Sunday, 16 October 2016

Reactions and Responses

I came to a realization several months ago.
It was something I had never really considered or thought about and I am embarrassed for how un-different I had assumed people were.

Years ago, I was visiting one of my close friends whom I had not seen in months. I was going over to her house, where we were going to buy a bottle of wine, watch 90's movies and eat pizza. I always had fun with this girl. I still do. Despite the long periods of time we go without seeing each other, I still consider her one of my best friends.

Anywho, I was looking forward to seeing her. So I went over to her house as normal. Her family was home. We were putting warm clothes on to prepare ourselves for the short but cold walk to the bottle shop where my legal friend was going to buy us a bottle of wine. As we were leaving, we heard crying from down her hallway. We poked our heads out from her bedroom door, finding her sister kneeling on the carpet floor of their parents bedroom while their parent's tried to calm her down.
I stayed put, confused as hell, while my friend checked to see what was going on.
The crying got worse, louder and more hysterical, now coming from both of the girls.

My friend ran outside, and I followed. She cried for what seemed like ages on the driveway, un-moving from the fatal position while I tried to calm her down. Her mother had just told them that she was diagnosed with cancer. I cried a little too.

Never in my life have I ever been in this position before. I wanted to tell my friend that everything was going to be okay. But I couldn't promise that. And I hate it when people tell me lies in order to try and calm me down because what the hell do they know?
So while she cried, not being to believe the situation and sobbing how bad it is, all I could do was agree. "This sucks", I cried with her. I just reminded her of what she already knew.

We spent the rest of the night eating pizza and watching movies in silence. All I could do was be there.

But the sad thing is, and I am not proud, I did not see this friend for six months after. Her life had gone to shit. I couldn't imagine how I would feel if I was under the same circumstances and I didn't know how to make it better, or how to be there for her. I was scared, and my response to her reaction didn't help her. So I just didn't.
I eventually apologized to her and she forgave me without hesitation (bless her soul).

But I realize now, I was trying to help her by doing what I would want someone to do to me.
When people go through hard times in their lives, everyone has a different way of coping; and everyone needs a certain response from people. I never realized this; which explains why people often became quite hostile towards me when all I did was try to help, in my own way.

There is probably at least a dozen kinds of 'responses to a reaction' I'm going to call it, but I can only think of four:

1. Tell the person that 'everything is going to be okay'. This is probably my least favourite way I would like someone to respond to me when I am feeling down. But this is also exactly what some people need.
When things are going south for some people, they are often so hard and negative on themselves, that they need someone to be that little ray of light; a 'hope', you might say.

2. Space. Some people need to be alone. They need to deal with it by themselves and may just want space from other people. Perhaps they will discuss it after the climax of the situation has passed.

3. Tough love. Although this is not the particular response I most frequently want in hard situations, at times it is the one I need.
When hard times struck and people get upset, particularly if the situation is fixable and the turning of events relies solely on the person, this is the common response needed.
However, some people, whatever the situation, still prefer a "get over it" attitude from those close to them. And wallah, they brush it off, fix it (if fixable) and move on. There are worse things in the world right?

4. The fourth response that I can come up with, and the one I personally need myself, is kind of like receiving sympathy. When I am going through a hard time or when something bad has happened/ing, I need someone to agree; to empathize with me and say, "yeah man, that sucks".
I was discussing this with my mum who summarized this into much better words: I need clarification to my feelings.

And it's true. My feelings are often all over the place, that I need someone to tell me that its okay to feel how I am feeling.
I will talk about it, discuss how I feel and most likely cry, and even just releasing my emotions and having understanding from someone makes me feel better.

So, people are different. I knew this. But I didn't consider how I should act towards their bad times in order to make the situation better.
I have been trying to figure out my friends and trying to understand which one best suits them, but I realized it's a shit-load easier to just ask them.
So that's what I have been doing. So that in their hard times, I can be the friend they need.

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