Out of the FOG

Coping with Personality Disorders => Friends, Neighbors, Acquaintances and Coworkers => Topic started by: Oscen on September 16, 2021, 01:38:43 PM

Title: Toxic Friendship group
Post by: Oscen on September 16, 2021, 01:38:43 PM
I've been seeing my friendship circle in a new light. It's not exactly narcissistic, but generally toxic. Lately, when I've been spending time with this group of friends, I've been getting waaaaaaay triggered by everyone in it. I thought it was all just me, because of doing work on childhood stuff, plus lockdown. I thought that the others didn't have that trauma, and so I'm just struggling to be around "normies" who chat about family, etc, like it's no big deal.

Now I'm looking at it analytically, I see our friendship group is all people who are in denial about their feelings, and I'm basically being the "family scapegoat" being the most sensitive and reacting to the unspoken emotion getting dumped on me. At least two others have serious problems with their family - they've told me - but are heavily in denial about it and feelings in general. Other women in the group look polished, but do it through denial as well. It's all about looking right on the surface. They also go on about politics but it's got awkward on the few occasions where I've cut in and said I disagree. I'm tired of having politics talked at me when they clearly don't want to know what I think. It's not friendship, or even basic respect.

One friend in the group is the ringleader, and she's a rescuer. If a friend is going through a crisis, she encourages lots of sharing in the name of support. She seems to think she can "save" the friend, even if it's a serious mental health issue. She then gets tired of the friend's emotional demands and starts gossiping about them behind their back before discarding them. I've seen her do it to two other women in our friendship circle. Don't get me wrong, the two women were difficult to deal with. But in particular, the gossip/betrayal of confidence makes me angry. I watched this behaviour, knowing that I had mental issues myself and was just as likely to end up on the wrong end of an encounter like this, but I was too insecure to call the rescuer out, and stayed in denial about what she was like and the fact that she might hurt me too one day. I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop with her - after the disagreements I've had recently about the political stuff, I may well be the next one on the way out. I'm fairly sure she's been gossiping about me in the same way too - why wouldn't she, after all?

I'll keep in contact with a few and see if I can make it work, but I'm going to drop back from the group and several individuals. I'm tired of what's going on. I always feel guilty and inferior when I'm around these friends, and I think it's not just me bringing those feelings out.
I had a fantasy that if I had a group of girlfriends and felt accepted by them, I'd finally have the love and connection I've always wanted. I need to let go of it.
Title: Re: Toxic Friendship group
Post by: Starboard Song on September 16, 2021, 03:28:55 PM
Context is everything.

It sounds like these are great friends for many purposes. One or two perhaps ought not be trusted with secrets. Others maybe won't get your needs when your at a low point. While you do the important work of picking and choosing, remember that most of the wonderful people in your world aren't wonderful for all purposes.

I don't tell my tennis friend about my crisis with my in-laws. I don't tell my fishing buddy about issues my DS may have.

Good luck establishing the right boundaries with the right people, and weeding out as you must.
Title: Re: Toxic Friendship group
Post by: Oscen on September 16, 2021, 05:22:58 PM
Agreed, context is everything.  It's nice to hear about your experiences, but that doesn't mean you know about mine. You don't. You only see what I've chosen to type here. What is it that I've said about them that makes them sound like they're good friends for various purposes? If you're trying to give advice, be honest that that's what you're doing, and say why. I'll make my own choices, so if you think you see something useful, please explain.
Title: Re: Toxic Friendship group
Post by: notrightinthehead on September 17, 2021, 03:58:42 AM
You are right, we can always only talk about our own experiences and how we handled situations. Nobody knows what is right for you. We only share what we learned along the way on our journey of healing.

You write:  " I always feel guilty and inferior when I'm around these friends, and I think it's not just me bringing those feelings out."

