Dear Ms. Meniscus,
I have RA and joined a support group online and was surprised to see that they got as cliquish as everyone else. Even though I have never met these people in person they hurt my feelings and get me upset when they argue and try to get people to take sides. I like some of the people and don’t want to just leave. Any advice on what I should do?
Teresa hates Troublemakers
The first thing you need to do is to distance yourself from the arguments, and realize that an argument is not necessarily a personal assault against you. Sometimes people who repeatedly express opinions in a heated manner are passionately devoted to their point of view and not generally interested in listening to a different one. But that’s them; not you, and because they are adhering to one position is not a reason for you to take it as a personal attack meant to wound you. This isn’t a schoolyard, it’s supposed to be a place where people meet to share stories and discuss helpful solutions to living with RA. (If there is name-calling then you should leave the group and find another one.)
In the meantime, allow room for strong opinions (theirs and yours) but more importantly, remind yourself that you are safe and don’t allow arguments to upset you. You didn’t say what topics cause some of the group to take sides. Is it over types of medication or the causes of RA? Does it matter? You are there to help each other. Perhaps you can suggest this to a couple of the people whose opinions you value and together remind the group that it is a forum for help, not combat.
If despite genuine efforts to steer the group in a more helpful direction, you continue to become upset and discouraged, then Madame suggests you and your friends form a new group. That’s a last ditch action. It would be better for all if the group can refocus (it’s a new year!) by committing to cooperative supportive goals that sustain everyone rather than operating in a forum full of tension and aggression.
Good luck and peace to all in 2014.