When people play on your fear of abandonment to force you to walk on eggshells.

On friendship failure, and the solace of solitude.

Lucy the Oracle
9 min readMay 11, 2024

This post is a big vent from a personal perspective, with occasional insights. Don’t take anything in it as gospel.

Photo by laurent mandine on Unsplash

What is the first thing you do when you adopt a puppy?

Do you pet it?

Do you show it where the food and water bowls are?

All of the above and more, to ensure you’re bonding and the puppy feels safe in your presence? I bet you’re nodding.

And what is the thing you’re LEAST likely to do, the moment you adopt a puppy?

Put it on a leash and take it for a long, daily walk.

Why don’t we put a puppy on a leash and take it for a walk on the very first day? Have you ever given it much thought? I have my own theory about that: it’s because we don’t know this puppy well enough. We have no idea when it’s gonna bark, growl, or jump all over strangers. We can’t anticipate its reaction to this or that thing, this or that animal. We need a longer time observing the behaviour of this new member of the family, in order to prevent accidents and awkward situations.

…But ultimately, with time and a lot of patience, what is our goal? To take this puppy for a walk. Regularly. And have it behave the way we dictate, from start to finish.

It works on the long run because the puppy wants company and affection, and the owner wants to receive obedience and the same affection in return. It’s a wholesome, loving relationship — but there IS a steep power difference. We should keep this power difference in mind.

In the rare cases when it DOES NOT work, despite the owner’s best attempts at training, what happens? This puppy gets rehomed.

Now, I’ll give you some food for thought: are you being puppy?

Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

There’s no shame in admitting that. I’d risk saying that although it’s quite rare for someone to “be puppy” 24/7… It’s actually very common for people to make this mistake in at least one area of life.

Throw the first stone if you haven’t ever taken more work than you can handle [because you were afraid of getting fired if you said “no”], for example; Or said “amen” to a religious teaching that deep down you don’t actually understand, let alone agree with [but everyone is saying it, so why be the weirdo in dissidence]; Or bent over backwards in relationships to meet your partner’s or friend’s increasingly demanding needs [because it worked for so many years, you trust and love each other so much, of course there’s no ill will].

Well… I won’t necessarily say there is ill will. There often isn’t. But there IS a steep power difference. And I’ll keep repeating the motto until it sticks.

A personal story:

I grew up being trained (much like you train a dog, and I’m not exaggerating) by an abusive mother to cater to her every whim at the expense of my own needs. But (and what a decisive “but!”) she housed, dressed and fed me (like a dog, yes?). She provided for my other needs too, the human needs (probably because she feared child protection services knocking on our door… Not out of “the goodness of her heart”), such as formal education and social activities. And that is — as I’ve come to learn — the very bare minimum in terms of raising a child. AN ORPHANAGE would be able to provide me the same. Oh, but she deserved praise for that “huge sacrifice”. What a wonderful mother! Uh-huh. Sure.

Meanwhile, I was doing all the emotional labour for myself, for my siblings, for my dad, for my grandparents, for her… Because, I guess… Just because. There is no reason to put that much burden on a child’s shoulder! Even A PSYCHOLOGIST would say “enough is enough” to that — and mind you, they’d say it after getting a big fat paycheck. I just received physical survival in return. How very “fair”. How very appropriate.

The pattern continued in adulthood. I am, as it happens, very good at doing emotional labour for other people. I have probably done it for everyone in my life up until recently — and thank goodness, not everyone is opportunistic. Or not extremely opportunistic. I’m sure there is a bit of opportunism in everyone’s hearts, even the kind-hearted crowd, because if there wasn’t, they would have warned me about the mistake I was making. They would have helped me learn a healthier way of relating.

But why would you teach ANYONE a healthier way of relating if it’s not going to benefit you? Of course not! Most people enjoy being “puppy owners”. Some just have the decency not to abuse the puppy, or even call it out when it won’t “behave”. That’s what most people who I keep to this day in my life do, isn’t it? They see me standing up for myself gradually more and more, but stay unphased by that, because they have always considered my “puppy behaviour” as a happy (for them!) add-on to our existing friendship, without which they can still keep it going. This makes for very wholesome, loving relationships — but there IS a steep power difference.

The few people who are very opportunistic, bordering on narcissism, are the ones who flip at me when I stand up for myself — because unlike the healthy crowd, they CANNOT still keep the friendship going. They want me to keep being “a good girl”, no matter how outrageous their commands get.

*whistle* “Sit!” *whistle* “roll” *whistle* “play dead”, we say to a dog — accompanied by “good boy or girl”.

Similarly, self-centered people are like “defend me from this person who was mean to me”; “Good, now clean up my mess for me”; “Good, now pretend you don’t have feelings. I’m tired of listening to you. From now on, only my feelings matter”.

Or: “pretend you don’t have financial needs of your own, only mine matter”; Or “pretend you don’t need time for yourself. I shall contact you whenever I please, even in the middle of the night”.

“I… Can’t do that”.

[Insert temper tantrum followed by a bitter goodbye here]

Or alternatively, imagine a long monologue from this frienemy, full of baits such as “this ‘No’ you said sounded manipulative”, “that other ‘no’ you said hurt me”, “those ‘nos’ are only okay on a surface level but I can see you’re dissatisfied”.

