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This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Geography of Your Friendships

"A man's growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends."  Ralph Waldo Emerson
 Each of your relationships has a different degree of importance to you. Some may be almost equal, some may be quite different and yet, still, both valuable. An interesting exercise is to create a diagram of you in your relationships: You do this by drawing on a piece of paper concentric circles with a space in-between each circle, like a target. In the center circle goes your name. In the space between the line surrounding your name and the next circle goes the people closest to you in your life---your 'inner-circle'. The next person or people can go on the next line or in the next section. Some lines may have more than one name on them, and the circle design allows for that. As you continue, you will eventually get to those on the outermost circle who would be called acquaintances.
This is about the relationships; the question to ask yourself to determine who goes where is: How important is this relationship to me? Of course, you must listen to your true inner response for this diagram to be useful. Some of your answers will be obvious, some may surprise you.
When you finish, you will have a sort of map of yourself in relationship to others at this moment in time. Of course this picture evolves over time, for all of us. Or, once you have the picture, you may have some thoughts about purposely changing how this is working in your life.

It seems that we have a choice about whom we allow into our life or, if that doesn't seem to be completely the case for you, at least, there is always a choice about the degree of importance that you, yourself, assign to any particular relationship. It is my contention that we ought to seek out and nurture relationships with others who are encouraging to us, who, perhaps embody a quality that we find lacking in ourselves, or who in some way represent a positive force in our own life experience.
Have you ever lost a friend because one of you moved or some other happenstance occurred, and, surprisingly, found life was better without that individual's presence? Or that you felt relieved? Sometimes we fall into relationships out of convenience or propinquity or because that person pursued us. It is interesting to note when that happens.

Psychological theory tells us, however, that most of the time, we will naturally choose friends or become close with relatives, or partner in our work lives with others, who are functioning at about our own developmental level. We are usually attracted to people who are our equals and relationships with others who are more 'needy' or more defensive fall away naturally. But it is possible to do this with awareness.

As a child, if you were fortunate enough to have thoughtful parents, they did this for you. Most parents encourage their kids to be pals with other children whom they deem to be a 'good influence'. Part of being an adult is to be a good parent to yourself.
Wouldn't it be self-loving to seek out others who raise our spirits? Or who challenge us intellectually or athletically? Or who seem to draw the best out in us? It may sound too calculating to have your thinking cap on when you are making decisions about friends. But, I think that this process is going on anyway. Why not do it consciously?

Did you do this exercise?  Let us know what you found out.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. I have been trying to end a passively friendship–probably not the best way to go about it–for the past two years with a guy friend who is a terrible influence. He keeps hitting me up and eventually I give in. I realize that I don't even want him in any circles except maybe as someone who I play basketball with.

    My parents and I aren't that close, but I've been working on that relationship slowly for the past two years and we are getting better. I realize how my relationship with them is the most important one in my life. I also wish I was closer with my siblings. I think I might put more work into those relationships.

    Thanks for the post.