It does sound like something that is worth exploring in detail. You might look at your friends behaviours/remarks that bring out such uncomfortable feelings  more closely and check if any of the remarks are valid or behaviours are ok.  Then you might explore what goes on in your own mind, your own train of thoughts and do a reality check. 

Since I have re-framed my thinking to see such uncomfortable situations as an opportunity to get to know myself/others better I can deal much better with them.
Title: Re: Toxic Friendship group
Post by: Oscen on September 17, 2021, 07:42:26 AM
I came to the realisation about this friendship group because of various exercises I've done recently. The most helpful one was a timeline, where I identified the pattern of rescue - discard I've described. I'm also doing inner child/unfinished business work and realised I was drawn to that rescuer friend because her rescuing resembles my mother, and my projection onto my friend has caused lots of issues for me - heightened emotions, an inability to view her with a critical eye, etc. She's different to my mother in many other ways and obviously has positive qualities too, although I'm not sure it's enough to balance out the drama. After taking into account my own baggage affecting how I feel when I'm with these people, the pattern of drama triangle behaviour still remains, and I'm considering how to continue to interact with this friendship group, if at all.
Title: Re: Toxic Friendship group
Post by: Starboard Song on September 17, 2021, 10:36:39 AM
Agreed, context is everything.  It's nice to hear about your experiences, but that doesn't mean you know about mine. You don't. You only see what I've chosen to type here.

That's correct. We do our best to here to provide kind advice and support based on what members share. My point was that, as you did the important picking and choosing from your group, you should remember not to judge people in an all-or-nothing way. Many of my most important friends are also friends for narrow purposes, or ones with whom I cannot discuss politics. I point that out because we see people accidentally over-prune their friendships, sometimes.

I'm sure you will do a great job re-engineering your interactions and I wish you good luck establishing the right boundaries with the right people, weeding out as you must.
Title: Re: Toxic Friendship group
Post by: Oscen on September 17, 2021, 12:09:44 PM
I wasn't looking for advice; that's why I didn't ask for it. I wasn't aware that that is what this forum is for; I thought it was for support. I dislike unasked for advice as I find it disrespectful. The advice the two of you have offered me has made incorrect assumptions about me.

I posted what I did hoping to learn about other people who've come Out of the FOG and woken up to drama triangles around them. To me, right now, this is a serious issue and I know it's really happening, although it's taken me a long time to be able to trust myself enough to acknowledge it to myself. While I do not believe I'm entitled to your validation, please don't give invalidating advice that I haven't asked for.
Title: Re: Toxic Friendship group
Post by: Penny Lane on September 17, 2021, 01:01:20 PM
Hi Oscen,
This is a peer to peer support group. Many times you're going to hear exactly what you need; other times another poster will say something in good faith that hits wrong for whatever reason.

In the second scenario I advise you to just move on. You certainly don't have to respond to a post that feels invalidating. But we discourage responding rudely to other members who are just trying to form a connection and share their own experience, even if they can't offer what you need right now.

As for your initial question ... coming ootf by learning about my husband's ex definitely clarified for me some toxic patterns in my own friend group as well as among professional acquaintances. I found that I didn't have the energy to deal with more toxic patterns, and I've slowly faded on people who remind me of the PDs in my life. It's freeing, but also sad in a way, it's like we can't unsee the dynamics and now have to let go of what we had, or what we thought we had. I found that removing these people from my life left me energy to spend on those whose company I enjoy more. I hope you end up having a similar silver lining in all this.
Title: Re: Toxic Friendship group
Post by: DistanceNotDefense on September 20, 2021, 07:09:26 PM
Hi Oscen - just want to chime in that I read your post and I can very much relate to the dynamics you are seeing play out in your friend group. I don't think you are crazy or off and I want to validate you, because I kind of see it all over the place too.

Especially what you said about many group members in your friend group being in denial of their feelings. This is common among both male and female friend groups I've been in/observed but it can come up in a surprisingly malicious way among fellow women, in my observation, sometimes no matter the context. I know exactly what you're talking about, and especially the gossiping. It seems like not a big deal but it can be a terrible weapon and very hurtful.

