I thought I had worked through being bullied, I did, until last week. I was bullied between the ages of 8 and 11. The low point: being thrown at with dog turds by several kids. One of them was my best friend. She was, she really was, in the periods that she didn’t bully me, which was most of the time. Being bullied by my best friend has rather screwed up my concept of friendship. It is over 30 years later, and I still find myself struggling with it.
Last week, a few very small incidents left me in a thousand pieces. All of a sudden, I was that small girl again, utterly confused, sad, and most of all very scared, bracing herself to be bullied again, to be humiliated, hurt and betrayed.
Let me be very clear on this, I have not been bullied last week by anyone, nor has anyone intentionally inflicted pain, but my brain registered the pattern that led to bullying when I was a child, which in turn caused me to unconsciously anticipate being betrayed and hurt. Sad thing I have discovered last week is that the girl that was bullied by her best friend is still scanning for a potential threat. With everything a friend does or does not do, she is looking for proof that that friend is in fact a bully. I know she is trying to protect me, but it isn’t very helpful. It makes me feel ackward around friends, unsure of whether I’m being a good friend or not, unsure of whether I am really their friend. That is not a good place to be.
For years now, I have tried to get this friendship thing, but somehow I feel I’m not any closer to understanding it. I now understand why, because for over 30 years, the underlying and unconscious premise has been that No one really wants to be my friend. I must be a bad friend. Why else would I be bullied? I can see the flaw in this and I can intellectually understand it, but I can’t feel it in my heart and my gut. There are too many aspects that I don’t understand, that confuse me, that cause pain. And I now know I am never going to get it at this level, so after some hard deliberations I have decided to throw friendship out of the window.
Let me explain what I mean by that. I am letting go of the concept of friendship. A concept is a neural pattern, which if you would write it out would look like a mind map. In the middle of a big piece of paper you write ‘friendship’. From that you draw a line and write something you associate with friendship and on and on and on. You can make it as big and elaborate as you want. This particular mind map would be an exploration that reveals how we feel and what we believe about friendship. In my map there are too many incompatible notions. They create unnecessary emotional turmoil and suffering, and I am done with that. I am letting go of my old beliefs about friendship. I am going to get a big eraser and wipe the whole slate clean.
In the past, I did the same thing with ‘God’, ‘parents’, ‘romantic relationship’, and some other subjects. It’s a scary process, and some subjects are scarier than others. Letting go of ‘friendship’ fits the top scary category. The process is scary because I leave behind what is known and start exploring the unknown and the unknowable. This doesn’t mean that I will say goodbye to my friends, but it will mean that I admit to not knowing what friendship is, or what it means to me. The mind doesn’t like to be sidetracked, so for some time to come it will slap me in the face with old beliefs to which I will persistently respond with a soft ‘I don’t know’. With every ‘I don’t know’ I utter I will erase part of my mind map. By erasing my mind map I create space for my heart to construct a new map, a heart map.
By erasing what I think I know about friendship, I allow myself to feel what is right for me, what feels right to me, to create a life that is truly mine, that is authentic and fresh, that is rooted in love. From the white space can emerge all that my heart knows to be true about friendship. What I have learned from my previous explorations into the unknown is that however scary it is to let go of that which is familiar, it is a million times more rewarding than sticking to it. In all cases the outcome has been a better relationship, not only with that which I used to call God, my parents, and the man I love, but most of all with me. I have learned that miracles happen when we stop looking outside of ourselves for answers and start looking inside. We know what is best for us. The scary part is that the outcome may very well be very different than we anticipated. In this process, friends may discover that their map of friendship does not connect to my new map. And I guess the same holds true for me. I really don’t want that to happen, but it may. On the other hand, what is equally possible is that as I feel less ackward and more free to connect with friends, they will feel more free to connect with me and our friendship will strengthen. I really want that to happen, but it may not. All I know for sure is that this is my life, my one life, and I need to make the choices that are best for me. And so do you.