong — in the past! Don’t pack them in your suitcase and take them with you to your next relationship.

    Distrust is a belief that someone or something is plotting to hurt or sabotage you. The disconcerting truth is that often the most dangerous saboteur to watch out for is much closer to home (I’m looking at you!).

    Building trust starts with clearing your head of resentment and fear — having faith in the idea that no-one is out to hurt you. Doesn’t that sound like a better way to live than looking at people through narrowed eyes with bitter suspicion and self-pity?

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