Ever wonder why it sometimes feels like we’re the Kardashians, dealing with non-stop drama, while we’re striving to become more like Oprah?
Look no further than the company we keep.
Relationships can be tricky, and entering into quality ones almost becomes an art form. But our success in life can truly be correlated with the caliber of the crew we run with.
Of course, I learned this lesson the hard way.
It may have taken some years, but I’ve learned to suss out the types of people who will leech off of my positive energy and bring me down, and the ones that won’t. I’ve also figured out some ways to break up with friends while leaving my sanity intact.
“You’re the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.” ~ Jim Rohn
Our friendships are the sirloin steak and fingerling potatoes of life. They’re often what make or break our human experience. In it’s highest form, friendship brings us cozy comfort and a reprieve from the existential void of a world in chaos. Our friends become our chosen family, our peers, our confidantes, and our role models.
They uplift and inspire us. They challenge us and help us to become better people.
Not all friendships, however, are spawned from unicorn magic and gilded with pixie dust. Some friendships end up absorbing the majority of our mental and emotional energy, taking much more from us than they give.
Perhaps we’ve become entangled with the narcissist, who is driven to be the center of attention. While at first glance they appear to be rather charming and attentive, make no mistake that they are the sole stars of the show and we’re merely their supporting players. The narcissist needs constant validation, often basing the level of our love on the number of our Facebook likes and compliments. The narcissist is incapable of accepting constructive criticism, and our appeal to them wanes as we cease to validate their point of view.
Or maybe it’s the fair-weather friend, who can always be relied upon to show up for the good times. They make a habit of getting sauced and bending your ear about trivial matters. Once the party is over and we turn to them for emotional support, they scurry off faster than you can say the keg has kicked.
Then there’s the victim, forever sharing the same old sob stories. The victim dwells in the past and lays on the guilt, blaming everyone else for their problems and their pain. They are so addicted to their story that they refuse to listen to advice or accept our offers of help. The victim’s needs are as bottomless as a black hole.
Forget Twilight, these are the real vampires.
Each will create drama to suck you in, and will dominate your attention in an effort to validate themselves or their own behavior. Yet they never make the necessary changes that would put an end to the drama.
And you know what? That’s their journey to experience, for better or worse. We, on the other hand, have our own journeys. We have a right to explore our own paths and what best supports our well-being, even if those paths lead in the opposite directions. There’s absolutely no shame in that.
I’ve made a lot of changes to my life over the past year and a half. I’ve consequently broken up with a few friends as I’ve started putting myself first and establishing my boundaries. It’s a human instinct to be empathetic. We want to be nurturing and supportive of others. It’s a fine line though between being a good friend and becoming someone’s therapist or constant cheerleader.
After all, friendship is an exchange of energy. We do not need to be taking on other people’s energies, especially when that energy is negative and self-destructive, and we’re trying to be as positive and as healthy as we can.
Whenever I experience discomfort in relationships, I find it helpful to ask myself the following questions:
How do I feel in their presence—is it consistently happy or emotionally drained?
What do I give to this relationship? What do I get out of this relationship?
How often do they go out of their way to help when I’m in need?
Do they really have my best interests at heart?
Do we share the same values?
Are we growing together?
Are our interactions rooted in honesty and integrity?
Is communication and constructive criticism met with an open mind or defensive denial?
If our answers are mostly negative and we find our lives being dominated by the other person, it may be time to reconsider some things. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t support a friend in need. Nor am I advising writing someone off who is merely going through a rough patch and genuinely needs and wants our help. But when we find ourselves trying to help those who don’t want to help themselves, that means there’s nothing left to work with and it’s time to move on.
Letting a friend go isn’t easy and can induce a lot of guilt. So how can we ease the pain and facilitate the transition of breaking up with a friend?
Here are some methods I’ve tried that have worked for me:
1) Take responsibility.
As someone wise once asked me, “Where were you at in life when you attracted these people? Think about that.”
I take ownership for who and what I was when I attracted these people into my life. I had flighty friends at one stage because I myself was flighty. I attracted people in pain during another stage because I was feeling pain at that time.
Rather than simply blame the other person, let’s ask ourselves why we co-created a specific relationship with that person. What were they mirroring within ourselves? Taking responsibility lessens the blame, and reduces any hard feelings.
2) Cut the cords.
In Huna, the Hawaiian spiritual belief system of healing and shamanism, there is a connection—the “aka cord”—which is a sticky and rubber band-like substance that connects us to one another and to all other living things. According to this belief, our aka cords thicken and strengthen when we form bonds with other souls. These bonds can support and nourish us when the connections are positive, but they can also drain us of our energy if the relationship becomes imbalanced.
This explains why we become drained when we are in the presence of negative or demanding people. According to Huna, we ought to reassess the bond whenever an imbalance occurs. Sometimes we’re able to reconcile with the other person and reestablish the bond, sometimes not. In any case, it’s important that we dissolve the current cords.
I cut cords by doing a meditation in which I picture the other person and I visualize the cords that are connecting us. I send a white light to that person, envisioning it all around us and the cord. I recite an affirmation to myself, one to cut the cord between us. I then visualize a blast of light zapping our cord and dissolving it like an electric spark that travels down the length of it.
3) Thank you.
In contemporary Ho’oponopono, derived from Huna, there are four statements:
I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.
I also ask myself, what was the lesson? How am I wiser and stronger for having interacted with them? I then thank them for the lessons that they’ve provided—and I move on.
4) I love you.
I next send loving energy to the person and the conflict. Although we may at times feel like we want to shake these individuals, holding onto feelings of hostility, disappointment, or anger serves no one, least of all ourselves. Sometimes I do a meditation in which I picture the other person and surround their image in white light while I mentally release them.
5) Commit to our own evolution, growth, and healing.
Finally, I focus on who and what I want to attract into my life. I’ve found it helpful to list the traits of people, as well as specifics about situations that I wish to manifest. Vision boards also do the job. It’s important to focus on the positive and establish a forward motion. This prevents us from remaining stuck in the past.
Having cut my share of cords this past year, I can now say that I’m feeling like my old self. I’ve restored the peace in my daily life and regained my equilibrium. I’m also meeting and investing in people who embrace life with gusto. They experience their share of ups and downs, and find constructive solutions to their problems, while retaining positive outlooks.
My days are no longer spent absorbing other people’s trauma. I’ve stopped spending my energy on counseling others through their repetitive dramas. All of that energy is now being directed toward my passions and projects.
I am feeling inspired to keep bettering myself, and my days are filled with joy. There is no shame, no guilt—and there’s no going back from here.
Author: Vanessa Mason
Image: Gary Knight/Flickr
Apprentice Editor: Lori Stitt; Editor: Nicole Cameron