For 15 years as a psychotherapist, I was paid handsomely for providing my observations about my patients’ behavior, thinking, reasoning, communication and relational styles. Subsequently, I helped them to successfully navigate each toward a more adaptable, functional way of living. Because they were patients, I gently operated under an assumption that their willingness to follow my lead was implicit…. After all, they sought me, not vice versa.
When they were less willing, my road included a brief detour into deliberate discussions which helped them to ask me for what I was hired to provide. Success usually followed and at the end of treatment, they were empowered, believing they were, for the most part, their own guide out of the dark and into the light. That exact point made my work a joy.
Since, encountering acquaintances, friends and people I loved, I could not be their therapists and, indeed, was not. I have sifted clinical impressions of each through an undetectable, internal mental health sieve and kept and continued only with those who had best friendship potential. Neither they nor my process was ever perfect but, with the exception friends acquired during my drug days (which are two years in the past tomorrow,) it has saved me much heartache and effort trying to fix anyone who hasn’t asked for it.
It was fair to me and it was fair to them.
It seemed to work.
My present struggle is with the exceptions–the ones who slipped through and continue in my life–to whom I cannot and will not offer unsolicited yet well-meaning suggestion and opinion but who, also, have maintained a presence nonetheless. My social circle is the smallest it has ever been for this extrovert and the prospect of discontinuing even one relationship I’ve allowed in, would represent a significant percentage loss from the whole.
But as I get older, being accepted is less important. The quantity of people in my life is far less important than the quality of the people I allow to remain.
Still, it’s the hardest thing, to say good bye through my absence and lack of perseverance in a relationship I once counted as a keeper.
However, it’s often those things most necessary for our survival that are the most difficult to effect. The abandonment makes one just that much closer to loneliness.