November 2, 2017 (Thursday)

by Yule Heibel on November 1, 2018

I was thinking about how awkward all of my social exchanges have become in the wake of the 2016 election and subsequent politics, and it occurred to me that I keep castigating myself for running away from (and cutting off) “friendships,” but that it’s actually also a case of me avoiding the possibility that “friends” will run away from me for having viewpoints different from theirs.

In other words, my self-flagellation over “ghosting” or abandoning friends is actually also a fear of being abandoned myself. So, instead of facing the possibility of being abandoned, I prefer to abandon. A kind of “act first” principle.

This is interesting: this idea that I would do something (for which I criticize myself) to avoid having it done to me.

It’s kind of banal, I guess, but I really never put it together quite this way.

If my behavior pattern stems from fear of abandonment, then it’s very clearly something that originated in my childhood. I was raised in a household where my father’s opinions ruled; divergence from them didn’t exactly merit instant death or anything, but it wasn’t something to take lightly. It was difficult to argue or have debates with him, and I well remember how I finally, at age twelve, I stood up to him and argued back. Fact. I was also initially (till the age of seven or eight) raised in a household where the maternal role was variously fulfilled by some of my older sisters, who in turn “abandoned” me bit by bit as they grew up and left home; and then we abandoned them by emigrating to Canada. Fact. My mother, who stayed, was in turn often lost to me, sunk in depressions where she couldn’t be reached. Fact.

Let’s say you stop corresponding with a person with whom you used to correspond. What happens when you realize you in fact no longer “correspond”? What are you supposed to do? Do you confront this? Granted, there’s this idea of the “friend family,” and “elective affinities,” too. The Wahlverwandschaft, a word that implies family (Verwandschaft), but begins with the word “choice” (Wahl, elective). But family: such dangerous territory. I can confront a man any day. Less so a woman. I can’t bear the play on woundedness; I don’t want to apologize for (allegedly) wounding the other, or end up apologizing for my own deep woundedness when the confronted woman turns the tables on me. (Hi, mom!)

It also means not wanting to appear weak, which perhaps means internalizing weakness while projecting strength. Birth order made me over-identify with weakness: my smallness and status as youngest, tutored but also “abandoned” by older, nest-leaving sisters. Always the youngest also because of skipping a grade or two; the asynchronous development of the intelligent child being both a blessing and …well, not so much blessing sometimes – but a blessing, overall. So, I’m lucky. I’ve always considered myself lucky, and have marveled, even with gratitude, at the seeming existence of my luck, my guardian angel. Lucky, but weak? Is that a thing?

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