By definition the term afterthought refers to “An idea, response, or explanation that occurs to one after an event or decision.” or “1. a later or second thought. 2. something added later, as a part or feature. “
Most people think of afterthoughts in everyday situations all the time but what does it feel like if you are the afterthought when it comes to relationships with friends and family? It could manifest in the following ways.
What its like to be the afterthought?
1. Its your birthday. No one has planned anything and when they find out you might get an invitation at the last minute. The birthday won’t be about you but it could go something like this “Oh I am really sorry I forgot your birthday. How about (tagging) coming along to the so a so with me and John. We had something planned already but we would love it if you came along and joined us.
2. The family have a big get together and you don’t get asked because they make an assumption that you wouldn’t want to go. It could manifest like this “John and I are planning to take Lucy out for their birthday” You reply “that’s really that’s nice but I wasn’t invited” They reply “oh well we assumed that you wouldn’t want to come”. Making assumptions about someone’s feelings or making decisions for them invalidates them and makes them feel even more of an outsider.
The problem with being an afterthought is that people rarely if ever put you first. You will never be the one that someone organises a special event for. Most probably you will be the person that is just invited to tag along to events at the last minute.
How does it make you feel?
Sometimes the aim of being an afterthought is to make you feel excluded like you don’t really belong. It gives mixed messages because and creates cognitive dissonance because the people involved aren’t necessarily being horrible but they are not being nice either. This may be done intentionally or unintentionally. Unfortunately the afterthought is just used to it being done intentionally so cannot always differentiate when its done accidentally. They may be too scared to speak up because when they have in the past they may have gotten a barrage of abuse from the perpetrator who had done it intentionally.
However, you can usually get a sense that you have been assigned the role of afterthought when you go out and no one particularly wants to interact with you or you get excluded from conversations. Perhaps you are out in a crowd and no one introduces you and you get introduced later when someone asks who you are.
In essence you are given the role of the scapegoat or outsider. This may well be a role you have played all your life and so people continue to treat you as such.
Should you decide to speak up and complain about being put last you may well be labelled overly sensitive and/or misunderstood which further isolates you. You may also be accused of wanting “special” treatment and so very rarely speak up or tell the person how their actions really made you feel. As a scapegoat the victim is so accustomed to others being made to feel special they very often excuse the behaviour of others because its become a learned habit to be treated as second best. Very often afterthoughts may have previously played the role of scapegoat with their families and friends and therefore might consider the actions of others as normal.
In therapy many may have been advised by professionals to distance themselves from their family, for their own mental well-being. As a result most afterthoughts may withdraw and become introspective. Blaming themselves and believing that no one likes them, they may rely on their own company and self soothing to manage their feelings. If someone does finally come along and make them feel special they may feel overwhelmed.
If you are a person who feels like an “afterthought” stop for a moment and think about how it makes you feel. Very often those uncomfortable feelings were triggered by unresolved childhood stuff. Acknowledge the discomfort and take time out to give yourself some special treatment. This could be anything from disconnecting from the source of discomfort to withdrawing for a while until the feelings have passed.