Social circles are strange things, mainly because we don’t really get to choose the people we hang out with the most – they kind of just happen to be there.
As kids we are thrust into a particular class at school and this becomes our first ever social circle. Cliques start to form within that group and these will usually remain, give or take a person here and there, throughout our childhood and into our teenage years.
These early social circles always contain a mix of personalities, styles and the odd black sheep – actually you may notice this scenario happening in the workplace. You’re thrust into a group of people and a weird bonding process takes place, even if you wouldn’t necessarily choose to hang out with them in the ‘real world’.
You just learn to tolerate these people.
Thousands of years ago we just hung out in small tribes and even though we are now linked to the entire world via the internet, our monkey brains still cannot cope with knowing more than roughly 150 people.
Obviously you know more than that. Take a look at your Facebook friends list, if it’s fewer than 150 then either you have a very tight grip on your relationships or you’re a misanthropist in training.
Because modern living throws new people at us every single day, eventually some of them will stick.
Some of these will become your new best friends, other will inevitably piss you off and the rest could end up fitting into one of the following 5 categories.
Are any of these familiar?
1. The hurtful ex
We all have someone from our past that we cannot shake off. They latch on to our emotions and refuse to let go – toying with us – whether intentionally or not, they are always there.
It’s usually our first true love or the person that we thought was ‘the one’.
We invested so much of ourselves in this person it becomes almost impossible to break that link.
It almost doesn’t matter how the relationship ended because given enough time, we will always look back through rose tinted glasses. We forget the sadness, the bad times, the hurtful comments and choose to focus on that indescribable feeling when everything seemed perfect.
Years may have passed and we may have dated many people since, but nothing really changes. In their presence we feel confused, even lost. ‘If this person caused me so much pain, why do I still feel this way?’
Seeing them with someone else hits you like a sledgehammer. Knowing they are close by haunts your every move. Every Facebook status update, every picture posted, every comment is a reminder of the gap between the pleasure you once had and the pain you now feel.
Maybe you hope that one day you will get back together?
Maybe – but the truth is that you just can’t let go.
2. The emotional vampire
Do you ever feel that some people out there only exist to drain the life out of you? Every conversation turns into a battle of wills – on the one hand you try your best to offer a sympathetic ear and a touch of compassion but on the other hand it feels like you are banging your head against a brick wall.
They refuse to listen to your advice, always blaming something else for their woes. Their life is a constant tale of sadness and rejection – the whole world is out to get them and nothing is their fault.
These people are easy to spot because they are constantly in the need for validation. Everything they say is aimed at getting a response from those around them. They have to be right, to always have the last word, digging and poking, their neediness becomes a virus that you have to get away from.
The inability for most people to tolerate their behaviour just acts to reinforce their inner belief that everyone is mean and hurtful. A negative cycle of pain and suffering from which they cannot escape.
Of course, misery likes company and they want others to feel their despair. They are a black hole – dragging everything around them into their darkness.
Don’t let these emotional vampires sink their teeth into your life because their attempts at feeding will always leave you feeling weaker, emptier and more vulnerable to their negativity.
3. The leech
Talk to any alien abductee and they will tell you without a hint of any doubt, that we are not alone.
That may be so but it’s not those little green men that we have to worry about. We’ve all had that feeling that we’re not alone, and we know full well who these boundary-crosser’s are and they certainly didn’t travel millions of light years to get here.
They are here, they are there, they are everywhere – it doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, this person is in your face 24/7 and you can feel the claustrophobia as their grip tightens around your life.
They interfere with your day to day activities, inviting themselves wherever you go, infringing on your personal boundaries. These leeches are location dependent but what about the financial leeches? Bleeding you dry for your hospitality and your cash. Always requesting just one more week – ‘I’ll promise I will find somewhere else to live’ or one more loan – ‘mate can you lend me an extra £50? I’m totally good for it…’
Yet, it’s never the last week, or the last time – they keep coming back because they think that you’re too weak to say no because you are afraid of offending them – but they won’t be offended because they know what they are doing – they are freeloading – stealing your time, your money, your personal boundaries and your sanity.
Once they latch on – they are extremely difficult to get rid of.
4. The human crab
Crab mentality is a metaphor that refers to a bucket full of crabs. Individually, the crabs could easily escape from the bucket, but instead, they grab at each other in a useless “king of the hill” competition which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise.
