I’m rather risk-averse. So are many, possibly most people. Essentially, this means most of your motivation, and most of the things you do are to prevent something worse from happening, and preserve the status quo if you’re reasonably happy with it.
Why do people choose to work 40 hour weeks in a job that they often find annoying, doing things they’d rather not do? So that they won’t become homeless, be unable to pay bills, have nothing to eat. That’s the most simple and basic example.
Think about it. Why eat at regular intervals? To avoid the pain of hunger. Why take care of your appearance and personal hygiene? Because you have enough self-respect not to want to be dirty and unkempt. Why clean the house and keep your stuff in order? Because it’s unpleasant to have a dirty and untidy house. Why go shopping? Because you need to eat to avoid hunger. Etc etc etc. Do I need to go on?
For most of our days pretty much all of us will be chasing the alleviation of some kind of pain, deprivation or suffering. Even reading, using the Internet, watching movies or documentaries, listening to music and other entertainments provides escape. Escape from reality, from the tedious grind of existence, from our often unpleasant thoughts or emotion, as catharsis for our worst fears, well there are probably quite a few motivations I haven’t listed, but the basic principle remains. Simply existing is never enough. If we didn’t do all these things it would frankly suck.
What on earth you might be wondering does this have to do with friendship?
We’re often told we’re social beings. Up to a point that is true. We tend to interdepend a fair bit. I need Sainsbury’s to exist and also the internet so I can buy my groceries in the comfort of my home. Very few of us would choose to go ‘into the wild’. In that film, the guy ends up dying. I didn’t watch it all. I’ve no interest whatever in gardening let alone growing all my own food, have never learned extreme survival skills and have no interest in doing so.
I much appreciate the work of all these other people that enables me to live comfortably in my castle. But socialising? Do we really need that? What purpose does it serve? And do we actually need friends?
Once upon a time, not even too long ago, I would have answered in the affirmative. We need close friends to confide in and whatnot. But how close is close? Does it mean they can call you all hours of the day and night to ‘confide’ some drama they are currently going through in their lives? If so, I’m firmly out. I’m not going to ‘be there’ in that way for anyone but my mother and my son.
Have I ever had close friends? In the past I’ve agonised over this long and hard. I’ve mentally totted up the number of the people I could call ‘friends’, but how close were they really? What is required of me to qualify in their mind as a close friend or even a ‘best friend’?
Honestly I can say I have never, even as a child, had a best friend. It didn’t bother me then and it doesn’t bother me now. I’m just not the type to keep childhood friends close for years into adulthood, to bond in that way. I’m not at all sure I see the appeal. Do I even crave love, let alone friendship? Maybe once in the past. Not any more.
My intimate relationships have been a veritable catalogue of infatuation/’falling in love’ (driven by hormones and the genetic need to reproduce), a brief honeymoon period followed by a slow decline into boredom, suffocation, feeling abandoned and existing, sometimes for years, on occasional crumbs of love and affection from these people. Sometimes I became somewhat obsessed. Often I would place them on a pedestal only to knock them right off it and devalue them. Often they would do the same to me. The best I can say is that it gave me a focus. Clearly I experienced some kind of inner void/emptiness that only intimacy with another could fill.
So yet again even the pursuit of love and friendship was essentially risk-aversion. Can we factor in at this point that when things go badly wrong in our lives, say we have a bad accident or become mentally or physically ill, who is gonna comfort us, nurse us, bring us drinks or food and drive us to the hospital?
Those are real needs. That is the most compelling argument, for me, about the need for friends and partners. Yet again, this is risk aversion at play. We fear being even worse off than we are already. We fear being alone, outcasted, abandoned, and we rightly fear what would happen in the event of an emergency such as I outlined above.
Now? This may seem harsh but people to me are largely little more than another distraction, a kind of real-life entertainment. And honestly what am I to them? Often a source of money, sometimes a source of sexual gratification, and yes, I’m clearly being used for what I can supply them with. They often don’t know anything about my inner depths, I could never communicate those to anyone fully anyway. We simply use each other as means to an end and it’s all about us.
I might add at this point that it is yet again risk-aversion that is causing me nowadays to become semi-reclusive. I LOVE my home, and live with someone currently who is neither a close friend nor intimate partner. But I love having the house to myself and it works pretty well because he works long shifts and doesn’t return to the house until I am in bed asleep.
I love my own company. I am solitary by nature. I love peace and quiet. Social gatherings of any kind make me want to run for the hills. Even meeting up with friends for a tea or coffee in a local cafe was something that, somewhere deep down, I dreaded and was anxious about. Yet I had no problems drinking a tea or coffee all by myself. I preferred to go to the movies alone because if I went with someone I would be worried and anxious as to whether they were having a good time. I would also have to endure their banal comments afterward about the film, whereas if I went alone I could emerge from the cinema in a pleasant haze after having been immersed in someone else’s reality for a couple hours, and process the experience inwardly by myself.
It’s too complex to say I CAN’T be social. I am actually very socially adept, provided I’m not in severe depression. But generally I prefer my dose of ‘people’ to be in some kind of strictly boundaried setting. Such as a support group, or individual psychotherapy/counselling. I tend to become friendly with my support workers. This is precisely because I KNOW they will never expect me to be friends with them. They are never gonna call me at 3am, or need me to take them shopping or drive them to the hospital.
I’ve always been this way. Only now though does it feel perfectly OK. Heck, as the saying goes, why buy a cow because you need a drink of milk now and again? (Or vegan equivalent). The only time I feel needy for company is in severe depression (or mania, but that’s another story). Not because I actively expect any pleasure from being around people, but simply because I cannot tolerate my own thoughts. Once again, people are a distraction, a reassurance that I’m still human, and my own company, usually so much treasured, has become a nightmare. Risk-aversion once again, folks. I go out because I know full well if I stay in I will feel worse. Simple as.
But my best times have always been solitary ones. My usual instinct is to flee from social interaction. Prolonged socialising has me only anticipating one thing. Escaping back to the safety of solitude.
The online friends I have I am hard pressed to keep up contact with. It’s good to know they are there though, and they are great people who I would have been unlikely to meet in the lottery that is finding friends in your local area or on dating websites. Some of them are as solitary as I or more so. They have rich inner lives. And best of all…they’re at a distance. When I’m down their words of comfort are very soothing and validating. They reassure me that I’m worth something no matter how bad I feel.
That’s all folks.