You heard me. If I know you, it is likely you have been placed in a particular category/region. I call it mapping. Sounds terribly judgmental doesn’t it? Hold your horses. By the time you finish reading this, you may find yourself wanting to do the same. Especially if you find your life filled with drama or crisis and you can’t figure out why. We live in fast paced society. Too fast. And social media has only added to the pace. Our days are filled with hundreds, if not thousands of people, including: family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, acquaintances, fans/followers. So how do we manage them all? For those who already struggle with anxiety or other emotional disorders, this can seem near to impossible. That’s probably why I used to hardly ever leave the house.
Early on in therapy I was asked to map out all the relationships in my life using circles. Important in terms of how much time, energy, thought, etc…I gave them. The most important ones in the center. The next most significant in the next circle out. And so on.
Before I even finished I knew something was seriously wrong. Not only was I invested in far too many peoples lives, often times, they were toxic relationships. Relationships should be reciprocal. If you are putting something in, ideally, you should be getting something back. But something good. People who have a higher priority should feed something positive in to your life, not just take from it.
It was also noticed that I had a tendency to seek out relationships with people who were in need of rescue. Now while that is to be commended, it is not a healthy lifestyle if you, yourself, are in need of help. Surrounding ourselves with only broken individuals is sometimes an indication that we are in denial of our own issues.
As an example, I once had a friend move in with me who was trying to escape an abusive relationship. For nearly eight months I used every vacation day I had from work going to court dates and dealing with the police. I ended up having to get a restraining order against him as well. What is key here is the fact that I was a fully functioning alcoholic and drug addict at that time. But her issues kept me busy enough that I didn’t have to deal with my own junk. Or so I thought.
And just because you’ve known them forever, or they are family, etc…does not mean they belong in the middle circle. Who knew? Sometimes the best people for us are the ones we least suspect. That friend that’s been trying to get together with you for years. And you keep putting it off (Thanks for sticking with me, Cassie). Or that person you look up to at work or church (Pastor Lindsay). Maybe time with them will actually make you a better person because they will pursue you, feed into you.
Does that mean that everyone we surround ourselves with has to be perfect? No. What this means is that you start paying attention to who and what you are giving yourself to, so that when the people who are truly a priority need you, you can be there for them. Including yourself.
I don’t think you have to struggle with mental illness or emotional problems for this to be a healthy mindset, but for those who do, this is an absolutely critical resource for coping. Otherwise we are left empty. And that is dangerous.
I have since, re-mapped the people in my life. As they should be. And that meant having to move and even say goodbye to a lot of people. Apologizing to others and moving them to the center where they belong. And it’s been a long and hard process. But so worth it. I know people who have done the same thing and I am no longer in their inner circle or even on their map. And I am fine with it. Because I get it.
We take care of ourselves so that we can take care of our tribe.
Our spouses. Our children. Our best friends. And I love my tribe. Imagine how much better the world would be if we all took care of our tribes this well.