Can you care too much? Is it bad to think about a friend for hours on end, to lie awake worrying about them?
I have a confession to make. I often become obsessed with people when I feel a connexion to them, when a friendship is growing. Friendship for me advances through a series of stages. First somebody starts talking to me — it’s always the other person who makes the initial approach because I don’t know how to start talking to a stranger — and I’ll respond.
If I feel comfortable I’ll begin to open up, tell them a little about myself — as long as they ask. Otherwise, when there’s something about them that puts me on edge — it might be that they act or sound aggressive, pushy — I’ll say the bare minimum or even fail to reply: I try to avoid such people because their behavior makes me anxious.
With an acquaintance, as time goes on and we talk more — exchange more information — I feel more at ease in their company: confident enough to initiate conversations. With most people that’s as far as I ever get. I don’t actively seek them out but will pass time with them when I encounter them socially.
But very occasionally I meet someone who demonstrates an unusual degree of compassion, of understanding. Someone with whom I have something in common. Someone to whom I feel able to talk freely about many of my thoughts and feelings — at least to the extent that I can express them in words. In turn they share enough with me that I feel I understand them to a significant degree.
I feel a connexion, a closeness, a real bond with such a person. And therein lies my danger: I empathize. Strongly. I care. Deeply. I have no filters that limit my exposure. If they hurt, I hurt. If they are going through troubled times I worry about them to an obsessive degree, incessantly. To the point where I lie awake at night wracked with pain and worry; they dominate my waking thoughts to the point where I struggle to concentrate on my own life.
Not only pain: I also share their joy. I love the rapturous elation that I derive from seeing a friend of mine feeling happy.
I recognize the nature of my obsession and try to keep it under control: if I didn’t then I would find myself trying to spend every waking hour in their company, sending texts or emails every few minutes. I’ve learned that people don’t respond well to this kind of behavior — to put it mildly! So I maintain an iron grip on my own impulses.
I worry… no, it’s more than that: I agonize over what is an acceptable level of contact, how frequently I can allow myself to text them before I start to look like some obsessive freak. Because I fear losing their friendship: I have few that I would truly call friends and place a high value on each one. I am tortured by the thought of driving one away because of my obsession, because I appear “clingy”.
What I have is not a romantic or amorous obsession: I do not desire that kind of relationship with these friends. Rather I believe my obsession is driven by a desperate craving for meaningful contact with other people. People I can be open with, share aspects of myself with. Feel less alone with. Gain support from and provide support to.I just need to find that balance between indulging my need for contact and respecting their need for space. I’m still only a beginner when it comes to relationships and I fear making mistakes.