Having difficulty making friends is a painful truth not often talked about by adults. For those of us impacted by childhood abuse and neglect, mistrust of others — whether or not we’re aware of it — can be a big problem. It wasn’t until I was well into my forties that I learned I’d been dissociating around people. Because I’d been that way for most if not all of my life, I wasn’t aware of it; it’s just how I was. The problem was that I was keeping people away from me, by not connecting with them. Once I became aware of my dissociation, and with some expert therapy, I began slowly to be able to be more present and grounded with people. I’m still working on this but have gotten better over time and continue to improve, a lot.
Mistrust of others also can manifest in other ways, besides dissociation, that can make it hard to make friends. For example, it took me a while to realize that I had a tendency to brag about my accomplishments as a way to try to “make” people like me. I also used to try to look the “best” or be the “best” in work or school-related contexts. Not exactly a good friend-making strategy. Also, my anxiety meant that I used to interrupt people while they were talking; I thought I had really good points to make that they just had to hear (and then they would like me…). In the more distant past, I used alcohol to try to numb my nerves around people to the point where I sometimes got sick at parties instead of making new friends….. And, in a larger sense, being triggered by people and not trusting them — or myself in social situations — has led to a lot of deliberate self-isolation.
….But some of that solitude has given me time and space to be grounded and do some healing…..
I came across a blog post recently, about making friends, that I wanted to share here. It’s written by Leo Babauta, author of a hugely successful blog about mindfulness and forming beneficial habits, called “Zen Habits”. While not focused on ptsd or dissociation, Babauta’s post made an impression on me because he owns up to sometimes being shy and awkward and self-conscious in social situations. This is a refreshing disclosure from a pubic figure.
He lists ten things that he’s found important to keep in mind, if you want to make friends:
- be positive, not negative
- be interested and a good listener
- be excited about life, have energy
- do interesting things
- tell good stories
- put yourself out there, be willing to try things
- be calm, not overly dramatic
- be authentic, don’t try to show off
- be happy with yourself and confident
The link to his complete post is here.
Yours in getting better every day,