Describe something positive you took away from a negative situation. Was the gain worth the pain?
The negative situation that comes to mind is investing in a person who I'll refer to as Kwt. Kwt was someone who I was close friends with for about 6 months in 2014, followed by 3 months of awkward half-friendship, and ending with 2 months of conflict. We have not spoken since and unlike most people I stop talking to, I have no intention of ever speaking to Kwt again.
Our friendship started with me feeling desperate for connection and mentioning this publicly. Kwt reached out and invited me to come visit kittens that were at their apartment, and I did. We had some intense, deep conversations about our core values, our needs, and our goals. I was really excited to have found someone else who wanted to grow in similar ways and to also create community. I distinctly remember thinking "wow, this person is actually even more into openness, honesty, and interconnected social-justice-focused community than I am!"
But as time went by, some of Kwt's actions really bothered me, and the first time I asked them to stop an action (whispering to one person when others are around) they withdrew rather than changing (thus began the 3 months of half-friendship). After that I did something that upset them -- told a mutual friend about an action of theirs that scared me -- and after 6 weeks of discussion they finally said "I need to be able to lie to my friends" and I said, essentially, "hard pass." This "need" to lie and need for me to not talk about them was a complete contradiction to everything they had told me they stood for -- total openness and honesty at all times with everyone. I felt baffled and betrayed. They later went on to repeatedly engage in blatant pressuring of others to do all kinds of things that damaged those people for Kwt's benefit. I can't go into all of it because it isn't my story, but I feel strong regret (a rare emotion for me) for having introduced Kwt to my people and encouraged them to invest in this person, because it caused significant harm.
So that was the negative of it. The positive is that this taught me that taking people at their word is not appropriate unless they have proven that they will never intentionally lie to me AND that they are self-aware enough to know if they are telling the truth. I think I felt truth in what Kwt said because they really believed it when they were saying it, but it wasn't actually true. And if I had looked at their actions for confirmation I would have noticed a pattern of coercion and dishonesty and hiding WAY before the eventual blow-up.
I used to be so insistent on letting people be the ones to give meaning to their behavior that I would erase my experience in order to line up with the meaning they provided. This choice I made was cruel to me, dismissive and disrespectful. I can acknowledge that there are things beyond my ability to guess while also stating firmly that, for example, I will not tolerate being made to feel excluded, or being used to make someone else feel excluded. That is at best inconsiderate and quite likely was a manipulation tactic intended to make everyone want to be the one person being whispered to. I'm kinda mad at myself for not stating out loud what it seemed like to me, because stating a manipulation tactic out loud weakens it so much that it is a good deterrent. And if it wasn't the intent, it shows how negatively it comes across which is also a good deterrent. Note to self: describe manipulations out loud when you see an action that may be one.
I think at least this taught me to put a little more faith in my own observations with people in general because most people aren't very self-aware. So they can tell you what they think is the truth, without any intent to deceive you, but that doesn't make it the truth. Alternatively, if I trust everyone to do their best to always tell the truth, I have no protection whatsoever against deliberate manipulation. A much more sensible choice is to make sure, by observation over time, that they are completely opposed to lying to me BEFORE I trust that they are never going to lie to me.
I think that learning this lesson helped me earlier this year when I wanted to invest in someone whose words told me one thing and actions told me another. Eventually I chose to trust myself and that was definitely the right choice: if I had not I would have spent a much longer time pouring out my energy, and eventually I would have gotten the same result. I hope to get quicker about trusting myself, but the necessary first step was learning that sometimes people are wrong about their own selves (intentionally or not) and if their actions do not line up with their words, that may be what is happening.
It is okay and good to trust my observations and protect myself by refusing to believe someone else above myself, if necessary. The first person I have to trust is me, and when someone makes me feel like shit, I need to fucking take that seriously. I wouldn't tolerate it toward someone else and I need to take as good care of me as I would of someone else.