A few months back, I found myself waxing lyrical about people who are broken my way. Lately I’ve noticed how very specific my ‘requirements’ can be. Although I can hang out with pretty much anyone without noticeable adverse effects, the people I get on with most easily share one or more of the following:
- They have narcissistic or otherwise inadequate parents;
- They have gone through periods of poverty;
- They have done physical or physically quantifiable labour;
- They have at some point been solely responsible for their own welfare and safety.
In many cases they have also had experience of dangerous/violent situations, but that seems to be the result of the previous four points rather than a factor in its own right.
One of the reason I am comfortable hanging out with them is that I don’t have to constantly explain the reasoning behind my points of view. We share a bunch of core elements, including how we go about decision making, risk taking, and goal measurement. That makes our interactions infinitely less laborious than they can otherwise be. It is incredibly draining to have to constantly try to explain yourself to people who may or may not be able to understand where you’re coming from. For instance, talking about poverty or shitty parenting with someone who has never experienced them can be a bit like dancing about architecture; it’s a lot of effort and often nothing much gets through.
Hanging out with people with a similar background can feel very supportive. Unfortunately, sometimes we can’t support each other at all, for the simple reason that our common backgrounds also give us common blind spots. In particular, we can have warped views of:
- What our expectations can reasonably be;
- The likely results of successes and failures (often both tragic);
- The likely results of conflicts;
- Our rights and roles within relationships, in particular close relationships.
What it all boils down to is that if you look at us individually, it’s as if we’ve got a mysterious propensity to randomly walk into walls. We’re relatively intelligent people who repeatedly make the most enormous blunders for no apparent reason. When you look at us as a community, you start to see definite patterns. We collectively tend to mess up in a fairly consistent manner, and often around the same issues.
That’s the problem: my very favourite people, the people I’m most comfortable going to with my problems, may not be able to help me with them for the simple reason that they share them. They might understand them perfectly, they may be able to commiserate with me, and they might make me feel better about having problems in the first place. However, that doesn’t mean that they can help me come up with solutions; if they had the solution, they wouldn’t share the problem… They’d have solved it and moved on.