I know so many people, close and not close, who seem to be avoiding what they are feeling - and who find it easy to project it onto the one person in the friend group who is openly willing to feel things, and even talk about them behind their back because it helps one avoid feeling their own feelings or feel better about their own problems. It's avoiding vulnerability, when lots of folks like us here on the forum are very willing to be vulnerable as a rule.

I also had a friend with family problems (similar to mine) who could not confront them honestly or directly, so she projected them onto me and I had no choice but to get a little distance (feel free to check out my post here from months ago in this sub forum but no pressure). I didn't cut off the friendship and I still message her though, I just "de-prioritized" and that feels pretty safe and good to me.

I find so often that I need space from people and have a hard time being in a group dynamic because of the exact things you're talking about. I see too much, I feel too much. So that is how I cope. To be very introverted. And spend time with people in a calculatedly safe way. And there is nothing wrong with that. I think people who have not been so gravely hurt by NA or who don't have CPTSD can thrive a little more easily around this stuff and ignore it a lot easier.....it's a lot harder for us, because feeling unsafe is feeling unsafe. We can't always turn it off. We get exhausted and we need some sort of limit. And that is OK....it's a bit of an extra handicap to manage.

That said, I've had to make a HUGE effort to only distance myself and not cut off friendships....and sometimes with time and space, and limiting the type of time we spend together, I can still have pleasant connections with people who feel emotionally unsafe at times, but I definitely de-prioritize time with them for other people who make me feel more safe. To be honest, I find that when I still spend time with these folks but less frequently so that their drama can't seel into my life, it's almost like they're on their best behavior because they know they won't see me as often! But not always, and it becomes a superficial relationship and sometimes even an acquaintanceship.

Sadly, I also think that a vast majority of human relationships just function this way....it is just "in us" to look for some sort of supply, juicy gossip, advantage, energy, whatever, to distract us from our own pain. I don't think it means anyone who does that is always a narcissist (it's definitely narcissistic though), but I do think it's at the very least running away from your own feelings and making your feelings someone else's problem to clean up....not cool. Or, emotionally draining or exploiting others in social situations to feel better about ourselves.

TL;DR - I see you, I hear you, I totally get it!
Title: Re: Toxic Friendship group
Post by: D. on September 20, 2021, 09:22:17 PM
Hello Oscen,

I just wanted to commend you on noticing the dynamics with this group and taking steps to figure out what works best with you.  Your insights have really helped me to think more on my own friendships over the years and currently.  I too have spent time "pruning" and adjusting friendships.  I have never been very good at navigating groups much, but tend to have a lot of friends with whom I interact individually. 

Several years back I ended up cutting contact with literally all of my friends and family except my own kids, my work group and my faith group.  I did that for two years.  In part, it was also due to a crazy work schedule.  For me I felt like I was so confused as to what was normal I needed to "re-set".  I had never done this previously, staying loyal and connect with these people for many years.  I later reconnected with some of those friends.  I explained what happened, and they understood.  And I was then able to pay close attention, like you say, to how I felt after contact.  For me I found that several of the friendships were just draining, others I really appreciate in my life.  And there has definitely been a re-set with healthier boundaries on both sides of the friendship, I think.
In hindsight I wish that I had been healthy enough to simply pull back, check boundaries, etc.  But with c-ptsd that was just too stressful for me.  I preferred the "kindness of strangers".  Plus, I think it allowed me to get strong internally.  A lot of time to write, reflect, etc.  And to embrace a more introverted reality that is my character, and feel good about that reality.

I know my experience is not the same as yours but it just really struck a chord in me of understanding and working to figure out what friendships need to look like minus all these unpleasant characteristics and me employing healthy behaviors and boundaries myself.

Ultimately it has become so empowering to re-approach people with these new skills and boundaries and find an even better friendship with the people I want most in my life...