Hi, Papa Bear,
I'm glad to hear you're doing well, and also glad to hear you're getting a chance to visit relatives.
Well, about what I wanted to ask... As you might guess from the length of this email, it might be a much simpler question, but I provided quite a bit of context so maybe you can help me identify a pattern here. Some of it does get explicit and heavy, so I would suggest reading this at a time when you're sure you won't get too phased, when and if you do.
How do you stop yourself from wanting to be a hero of a rescuer to your friends, before it only gets overbearing for them? And in the case of the second story I share with you, how can one really forgive oneself for not having done what was best to do?
It seems as though as if attempting to have a hero, rescuer or guru complex has been doing nothing but harm, in the sense that I've been getting results that were the polar opposite of what I was expecting, and in several occasions it has been precisely because I didn't stop to listen to people or to think about the situation that they were in before I made my own assessment of what I thought I should say to them.
Almost a month ago, a friend that I had been out of touch with since 2017, and that I had been trying to get back in touch with since 2019, added me on Discord and we were going to catch up; however, when I asked her how things were going when she last messaged me, came the subject of her marriage, which had went far from well. As a matter of fact, she was divorced and she didn't want to talk about it, but I kept asking. As she finally began to open up, it was clear she had been in a physically abusive relationship. I feel bad admitting to this now, but I've always had this firm belief that if someone gets into an abusive relationship, it's partly their own responsibility, because they're indirectly looking to have someone else take control of their lives--because they don't have faith in themselves, or whatever may be the case, but I believe it's a subconscious choice that stems out of poor self esteem, since abusers don't abuse people who are assertive, but people who are weak.
Anyway, as she told me more about her story, I didn't give her any signs that I was actually listening. As a matter of fact, I kept on trying to find comparisons between the kind of abuse she lived and the kind that I experienced (which was much milder in comparison, definitely not the same situation); and ultimately, she opened up about something she didn't want to bring up to begin with, and I didn't listen because I was too focused on wanting to share my own experiences, and I suppose that it was to attempt to make it look like I had learned things that I could share with her... And well, she has virtually not talked back to me ever since and it's not difficult to see why now.
I don't know why she still hasn't removed me yet, but I have a feeling that I've ruined things beyond repair, or at least I have no idea how I can repair any of it. I sent her an apology without trying to dip too much exactly into what went wrong (for the sake of not rubbing salt into the wound) but I doubt that's made things any better, and without any feedback, I don't know if she's taking temporary distance from me, or if she wants me to be the one who makes the decision to walk away.
(This next part is a bit explicit and it contains (albeit unintentional) animal cruelty...)
And today, I had the displeasure to witness how a puppy got ran over (or rather... Crushed ) by a pickup truck, and I couldn't react fast enough, I couldn't yell to the driver in time for him to stop the truck, and I could have because he was parking... I had no better idea than to yell at him angrily for what he did when he stepped out of the truck, and he got angry at me because I just told him off instead of trying to help, and he attempted to fight me, before checking in on the dog and then just driving off. I didn't even think of taking the license plate number. The owner's daughter was crying, I got up close to them to try and offer moral support but by then I noticed there was nothing I could do and... I just felt so useless and stupid. I wanted to play hero by showing this driver my outrage and all I did was giving him a reason for him to drive off, and the one thing I could have done which was to take his license plate number, I didn't think of until he was gone.
Now... As you might have noticed I have a bit of a problem with brevity. I don't know how many of these details I could have spared, I often have this idea in my head than in order to get a proper grasp of the situation, the listener should have all the context available, but I don't know how much of all of this that I've told you was gratuitous or not.
If you've read this far, I would also like to ask you how I can convey a point to someone (someone that I want to have input from about something), without needing to barrage them with so much stuff for the sake of giving them context.
I hope you're doing well, I'm sorry if this was too heavy to read, I guess I'll find out when I read your response.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have a space to talk about this stuff.
Mihael / Jun / Kyū
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Dear Mihael (or Jun or Kyū):
Thank you for writing a very important letter, and I apologize for my delayed reply. What you've written here is highly relevant to what I do as the "Ask Papabear" advice columnist. You might have noted that I have a Disclaimer page that explicitly points out that I do not have a degree in psychology or social work and that if you have a serious issue you should see a professional therapist for help. The column was started innocently enough to be about informing furries on the ins and outs of the fandom, but it has become much more than that.
