Puz­zled over class­mate’s be­hav­iour.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Opinion -

I AM a Form 5 stu­dent and I re­ally want to help my friend R. I met R at the start of last year as we are in the same class, and we of­ten did things to­gether af­ter school. We es­tab­lished a group with sev­eral class­mates, who got along pretty well and we have a What­sapp group.

This year, tragic events hap­pened to R. He tried to get a girl­friend from among our class­mates but all three girls re­jected him and he’s been iso­lat­ing him­self.

Prior to one of our group out­ing, he re­fused to come along, say­ing that he does not like our class. I asked R why he hates the class and he said he doesn’t like hang­ing out with peo­ple he doesn’t trust.

When I pressed for fur­ther ex­pla­na­tion, he told us a bit of his past and how it is con­nected with his dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the class.

I’ve al­ways as­sumed he hated the class but he men­tioned that “hate” is too strong a word. He said he never truly be­longed any­where other than with his fam­ily.

He used to be seg­re­gated from the pop­u­lar kids in pri­mary school and he turned out to be a bully, but he then changed for the bet­ter.

He sees a so­cial hi­er­ar­chy and he be­lieves he is at the very bot­tom of it. He said our class has this so­cial hi­er­ar­chy as well and he knows of a group of girls in our class who are talk­ing bad about him be­hind his back. An­other friend, L, who is in our What­sapp group, made a small joke about the mes­sage. R threat­ened to beat L up and left our What­sapp group. R said that we are all the same be­fore he left. We tried to add him back but he left again and again.

The next day, he mes­saged us pri­vately, apol­o­gis­ing, but said he still wouldn’t come back to our group. R said he will still talk when­ever needed, but he does not care about peo­ple in gen­eral any­more. It felt like he is say­ing that all the ties of friend­ship meant noth­ing.

Ev­ery time we asked him about me­thing, he merely replied with­out ex­pres­sion. He only talks to a few peo­ple, none of who are from our class.

I be­lieve friends are im­por­tant, and he al­ready has us. He does not need to feel left out.

Why is he shut­ting him­self out and go­ing into s li Has he re­ally lost l ople? Please h .

Con­cerned There is a proverb in English: you can bring the horse to the wa­ter. But, you can’t make the horse drink the wa­ter.

This pretty much sums up the co­nun­drum you are fac­ing with your friend, R. You and your friends are there for him, and want him to par­tic­i­pate and feel like he be­longs. But, he won’t ac­cept that. So, what do you do?

It is not as bad as you sum it up to be. It is doubt­ful R has lost faith in all peo­ple. With some per­spec­tive, you may see that he just has is­sues with the group of peo­ple he cur­rently knows.

Look­ing at R’s past, it is clear that his prob­lems did not just be­gin with this class. It started a long time ago. R sounds like he may have is­sues with his self­es­teem. He thinks lowly of him­self, and his past ex­pe­ri­ence in his for­mer school af­firms that be­lief. Com­ing to your school, his neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences with the girls he liked fur­ther con­firms that low per­cep­tion he has of him­self.

It is com­mon, in school es­pe­cially, to have so­cial hi­er­ar­chies. There are cliques. There are the pop­u­lar ones. Then, there are the pretty/ good look­ing ones. There are the bril­liant ones; the weird ones; and the ones who just march to the tunes of their own bands.

And, yes. There are hi­er­ar­chies. It may be ob­vi­ous who the ones at the top and lower ends of the hi­er­ar­chy are. This is nor­mal in a school set­ting.

Be­cause of R’s low self-es­teem, he views these cliques neg­a­tively. He feels left out.

The girls re­jected him. This adds to his shame and hu­mil­i­a­tion. Be­cause he is al­ready in a vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion, jokes oth­ers make – as in­no­cent as they may seem – become per­sonal at­tacks to him. The girls may be speak­ing about him. On the other hand, they may not be. It could just be him pro­ject­ing his em­bar­rass­ment.

What­ever the case, he has cho­sen how he wants to deal with the sit­u­a­tion. R feels like he has his fam­ily and that is all the sup­port he needs. And, that is a good thing be­cause at least he has some kind of so­cial sup­port.

Plus, it is not like he has to­tally cut him­self off from ev­ery­one. He is still at­tend­ing your school and comes to class ev­ery day. One would as­sume that if he re­ally wanted to cut him­self off, he would change schools or not at­tend classes at all. He still speaks to peo­ple – al­beit if and when he needs to. It is still a good thing. Cause for con­cern would be when he doesn’t speak to any­one at all.

So, re­ally, things are not that bad. Look at it this way. He is ob­vi­ously still find­ing so­lace in be­ing around peo­ple. It does com­fort him. It does count for some­thing.

He is hurt. Things did not go as well as he had hoped they would. That is all right.

There is noth­ing you can do about how he feels about his class­mates. He has cul­ti­vated this per­cep­tion due to his past ex­pe­ri­ence. Only he can change that per­cep­tion. And, it seems that he is not ready to do so at the mo­ment.

What R needs now is some space. Let him be. Do what you are do­ing now. Keep up your friend­ship with him. Speak to him – acknowledge him, make small talk. Just ex­pect that he will re­spond in the way that he is com­fort­able with. Do not ex­pect any­thing more. Re­mem­ber that as long as he re­sponds, it means that he still val­ues you. Be­cause he can choose not to re­spond to any­one. Yet, he chooses to.

Drop him a line ev­ery now and then via so­cial me­dia to say hi, or even to in­vite him to join you for ac­tiv­i­ties. He has the right to say no. And you should re­spect that.

When he feels like he is ready, he will par­tic­i­pate more. He will be able to reach out and be like his old self again. He just needs time. And he does not need pres­sure.

Friend­ship means dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple. For you, it means be­ing ac­tive in your re­la­tion­ships with oth­ers. That may not be what R thinks friend­ship is. You will have to re­spect that. Some­times, it can be very over­whelm­ing when peo­ple are only com­fort­able with a cer­tain level of close­ness and oth­ers are try­ing to force more onto them. That can also cause peo­ple to shut down and cut them­selves off from peo­ple.

For some peo­ple, be­ing left out is not a bad thing. They have a choice on whether they want to join in or not. That is why you ask them, right? They can say no.

You are right. He does not need to be left out. He wants to be. Let him be.

Some­times, be­ing a friend means know­ing when you need to back off. Touch base with him. You can be friends from a dis­tance.

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