Friends: Don’t Have Any, Don’t Want Any

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have been rejected by peers from as early as junior kindergarten. It was not so much bullying as rejection (i.e: I had only 1 friend up until gr.7 or 8, & mostly just got shunned or talked about behind my back). It’s been a continuing trend in my life, but I am just wondering if it is a normal reaction to not care (aside from feeling angry when I think about my past).

Specifically, what I mean is that I do not really care to have meaningful social interactions with other people. I view it as a hassle. Being friends with someone just means you have to deal with all the related complexities of the relationship. From my point of view, relationships simply complicate life. I don’t really see the point. People just aren’t worth the time. When I do make a friend, I tend to sort of drift away after a while. For instance, it would be weird having the same friend for more than a couple of years. I start resenting having them.

Yet, it seems that most people who don’t have friends DO want friends…and it causes them emotional pain/discontent etc that they don’t have friends. But I’m the opposite, I don’t care to have friends. I think that it’s a defence mechanism I built up. Do you think that it’s possible that it is a numbness to the social rejection I experienced as a child? If not, any general ideas as to what else could be triggering it (and is it normal to feel the way I do)? And is it even possible to shake oneself out of this kind of apathy? I have next to no motivation to do so. Also, is it really that detrimental to not want to bother with people on a personal level? I’m fine with casual aquaintances, like the people I work with. But I don’t really want anything more than that. And I’m also an introvert by nature.

I know I’ve asked a lot of questions, but I’d appreciate any insight.

Thanks

A: Thank you for writing. It’s certainly possible that you are right that you built a defense mechanism in response to early rejection. There’s an old expression: “You can’t fire me. I quit.” It’s possible that you protected yourself from rejection by deciding that you didn’t care about acceptance. This isn’t to say that you consciously made up your mind to give up on people. Little kids don’t function that way. But they do learn to stay away from what hurts them. What makes me very, very sad in your story is that no adult recognized the problem or protected or helped you. No little kid should be subjected to that kind of cruelty. No little kid should be left to figure it out on their own.

No. It’s not “normal” to be a complete social isolate. People tend to be pack animals. They need others around them to survive and thrive. It’s not necessary to have a huge circle of friends to be okay. Some people are fine with only a couple of close, intimate friends. Introverts are as okay as extroverts. I would just hate to have you go through life without the support, warmth, and mutual trust of real friendships. Yes, you really would be missing something.

You say you have next to no motivation to change. You didn’t say you have none. I suggest you use whatever little motivation you have to explore your feelings about this issue in the safety and acceptance that therapy can offer. A therapist won’t try to talk you into being different. But he or she will help you take a new look at your early experience as well as your present life. Together you’ll decide if you have some goals around relating people that you want to work on.

You didn’t get the help you needed as a child. Your adult self can make sure you get some support and guidance now. I hope you will give yourself that opportunity.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Jun 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). Friends: Don’t Have Any, Don’t Want Any. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/06/03/friends-dont-have-any-dont-want-any/