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Whether we’re decluttering, sorting out or tossing stuff. The opportunities to renew our lives are virtually endless. A quick search on Google for the word declutter yielded so many pages, I quickly tired of reading them. You can get rid of anything, really: bad thoughts, friends, furniture, old files. Life reloaded.
I love decluttering! Of course, that’s easy for me to say, I don’t find it very difficult. Owning too many things makes me feel unfree, the ole “what you own, owns you” kind of thinking, I guess. There’s hardly a day that I don’t come across an item I no longer want and that I either give to friends or dispose of in some other way. So, you could assume I’m totally down with the whole minimalist movement, along the lines of, if it’s not beautiful or useful, toss it!
Not so fast! Today I want to talk about sorting out negative people in our circle of friends and acquaintances. In the esoteric scene, we speak of these guys as toxic people. Ostensibly, we’re surrounded by bad people whom we should be kicking to the curb in a timely and final fashion. Somehow, that gets me asking several questions: If everyone’s toxic, who is clean? If there are only victims here, who are the perpetrators? If I am surrounded only by toxic people, what does that say about me? This separation of good and bad is too easy, to quick, too incomplete for my taste.
Each of us has probably lost a person we were close to, right? The relationships were once wonderful, intense, helpful until they weren’t, or they couldn’t any longer. We couldn’t find our way back to each other without inflicting mutual pain. By now, we’ve also very likely understood that not all friendships are meant to last a lifetime. Some of our companions were exactly right for a certain phase in our life, until they weren’t. This alone doesn’t make us or the people around us toxic. It just means the connection no longer made sense to either of us and that’s ok.
What bothers me, is not the natural lifecycle of relationships. It is the fact that these cycles have gotten a lot faster that I find strange. Apparently, we don’t fight for stuff anymore. After all, don’t we have enough friends on facebook and Instagram? And if it’s community we seek, there are thousands just a click away. So why deal with people who question us, confront us, say things that really get our blood boiling? Does it mean they’re out to destroy us (note to self: cleanse aura.)? Are they really just jealous? Is the whole human useless and unworthy of my attention because s/he said something hurtful? So many questions! There can only be one answer: unfriend. Toss that negativity, Sista!
In these cases, in the yoga universe, we often speak of “letting go what no longer serves us”. I second that emotion wholeheartedly. What I find questionable, however, is the lack of self-awareness. All too quickly, those of us in the spiritual scene arrive at the same conclusion: “Case closed; everyone around me is toxic, except me!” That reminds me of past-life regression therapy. During these sessions, it turns out, we were all healers, rulers and if not, we were definitely good people or the victim of other people’s transgressions. Um, so nobody volunteering for the role of dictator, murderer, how about thieve at least? Anybody? How is that possible? Where did every-bad-body go?
But let’s get back to this life: We’re mid-fight. Our “nemesis” just won’t admit she said something hurtful. We’re not ready to admit that we may have triggered that remark beforehand. Forget saying sorry. The fronts solidify and we need to decide this thing now (why is that? Can’t we let it incubate for a moment, stay with the discomfort?) The jury is in: This person’s gotta go because “I only want to spend time with people that are good for me right now,” or “sorry, I’m just vibing at a higher frequency now, can’t deal with this negative energy!” Plus, it says so in my daily horoscope. Huh.
Please don’t get me wrong. If a person continuously hurts us, if we’re pouring love all over this thing but all we get is manipulation, I’m the last one to say “hold on”! As mentioned above, I have left, I’ve been left by people I loved because all we had left for each other was pain.
Let’s say this is a friend, however, whom we were very much connected to in a loving way. We’ve known them for a long time. Together we weathered life’s great challenges. Perhaps it’s worth taking a second or third look at this person or relationship. Maybe that is where the healing and a new kind of appreciation can happen. Do I really need to sever all ties? Can’t we just take a moment, gain some distance and equipped with a moderately sized cocktail (fine…green smoothie then) talk about it or even just decide to go for a clean slate instead?
Esther Perel, the famous couple’s counselor said something stunningly beautiful at the end of her TED Talk. She was talking about couples who were trying to get over an affair but the logic can surely be applied to friendships as well: “Today in the West, most of us are going to have two or three relationships or marriages and some of us are going to do it with the same person. Your first marriage is over. Would you like to create a second one-together?”
Old friendships are valuable but of course they are prone to dynamics that aren’t always useful or healthy. But this is my pitch for holding on, even if that friend is not “serving” us at the moment. Optimizing, decluttering, renewing does not have to mean replacing. It can also mean reevaluation, practicing a new, healthy relationship with this person and, here comes the hard part, maybe holding up a mirror to ourselves. Who’s toxic now? Am I being to idealistic? Old-fashioned? Lemme know in the comments section and thank you for reading!