I have a friend who is really clingy. She seems incapable of spending time alone. How do I find the balance between telling her to back off and still being a good friend?
Clingy people are like, so totally gross. There is something inherently detestable about an individual who, well into adulthood, totally lacks the ability to be alone and independent. These social lepers are like a mildewed shower curtain sticking to your leg; like a lingering wasp; or a fart in an elevator. Contrary to their deepest desires, they emit a plague-like stench of rotting self-esteem that inspires nothing but disdain and repulsion in others. Because if they can’t bear their own company, how could anyone else? If only they knew how attractive self-reliance really is.
When these barnacles find themselves alone, confronted with their bare, naked selves, the berating monologue and uncomfortable physicality of their inner experience comes to the fore. Desperate to evade this disagreeable reality, most distract themselves quickly with the company of others, with drugs or alcohol or shit TV; anything so long as not to pay heed to the discordant realm within. Without the psychological and emotional tools to confront and ameliorate this abusive relationship with the self, they depend on externals to deflect their attention and palliate their symptoms. You now find yourself in the awkward situation of being friends with such a wretched mite, emotionally involved and dutiful, unwittingly burdened with the problems of another.
Evidently, ‘being there’ for her may simply perpetuate her over-reliance on external support. But one can be a good, encouraging friend without mollycoddling. You can be frank and compassionate; wholly supportive whilst slapping her with some cold hard truth. Helping your friend may mean lovingly locking her in a small, dark cupboard for several days or weeks, whilst whispering encouraging words through the key hole about how she needs to confront herself once and for all. And soon she shall emerge, like a beautiful butterfly, purged of self-loathing, brimming with acceptance and self-compassion. As a good friend, you can show her the way towards this betterment – the rest is up to her.