This morning my friend sent me a text that was so passive aggressive that Neville immediately announced
“Well fuck him, dismissive prick, we’re done here”.
And for the next hour or so, all I could feel was the cold finality of cutting off a really ace new friendship.
Over the weekend, I went down the coast to stay with a couple of awesome mates, and when they headed off Sunday morning, I went for a long walk along the stunning, windswept beaches of Victoria’s surf coast.
It was a beautiful sunny day, so after my friends headed off, I meditated on the sand before grabbing some food at the market and enjoying it on the grassy banks of Torquay beach.
It was so lovely I wanted to stay longer, but I’d made plans to catch up with another friend back in Melbourne, and I was looking forward to hanging out and having some company after spending most of the day alone. So I drove back up to Melbourne earlier than I wanted to.
When I got there, the friend I was meeting with became strangely non-committal in his texts about what he wanted to do for our catch up. He was making vague excuses, it was clear he wanted to bail but wouldn’t say it outright. I was disappointed, and also a bit baffled by all the vagueness.
So, like the emotionally mature person I am, I let Neville take the reins, and we just didn’t respond to his flakey messages.
Eventually he texted again and suggested we catch up on Wednesday instead when the weather was better.
I was frustrated that he hadn’t just been more upfront hours earlier, and I said so very directly.
“Sure, but next time just be more straight with me aight, none of this weird pickling around, I value directness. And also friends who don’t bail for a better offer.”
Only later did I realise that once again, under the frustration, I was actually just disappointed, and I could have made my point in a much less blunt way!
But, because my tendency (largely borne out of my avoidant-dismissive attachment style), is to ignore my disappointment, I cover it with frustration, blame the other person wholly, and thus avoid vulnerability.
My friend, who also shares the avoidant-dismissive attachment style just didn’t text back.
And then this morning, he texted me a passive aggressive message defending his reasons for bailing on me, with no apology, and then also told me that due to other commitments, he now also couldn’t make our rescheduled catch up on Wednesday either. He didn’t suggest an alternative catch up time.
Neville, being the optimist that he is, interpreted my friend’s message to mean
“Fuck you, I don’t give a shit about our friendship, I’m not in the wrong, how dare you call me out for bailing on you.
Just FYI, I care SO little about our friendship that I just forgot about our plans and that’s why I didn’t let you know sooner.”
Hence Neville’s reaction this morning to cut this friend out of our life.
Only a few hours later did I realise that once again, Neville’s cold, dismissive anger was concealing something deeper: I was hurt. And in reaction, I was trying to take control of the situation and cut the friendship off at the knees, which my friend also seemed to be doing at the same time.
This interaction was such a perfect example of something so miniscule being made into a molehill by the mind, and causing us all to treat other humans in a way that is unkind, judgmental, and in a way that severs connections, rather than strengthening them.
All humans, in my view, are seeking more human connection, more kindness, and less judgement, yet we all get caught in these horrible traps where we act like angry little children when we don’t get our way, or when we feel shame that we don’t want to admit to.
I felt disappointed, so I responded with bluntness. He (maybe unconsciously?!) felt shame, but responded with anger. Our connection was damaged, and all over two stupid texts where we interacted using our “child minds” instead of our “higher minds.”
Whether my friend and I can pull down our avoidant-dismissive walls again and reconnect remains to be seen.
I want to try to learn from this, and practice my vulnerability skills with him, since I know him to be a pretty self-aware and kind individual, but it is very difficult to be vulnerable with someone when they’re being cold with you.
But I’m not here to fuck spiders, as they say in Australia for some completely unknown reason.
So, I’m letting you know what I’m going to do, so you can reflect on similar instances in your life where you have an option of whether to respond to a friend or family member with your tantrummy-child mind, or with your wise mind.
Option 1 (Neville’s pick): A. Never text back and end the friendship passive aggressively.
B. Text back something passive aggressive to let him know he’s a dick, and end the friendship that way instead.
Option 2 (My wise guy’s pick): Text or call back my friend and say something like “Hey, I reckon we’re both communicating with our child minds, I was disappointed and hurt that you bailed on catching up because I was looking forward to seeing you. I should have been vulnerable and told you that, but instead I got frustrated, which in turn made you angry. Can we catch up to have a proper chat so we can move on?”
I realise that this level of vulnerability is very risky and with an avoidant-dismissive, and could easily go a few ways.
A. He is able to see my perspective and is open to meeting up to have a rational conversation so we can continue our friendship,
B. He tells me I’m making a big deal out of nothing, and pulls away even further, or
C. Just never responds again.
Vulnerability always involves risk, and as far as I can tell, it always feels hard, uncomfortable, and scary.
But as Brené keeps telling us, it’s the only pathway to true human connection and healing.
I know how to handle hurt, much as I hate it, so I’m willing to risk hurt for the ultimate goal of more human connection and better understanding of myself and of my friends.
If there’s an area of your life where you can see that you’re holding back or shutting down for fear of being hurt…
I hope you’ll leap with me, smack bang into the scary-ass lake of vulnerability.