• Keeping Friends

The Trauma Queen Always Has A Calamity To Share

July 21, 2021 | By | Reply Continue Reading

A group of women doesn’t know how to handle a “trauma queen” amongst them who consistently dominates conversations with her problems.

QUESTION

Dear Friendship Doctor,

We’re hoping you can suggest ways to deal with our friend, “Jamie,” who is always in crisis mode. The time we spend with her is always all about Jamie, and it’s been going on like this for a long time. 

To be fair, Jamie has had many tragic losses in her family, including the suicide of one of her teenage children. A few of her extended family members are seriously ill and need care, and she is constantly talking about trying to help them. 

Jamie has earned the title “Trauma Queen” among our small group of friends. We do what we can to help her when needed, but every time we get together, and every time we get an email from her, the whole focus is on one of her “issues.” Lately, she seems to thrive on the attention she gets from having so many problems. The pandemic hasn’t helped, since a couple of her family members have gotten COVID, too.

Some of us in our group have our own struggles — but Jamie doesn’t seem the least bit interested in hearing what’s going on in our lives. When the conversation moves to other subjects, she gets quiet, then finds ways to steer it back to herself. She tells us she “doesn’t know what she’d do” without us, but we’re getting to the point where it’s really exhausting to be her friend and we feel a bit used. 

How can we help refocus the “pity party” that happens every time we see this friend?

I should stress that our group has rallied around this woman often and is very supportive, but this has gone on for a while and is getting worse.

Thanks so much, Katie

ANSWER

Hi Katie,

Gosh, that’s a tough situation. My heart goes out to Jamie but also to her exhausted friends. I’m wondering what type of “group of friends” this is and if all the drama goes on in the group—or one-on-one, too.

A few ideas:

Assuming that it’s an informal group that gets together socially on a regular or semi-regular basis, you could try bringing up the idea—to the entire group—of not using the group to discuss problems since there is so much heartbreak in the world right now. 

You could also continue to make efforts to refocus the conversation whenever she leads you to her problems. This would require consistency. While it’s unkind to ignore someone in distress, in this instance, it might be best for your friend not to perseverate on problems and best for the group. 

Would it be possible for the individual in the group who feels closest to Jamie to speak to her one-on-one (not to embarrass her)? That person might suggest that since she has so much trauma and sadness in her life, she might benefit from speaking to a professional to learn better ways to cope with the tragic events that have impacted her life.

That person might also suggest that dealing with these problems outside of the group would allow Jamie to take better advantage of the group, which could provide distraction and enjoyment that seems missing from her life right now. 

Hope this helps!

Best, Irene


Previously on The Friendship Blog: Getting Over the Trauma of Multiple Deaths

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS

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