How To Think

THE SITUATION

Around a year ago, I got in an argument with Mary (not her real name). Both Mary and I were extremely passionate about our side of the argument and, to be quite honest, it went too far. Her last comments on it were that she was “pissed”, and I found no way of resolving it, even after apologizing. Mary and I are in a group of friends that meets regularly, and every time we’ve met since then, she seems distant. She is certainly more distant than she was before. I’ve not talked with her much outside of these regular gatherings, and I’m a bit afraid to call, because I don’t wish to bother her until I know that we can resolve the issue. I met with these very friends recently and after we had a brief dispute about my supposed hatred of a group of people, I wanted to set the record straight and tell her that I came to love that group of people, largely through her sharing her love of them with me. I didn’t want to make a scene so I texted her that deep thought. I think I heard her scoff at it when she read it, and she did not reply. After this, I sort of gave up. I’d been trying unsuccessfully to be her friend for over a year. I missed the friendship, but apparently, it’s been over and I just need to accept that obvious fact. I decided I would get in touch with my other friends of that group and figure out a way to see them outside of our gatherings. I did not wish to make of scene of things, but I couldn’t bear to keep sitting around while someone in the same room is so angry with me over something that happened so long ago. She had ended other friendships before, and apparently, it was my turn.

A SURPRISE

I set to calling the different friends in that group to quietly make my decision to not come back but to keep in touch with everyone but Mary. First, I called my friend, Greg (another fake name). Greg was rather surprised. He had not ever noticed any hostility from Mary to me at all. He recalled the argument that I thought started it, but didn’t notice anything change after that. Now, I know I can have some thought disturbances, so this intrigued me. What was really going on here? Was Greg just oblivious, or was I imagining things? Long story short, I called almost everyone else in the group and not a soul had noticed Mary’s hostility. This led to a reanalysis.

WHAT IS PARANOIA?

I, at times, suffer from paranoia. Now people can get the wrong idea about paranoia. When we hear that word, we think of those who think the mafia is after them, or that there are giant conspiracies to take over the world. Paranoid monarchs or dictators often execute many of their loyal supporters out of fear. But paranoia isn’t always so extreme. I once met a man that paranoid, but even that man wasn’t always so. I met him years later and he was more inappropriate than paranoid.

There is a type of paranoia called “Fear of abandonment”. I learned about it when I was misdiagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. The idea is that instead of thinking that everyone is out to get you, you irrationally fear that people don’t care. I used to think my own parents didn’t care about me at all, which is a particularly shocking fact to those who know them. I don’t tend to think people are out to get me. The worst I tend to think is that they are angry with little to no cause. I frequently fail to realize how much people care. I feel that I have so few friends when the reality is I have many friends. When I got baptized into the church, my tiny little church was packed, partially because i had so many friends there. These aren’t just friends, by the way. They were mostly people who thought I was entering into heresy. They came anyway, because they loved me more than they were bothered by my moving to a different church.

HOW TO RECOVER

There isn’t really a magical way to never be paranoid again. For me, antipsychotics and mood stabilizers help, but they aren’t the whole story. No medication, no matter how helpful, can do all the work for you. But I have a trick. I remind myself that I tend to paranoia. I do fact checking. Sometimes, it can be very hard to check facts when my brain doesn’t process logically. That fact is especially annoying when I rely on my mind so much. I have surrounded myself with competent, clear minded people. Those people whose advice I asked are observant and honest. They’d have told me if Mary was furious with me. I have other supporters whom I frequently call to see things as they really are and to check my emotions. This is quite humbling, of course. It would be nice if I didn’t have to rely on others to do my very own thinking.

No one who has watched Mary and me interact in the last year has gotten the impression that she is angry. I defer to this. I now know that my friendship with her isn’t over like I thought it was. I’ve assumed friendships ended oftentimes when they hadn’t. I actually accidentally ended friendships in the past by declaring them over. I had thought I was stating an obvious fact over which I had no control. In those cases, my friends took it as though I were telling them that I ended things right then and there.

I have others’ wisdom as my strength. Knowing, as I do now, that Mary is not likely furious with me, I can look at the situation with new eyes. I have the power to change my thinking. Sometimes, the most powerful thing we can do is to simply think positive thoughts over and over and over again, mentally shouting over all the negativity. I was once so good at that that I could say nice things right over a miserable thought before it even happened.

THE TRUTH

Around a year ago, I got in a horrible argument with my friend, Mary. We were both emotionally involved with our side of the dispute, and the argument went too far, hurting both of us. I lived in fear that Mary would be angry with me forever, but the truth is, she is a better woman than that. I stopped calling her to talk or visit outside of our gatherings with our friends. She didn’t call me, but then again, she never did. I am always more likely to call a friend than the other way around, and that has trained my friends that they don’t need to call me, as I will call them eventually. They look forward to these calls, though. Mary can be blunt and distant, but she’s always been that way. It’s probably one of the reasons we made such good friends.

I decided to call Mary and just confess to her that I was afraid she was so angry with me all this time. I’ll mention I thought it was because I had been so mean to her that one day over a year ago. It should be a good way for us to talk about it and if she is still bothered by that, we can make peace. I had been afraid of her, but she’s my friend, and that probably hasn’t changed.

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