Yeah, no shit, Sherlock. Of-fucking-course I’m dissatisfied at someone when I give them a “no”. Otherwise it’d be a “yes”. But do I owe you intimacy when you’re not respecting my BASIC NEED to be my own person and not correspond to your expectations? I’ll let you take a wild guess on that one.

Photo by Tillmann Hübner on Unsplash

Do as I say…

The problem with “puppy and owner” relationships (be they professional, romantic, or friendships) is they aren’t objectively bad. No, they’re in fact more healthy than they are bad for any of the parties involved. Of course you get the odd abuser in the mix — and those are people we can rightfully cut off — but there are also “perfectly nice, kind and loving” people who nonetheless… want a relationship where there IS a steep power difference.

Loads of affection and genuine good will… But no even playing field where both parties HAVE power.

A caveat goes to professional relationships, where power imbalance is expected: you can’t work if your boss isn’t in command. That’s fine. But your boss should only focus on managing you according to what’s on the contract. That’s why we have paperwork — to prevent abuse of authority. And abuse of authority isn’t only severe mistreatment; It can be as simple as enabling burnout or bringing non-work problems to the work environment. Oh, but the “nice people” don’t like to hear about this grey area, do they? Because sometimes, the call out hits too close to home. Well, deal with it.

Another caveat goes to teachers: again, power imbalance is expected. But once again, there is a contract. And in the more informal cases, without a contract, there is a previous agreement — this is the learning that is to take place, tangents can happen but they cannot dominate the dynamics. Otherwise, it’s just a casual chat and we’re rambling on without an aim. Okay, cool, I’m up for that. No more payment so? Other than a coffee, perhaps.

A third caveat goes to therapy: the mental health professional needs to be in “command” to some extent. However, this only applies as far as real needs go. Wanting to be in the command of a particular conversation just because the patient said something taboo or admitted to a problematic behaviour in their life and it’s “ugly” or “unladylike” or [insert societal prejudice here] to say such a thing… Is out of the scope of therapy. Oh, but this kind of awkward confrontation exists, allright! I’ve seen it first hand. Some people think I was born yesterday. I’m not in therapy to cater to the therapist’s preference not to hear curse words or not to deal with the impolite thoughts I shared. You’d think I am their butler. I put up with a mountain of shite in my life, only to come to the office and be told to put up with MORE shite? Yeah no. I don’t think so.

As you see above, this article isn’t about a twee and rose-tinted wish of mine to always have equal relationships with other people. Hierarchies are important in the world. But the thing is… The VAST MAJORITY of “puppy and owner” relationships I’ve been in, funny enough, have been with people who do not have any kind of legitimate authority over me. Friends usually. How ironic. It’s almost as if real authorities don’t feel insecure to that extent. Hmmmm… Who would have thought?

A passerby who doesn’t know the full story would say “but the person is just getting honest about their expectations, what’s wrong with that?”

Yeah, sure, of course they are. Uh-huh. That’s because you haven’t seen the beginning.

I’ll repeat: in the beginning, “we don’t know this puppy well enough. We have no idea when it’s gonna bark, growl, or jump all over strangers. We can’t anticipate its reaction to this or that thing, this or that animal. We need a longer time observing the behaviour of this new member of the family, in order to prevent accidents and awkward situations.”

But you want the puppy, don’t you, sweetie pie? Even though there is a chance it could bark. If the barking was the problem, you wouldn’t have approached a motherfucking dog in the beginning. You would have gone for an entire other species. And yet, here we are.

I hate people who don’t take accountability. This makes me conclude I hate pretty much most people. Not the happiest realisation, but hey, here’s to honesty.

Photo by Artem Kniaz on Unsplash

In the beginning, people treat friends with dignity — in case they might have enough self-confidence and courage to call out BS when they see BS. But as time goes by, they get bolder and bolder…

This is why I choose to be alone from now on.

Maybe other people have close friends, because they’re ok with the power games and “casual manipulation” that come with that. It’s no big deal for them, they see nothing wrong in this dog-eat-dog world, they step up to be “the owner” from time to time to keep things balanced, because apparently we can’t ever have a level playing field. No two whole people anywhere to be seen, just incomplete insecure losers everywhere… Constantly trying to “train” each other into responding to their commands and worshipping each other’s egos (instead of doing what you SHOULD do to egos — silence them). That leaves me the option of isolating; going hermit mode. Well, it’s sounding good at this stage.

Strangers, work partners and family are all respectful to me, precisely because they KNOW I’ll jump ship at the first sign of BS. I’ve done it before. I’d do it again. And it creates bureaucracy, doesn’t it? Nobody wants bureaucracy.

But with close friendships… What is the “glue” that keeps them together? Nothing in particular. Just vibes, I guess. That explains the top-down dynamics, it provides some structure.

Nature is my friend. That’s more than good enough — that’s a motherfucking privilege! Why care about humans? They can keep their games going. I’m out.



Lucy the Oracle

Oracle learner / spirit worker based in Ireland. Buddhist/polytheist. I don't read minds. I don't change minds. I don't sugarcoat. Take my message or leave it.