I take this column extremely seriously when it comes to responding to people with relationship or health issues. I draw on my decades of personal experiences that include everything from weddings and divorces to parental abuse and attempted suicide, but even with all my best intentions, I do not always get it right. Sometimes, you have to recognize that you are in over your head and you should just give the person a hug and let them go. I'll give you an example. I was living in Michigan, and I was at a Meijer store and bumped into a former coworker I had worked with at a publishing house. Her clothes were stained and unkempt. I started talking with her, and she proceeded to tell me how her life had gone south. People, she said, were spying on her, conspiring against her, even burning down her mobile home and she was now homeless. The more I listened, the more I realized that she was suffering from extreme paranoia. She was not a well woman. I wanted to do something, but I didn't know what. After talking for what must have been about 20 or more minutes, I wished her well and left the store. Later, I talked to one of my friends who had also been there at my old job, and she wisely said, "There are some things you can't fix and shouldn't try to because it is beyond your ability to help." That's a tough pill to swallow, but it is true.
You can't rescue everyone, and it is not your job to do so. Now, don't think that I mean you shouldn't try to be a friend. After my husbear Jim died in 2015, I learned about the two types of friends who try to console you. One type tries to "cure" you of your grief and, eventually, tells you that you should "try to move on." This is the worst possible thing you can say to a grieving person because the reason would-be consolers do this, quite frankly, is that they don't want to hear about your grief anymore. They want you to be happy only because you are making them sad. The other type of friend is the one who won't try--you might think this is ironic--to offer you advice or force you to feel better. These are the people who give you a shoulder to cry on. They listen and hug you. They offer to make you a meal or (as my dear friend Bart did) accompany you to a concert to try and give you a little something fun to do, a break from your grief.
So, to answer your first question, don't try to be a hero or rescuer. DO be a friend. Real, true friends are the most precious gift anyone could have.
About the friend who was in an abusive relationship. I think you know by now, but I want to make clear that it is never the fault of the abused person when they are in an abusive relationship. I cannot stress that enough. There are three things you should do if this ever happens again: 1) Listen. 2) Listen. 3) Listen. Keep your focus on the other person and do not go into rescue mode. Be there for the other person.
Here's the next point I need to vehemently stress that you might find surprising: If you believe that your neighbor is being victimized, do not call the police unless you see violence occurring right in front of you and you fear for the immediate safety and life of someone (just as you should for any violent crime). Here is why: you could actually make the problem worse and put the abused person in more serious danger. Imagine this scene. You contact the police and they visit your neighbor's house and the husband opens the door. The police say there have been reports of domestic violence. Without any evidence (or being caught in the act), they can't just walk into the house and rescue the wife. So, the husband tells the police to get out of his house unless they have a warrant, and then turns on his wife and beats her for calling the cops. I've heard many stories, too, in which police arrive at a scene and don't believe the woman when she says she is being punched or raped.
As noted in a Brick Underground article: "It’s very dangerous to call the police if you don’t know that’s something the person who’s being victimized really wants," explains Lorien Castelle, director of prevention at the New York State Coalition Against Domsetic Violence (NYSCADV). "Because there can be dire consequences if the police are called and then the victim is blamed for them showing up. Sometimes the violence escalates." She adds: "The problem is that all of our systems are a little bit broken, and people don't always understand domestic violence in the way they need to in order to responsibly help. Quite often, when the police get called, it starts this ripple-out effect of services and systems involved in a person's life, all of which tend to assume that once a victim leaves the home, they'll be safer. But women living apart from their abusers experience nearly four times the amount of physical assault, sexual assault, and stalking than they do when they live with their abuser."
The Office on Women's Health provides a list of resources concerning domestic violence at https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/get-help/state-resources. You can do some research and discreetly offer the information to the victim, as well as offering them a sympathetic ear.
The same can be true when you think someone might be suicidal. I have made this mistake once. Years ago, I was chatting with a furry. They told me with increasing earnestness that they were going to kill themselves. Alarmed--and knowing where they lived--I contacted the local police. The officers showed up at his door and he got rid of them. Then, he called me and read me the riot act and never spoke to me again. Now, that wasn't an incident involving my column, but I sure learned my lesson. When someone writes to "Ask Papabear" and expresses suicidal thoughts, I urge them to call the national suicide hotline for help, and then I step out of the way. If you are unsure what to do, you yourself can contact domestic abuse or suicide prevention hotlines and ask them for advice on what you can do to help victims. ALWAYS seek guidance from the people who have training and expertise in such matters.
Regarding the puppy incident: this is really a whole nuther animal, so to speak, and worthy of a separate column, but let's address it here and now. Let's not get into the whole thing about your yelling at the guy who hit the animal, causing an argument without results. Here is what you need to know about car/animal accidents....
Here is a good article all about hitting pets. https://pethelpful.com/pet-ownership/I-Hit-a-Dog-with-My-Car-What-Am-I-Legally-Required-to-Do.
One does not play the hero by yelling at someone you believe has done something wrong. If you witness something that is criminal behavior or dangerous and violent, the thing to do is not take matters in your own hands. Ask for help.
I hope this helps.
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