Being social is too much work.

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I never have any fun. Never go anywhere or hang out with anyone. I used to have friends over to hang out but its so much work to entertain company. I just don’t feel like all the work that goes into it is worth one night of being social. I have to spend at least two days cleaning and preparing the house. Getting ahead on my to do list so that I have the free time. Stocking the pantry, organizing entertainment or things to do, making myself presentable, making my home presentable. Then stay up really late with my guest and get up really early the next day with my kids. I am a single mother with two kids, no sitter or family to help, ever. When my kids are at school imp going to school myself, online, or taking care of house or errands or finances or work. I am also against bringing random people into and out of my kid’s lives, which is why I only have company after they are in bed. I struggle to keep myself from folding under the stress of my day to day and adding more into that just seems ridiculous not to mention hosting really isn’t that fun. I have no time to do anything I enjoy and honestly it’s been so long that I don’t even know what I like to do anymore. I make sure the kids have fun whenever I can and try to be satisfied with their enjoyment but after several months of stress, isolation, routine, and boredom I tend to get pretty grumpy. I have tried to socialize with other mothers/parents but most of them my age are self-absorbed and don’t seem to actually take care of their kids, and the older ones that do I have trouble relating to or convincing imp a responsible adult because I don’t fit into their idea of what a family should be or what normal is. What do I do?

A: Give up.

This was the best advice I’ve ever received from anyone, and I am passing it on. It came from my clinical supervisor, a very wise man. I was moaning and groaning about how difficult my life was. I was running an extremely challenging experimental group home for people with intellectual disabilities, trying to write my dissertation, and coping with personal turmoil. I was bereft with to-do lists coming out of the yin-yang and my friends couldn’t relate. I had just gotten divorced, and was overworked, underpaid, stressed, and not having fun. My writing and research schedule kept me from having joy in my life. I was behind in my bills, and finally decided the only thing to do was to tell him I couldn’t go on with my dissertation, that I should drop out of school, forget about psychology and try to reclaim my love live, my social life, and my scantily held grip on reality. He very calmly and assuredly put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye and told me: “Give up.”

I was incredulous. The conversation went something like this:

Give up.

What?

I recommend you give up.

Give up?

Yes, of course. Nothing is working out how you planned, your personal life is chaotic, you’re overwhelmed with responsibilities, and have no idea what is going to happen, yes?

That’s true.

So give up.

What about my dissertation?

Let it go. What do you need that for? All it is going to do is prepare you for a career with disturbed people, more headaches, disappointments and obstacles. I say let it go.

Just like that?

Just like that.

Just give up?

Just give up.

Just give up and do nothing?

Maybe get a hotdog pushcart in the city. Sell hotdogs on the street. It is a good living, you are your own boss, and you are independent. I see you as a hotdog vendor.

You think I should sell hotdogs?

Yes, the good ones. Of course you will have to get a permit to have a business, a pushcart business, from the city. And insurance, for when someone sues you because the hotdogs were not cooked well enough. And you will need to display a certificate of approval from the board of health inspection. They are picky and difficult, but you can deal with them. And, people will criticize you and your good hotdogs. And hoodlums will steal your fine food, and try to rob you at night when you come home with cash. You will be frightened about walking home, but you can hire bodyguards. And be sure to get up early so no one steals your good spot on the street. Are you a good fistfighter?

The point (yes, I do have one) is that anything you do requires balance and focus. Your situation needs both. The first thing I would do is begin meditating. I know this suggestion sounds lame because I am asking you to do nothing. But the truth is practicing mindfulness meditation begins to align you with yourself, which eventually aligns you with your surroundings. Here is a link to get you started. It was the very first thing I did after our meeting and it has been immeasurably helpful.

Secondly, keep socializing with your friends and hosting them, but set some limits. Ask them to bring something over, make it a potluck connection so you don’t feel the burden of all the food preparation and let them know ahead of time that you have an early day and will have to call it quits at a certain time. Don’t stop everything. Tailor it to meet your needs. You will be surprised at how easy and enjoyable it can be to ask your friends to be there with you in the way you need them to be. If you don’t make the request, they don’t know.

I would also reclaim yourself. Be sure to leave time each day—a half-hour or so, just to decompress. Giving yourself time to figure out what you like to do, or just to enjoy some peace has tremendous value.

Finally I would encourage you to develop your positive thinking. Here is a link to a series of articles designed to build a more positive approach to your day-to-day activities. Each of the methods described has been determined to be effective. I hope you will take advantage of them, particularly the ones on gratitude, signature strengths and blessings. The more centered and positive you become, the easier it is to meet people and find solutions that allow joy back into your life.

If you are not in therapy I think connecting with someone who can help you find a balance is an excellent use of your time. You can find someone in your area by clicking on the find help tab above.

What my wise advisor helped me realize was that I had to give up my attitude and the way I was doing things.

He was right.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Jul 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Being social is too much work.. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 2, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/07/13/being-social-is-too-much-work/