This analogy in human behaviour is summed up by the phrase ‘if I can’t have it, then neither can you’. An insecure person will ‘reach up’ and attempt to pull back anyone who has the potential to be successful.
You may recognise this in your own life by the people that only seem to focus on the negative aspects of your life. The mistakes you make are amplified in their presence and they take great delight in reminding you of your past failures
They will often laugh at your hopes and dreams – telling you to be realistic and that success is largely based on luck or for the privileged few. These human crabs are similar to the emotional vampires because they survive by sucking the positive emotions out of you to feed their damaged ego.
5. The psychopath
First up, wipe away your pre conception of what a psychopath is. It almost certainly isn’t what you think. Only a tiny percentage of psychopaths indulge in violence, let alone become serial killers. The overwhelming majority are just like you and I – they appear totally normal on the surface, yet inside they all have one thing in common – the inability to feel empathy.
This makes them excellent at toying with people’s emotions and manipulating social situations for their own personal gain. Many seem charming and socially calibrated – enjoyable to chat with at times and seemingly intelligent too.
Yet something doesn’t quite add up.
They never really seem to have any lasting relationships and behind the smiles and charm there is a hint of coldness and a lack of genuine interest in your life. Yes they may be loyal and they may even ‘enjoy’ your company but every aspect of your relationship, whether sexual or platonic, is tinged with selfishness on their part.
Everything revolves around them. They are difficult to deal with and their subtle, controlling personality eventually becomes tiresome.
How likely is it that you know a psychopath? The theory is that as many as 4% of us lack empathy with 1% being full blown psychopaths – so think of the most arrogant, charming yet emotionally cold person you know…
Do you really need that person in your life?
Do you really need any of these people in your life?
Maybe it’s time to raise your standards a little.
Question – So which of these people do you currently have, or used to have in your social circle?
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What about the repressed guy?
I’ve seen some messed up people showing their true colours when they get drunk.
That’s true! Alcohol tends to enhance the person inside and if you spend your life hiding this person, drinking is a sure fire way to bring that out.
Hey man, just found your site via Vincent from Self Stairway.
Getting rid of shitty relationships is an ongoing battle for me. I’ve gotten rid of most of the bad influences in my life, but there’s still one or two that have slipped through the cracks.
Ditching bad relationships and forging healthy relationships is definitely no easy endeavor. But it’s so unbelievably important. We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. If we put the wrong people in our corner, things can get bad in a hurry.
I loved your analogy about the human crab. I’ve never heard of that before but it’s a great way of putting it. A lot of human crabs feel like their not worthy of ever doing anything good. So they feel extreme jealousy when others try to do extraordinary things.
Solid post man.
Kevin Cole recently posted..On Doing The Things That Scare The Shit Out Of You
Hi Kevin, it’s definitely healthy to analyse our relationships every now and then to see if the people we spend the most time with are worth it. It’s tough to cut people out though, which is why there are bad eggs in most people’s lives. We also have to be mindful of our effect on others, so that we don’t become one of these people. Thanks for your comment!
I just read “in sheep’s clothing” from George K. Simon, which describes the manipulator profile and how to deal with them, it says they are covered aggresive kind of people.
Manipulators also fall under the psychopath category – they kinda have a similar philosophy in how they live their lives.
Oh my goodness, no. 1 ‘The hurtful ex’, just described my feelings for my ex to a tee. I’ve spent almost 20 years trying to get over him (after he dumped me), but every few years he calls me, desperate for my friendship, and I fall straight back into my old patterns. I can’t bear to see him with someone else and secretly hope we’ll get back together – for me he was ‘the one’.
It’s easier to keep him at a distance now that he lives on the other side of the world, he calls every few months and we chat and everything seems wonderful for a few hours. He comes back to my city next year and I know, for my own sanity, that I’m going to have to tell him that I can’t be friends. I’m dreading it, but reading your article helps give me strength. Thanks.
Hi, maybe you don’t have to specifically tell him anything, just try to keep your head down and out of his way. If he does seek you out again then you can politely decline without going into a heavy awkward conversation. I’m glad you liked the article and that it helped in some way!
Each of these is a member of my direct family. Haha.
Except for 1. We’re not that bad lol