Dear Betsy;

You are sensitive to your own feelings; you indulge yourself in feelings which are always and exhaustingly about your reactions to people and events. You haven’t the faintest idea about other people’s feelings – how you affect them. You invent complications, you analyse without reason or need very simple occurrences, and you analyse with very little true knowledge of people. It does not occur to you that this is an outrageous burden on others; not friendship but emotional tyranny.

…Emotional tyranny, Betsy. The rule, your rule, is: tread softly, by God, or you will disturb my feelings. It’s an enormous stupid tedious bore. You can have all the feelings you want, but the only practical way you can handle this is: cut out the people who distress your feelings and take the rest of the world at face value, the face the world presents, because everyone has enough real problems without getting bogged down in the problems you manufacture.

Because, with all your feelings, you have never stopped to look at yourself: a woman who sulks when events don’t work out as desired, who has innumerable absolute needs which are not life and death matters but your absolutes, who has to be kept happy or else by golly it’s miseryville all round. Friendship is fun and a loose mutual aid society. It isn’t soul-picking (your soul, note) and you’ve made me as furious as I’ve ever been. I won’t have this nonsense and this tyranny. I have never had it from anyone else and I’m not having it any more from you. Try growing up.

– Martha Gellhorn, from a letter to Betsy Drake written c. January 1983

Lauren Martin
Just another girl in the world...and founder of Words of Women

Comments(4)

    • Fatimah

    • 8 months ago

    Amazing truth serum

    • Charlotte Potgieter

    • 8 months ago

    It takes courage to speak one’s mind like this, which Martha has done in masterfully. She is a person who has emotional intelligence!

    • Sheree-joe

    • 8 months ago

    oh my, I LOVE this and HATE this all at the same time. I would love to be strong enough to deliver it and to receive this. I am so curious about Betsy’s response…I want to imagine she WAS strong enough to receive it.

  1. Egle Cereskaite

    Brutally honest and eye opening truth.. I could feel this applying to me when I become ‘obsessed’ with my small inner problems. Wake up, woman…a much need cold water in the face. Thank you, Martha! You are a true friend.

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