The Curse of Attracting Broken People
Over the summer, I was listening to a shaman friend and a few of his closest followers complain about how they’d lost their desired closeness with friends, family, and lovers who had meant so much to them. The conversation struck a chord in me, not because of anything happening in my life at that moment but because there were people in my past whom I missed and with whom I had lost contact. The people in this conversation and in my own past were mostly cases where the other persons had been horribly broken when they’d come into our lives and we’d invested so much effort into the relationships, helping them to find wholeness again, if they’d ever had it. None of us begrudged the effort or the love we’d given. No, that wasn’t the issue at all.
As my friend described to us a former (I think) lover and friend, he felt stung by her refusal to have anything to do with him now, in spite of his near-constant support when she’d been troubled. Life had improved and she was closer to wholeness than when he’d held her hand and propped her up when she was deep in muck. He felt she no longer needed him. I could taste the rejection in his words, and it resonated with my own experiences, both as a professional life coach and in deeply personal relationships.
It’s easy to agree that some of us are really good at helping broken people to put themselves back together. We find it fulfilling as personal and spiritual work. We’re called to it. We put so much of ourselves into it that you’d think the other people would be lifelong friends with all that bonding and support going on. We may not expect anything in return, but we certainly don’t expect to be shunned, rejected, or merely discounted in our friendship once the broken person is whole, but it seems to happen quite often.
And yet, it was through my shaman friend’s description of his own pain that I saw the answer. It wasn’t about rejection of us so much as it was about the formerly broken person rejecting their past, us included, and feeling uncomfortable with us now in what we know. How much easier it is for a newly healed person to put away everything involved in their broken days and start fresh with people who never knew them back then, never saw them in their dark night of the soul.
What came to me back in the summer that I shared was the following insight:
Such is the curse of attracting broken people. Some want to stay broken because it’s all they know & there’s more comfort in the pain than in the unknown. The ones who are mended don’t feel at ease in the presence of someone who has seen their damage.
I have permission to share one of the private messages I received on this post. I knew, innately, that this is how the “broken” person viewed the situation, but it was nice to hear it in his/her own words:
I am afraid I am guilty of being “broken” and not talking to the people who saw me at my lowest. I still talk to some of them, but not as much as I did before. It is almost like, I am embarrassed and ashamed of not being strong…you know? When I hit my lowest, it makes me feel as if I have lost the strongest part of me. Like I’m viewed as being weak and the people that were there during that time know my “horrible” secret. And sometimes, maybe I feel like they are just standing there with a broom and dust pan, expecting and waiting for me to break again so they can pick up the pieces. I never thought about the other person, though, until just now when I read your blog. I loved it. Thank you.