Q Growing up I was always a loner at school. My mum drank heavily and I now realise that she took drugs too. My dad was a long distance lorry driver who was away a lot.
When he was at home they argued and I kept out of the way. I was so embarrassed and ashamed at the state of our house which was always smelly and very messy. I wouldn’t have wanted to invite any friends round to play, even if I’d been allowed to. My mum would have made a show of herself anyway and then everyone would know what my so called family was like. She kept me away from people so that I could be there for her to listen to her moaning about my dad, or to clean her up when she’d been sick, or to do the shopping or washing.
The trouble is I’m still a loner. I’ve never had any close friends and I feel jealous when I see people who have. I don’t know how to make friends now, even though my mum and dad are both dead. I live alone in a one-bed flat, and work in a call centre. I wish I could have some friends to share things with. Everyone else seems to have lots of friends. How do I make friends now I’m in my early forties?
A I can really sense your deep loneliness and sadness, and the overwhelming shame your mother inflicted upon you.
She was a toxic parent because of her emotional neglect of your needs – and the affects upon your social development.
You’ve had to sacrifice your childhood to meet her needs – because she didn’t take care of them for herself.
You can still make friends. Many people of your age have, for various reasons, lost the friends they made at school, college or university. Many have also lost the friends they made in their twenties and thirties. They probably all have room for one new friend.
As we get older and we know ourselves better we tend to become clearer about the type of people we want to be around, and the friendships we want in our lives.
Have a think about what your potential new friend will be like (start with one and scale up from there).
Where will they go to socialise? What might their interests be? Where do they shop? What type of books do they read (to buy, or borrow from a library)? Go to those places.
You could also join local groups and see who else goes along, and whether they might be potential friends.
Start with a smile and ask non-intrusive questions to show your interest in who they are. Hopefully they will reciprocate. If they don’t, or they only want to offload their negativity (gossip/envy/criticism about other people), or worse still to hook you into another toxic relationship dynamic…then walk away – quickly!
By far the most important friendship you can develop is the one with yourself. Treat yourself (or rather the lonely little girl who still lives inside you) with empathy and respect, compassion and kindness. Be like your own ‘inner mother’ and give yourself now, what was missing back then. Give yourself some play time!
No child should have to feel restricted by shame – but sadly too many are.
Shame makes us feel bad at our core… and yet, you were never bad. Your mother’s behaviour towards you was bad. I guess she didn’t know, or want to know, any better.
Please don’t let that lack of parental care and love haunt you any longer. Imagine adopting your inner child and making her a promise to have fun every day. To do things that lift your heart and soul.
The difference in energy that you’ll then give out will attract similar people and energy to you (assuming you remain open to this, and create the opportunities to meet them!)
If you need any help understanding the effects of your parent(s) behaviour upon your character and personality then there’s a page of free resources on my website.
Remember…there is nothing wrong with you…you are just the product of toxic parents. You can heal and transcend those early wounds and conditioning…one step at a time.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)
www.maxineharley.com – where you’ll find a page of FREE RESOURCES which may be of interest to you to understand and escape from your core childhood feelings which still have a hold over you.