ASK RAVEN: THERAPY SESSION 4

 

A few years ago I hit a personal bottom. After years of overextending, showing up, and literally “helping” people for a living, I was tired, exhausted, and lonely. 

But I had friends, I had SOO many friends. All around me were friends, some close, some distant, but they existed and were there, so why wasn’t I happy? Why wasn’t I able to reach out to them when I needed help? Why did I feel like the people who I wanted to connect with the most had no time for me? Those are the questions I was asking myself.

The final straw came when my then boyfriend, who is now my husband, pointed out that after I had pulled together a last minute birthday party for a friend of mine I didn’t even get a thank you from said friend. Mind you, she called me upset over her birthday plans. I let all her friends come to my home, I fed them, I hosted them, and when it was all over she left me to clean up while she went out to turn up. I didn't even notice I was taking a major L until somebody ELSE pointed out that I had just been taken advantage of.

It was in this moment, embarrassed because I “knew” better, that I realized I wasn’t exactly sure where I stood with a lot of people in my life. I needed an overhaul, I needed a way to evaluate what was going on. I saw myself giving energy away in all directions. To projects, to people, to movements.

Not everybody identifies as an empath, not everyone chooses to have tons of friends, and not everyone struggles with boundaries. What I learned is that we could all benefit from taking the time to evaluate where we stand with the people in our lives.

In this session, I'd like to share a how-to guide on doing some Friendship Inventory.

This will help you evaluate your friendships and situation-ships. Through a series of exploratory questions you'll figure out who deserves ALL of your love and energy and who you should only schedule a tea with once a quarter. First, grab a pen and paper.

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Draw a large circle. In that circle I want you to put the the names of your ride or dies, the people who you can go years without talking to and you can pick up right where you left off. Friendships that are STRONG, tried and true. Reliable allies.

Tip: Ask yourself, who do you feel truly free around, who makes you feel good no matter what?

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Great! Now draw another circle outside of the first circle. 

In this second circle put down the names of the people who you love and maybe have more regular interaction with. In here I want you to write down the the names of friends you would feel comfortable calling if there was something important you needed to talk about. Friends who are good to you, who you trust, who care about, who appreciate you, who you love.

Tip: The folks who get invited to an intimate birthday dinner hosted by Solange + Bey.

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Next, draw your 3rd circle (outside of circle #2). This is where positive acquaintances go. People who might be part of your extended friend group. Not someone you would call but someone you see often, at events, at gatherings. Perhaps you are connected by a close friend in Circle 1 or 2. Perhaps you have similar interests and have a positive feeling about this person.

Tip: Think of the person who’s brought up in conversation and you say “oh yeah they’re cool!”. People who you have been meaning to get to know better but just haven’t.

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And now, the last circle! Circle #4. Here you write the names of people who interact with socially or personally who you really don't like or care about but that for some reason or another are in your life... This might be a lengthly list, but we're right there with you.

Alright, so now that you have your four circles of fire aka friendships, it's time for you to make some very important lists:Use the names of the people from the 4 circles you just created...the most important thing is to be honest!

The Not So Great "Friends" List:

Write a list of “friends” who only call you, reach out or want to see you when they:

  1. Need something from you ( a favor, your expertise, your connections, money)
  2. Have a crisis/something is wrong
  3. Have a crisis and “need your opinion” (but often don’t take it)
  4. Want to sleep with you ("wyd" text at 2am)
  5. Need an ear, ANY ear. They complain about things, are presented with support, help, resources and don’t take the opportunity to make meaningful change. People you secretly suspect don’t really want to change the situation they are in... ( this excludes people who are experiencing intimate partner violence or coercion).

Write a list of “friends” with whom you feel there is an imbalance. Think of the friend you're always:

  1. Paying for
  2. Calling to hang out but never invites you
  3. Giving your emotional energy to but doesn't reciprocate

Write a list of “friends” who you don't feel safe around. For ANY reason. There are many ways people make us feel unsafe. Like:

  1. They are liars 
  2. They are jealous of your success (were they happy of your promotion?)
  3. They are passive aggressive manipulators, gaslight you, are generally untrustworthy 
  4. People who’s actions make you questions where you stand in your friendship 

Write a list of people who you “chase.” Again, be honest.

  1. Friendships that you seek out more than they seek you out
  2. People/ groups who you have tried to connect with but don't seem to not be interested in having a deeper connection with you
  3. People who are just unavailable to be your good friend for one reason or another.

Now ask yourself WHY. Why are you chasing people who aren’t going to give you what you need? When I took at look inward in almost everyone of these individual “friendships” I recognized a pattern. Here are my patterns: I wanted to be friends with the cool girls/the cool group. Girls that had no interest in me, but I was thirsty for their approval and they knew it.

I didn't really like them. I subconsciously sought the approval of people who I felt were rejecting me. I was being dishonest, me seeking these relationships out had NOTHING to do with the individual. It was about me not wanting to feel left out, unwanted, unloved, and left behind.

Ok, now your turn. Ask yourself why. Do you see any patterns?

The THOSE Friends ARE DOPE List:

Make a list of good people who seek you out. Think of:

  1. People who have wanted to spend time with you
  2. People who have expressed an interest in getting to know you better
  3. People who want to be your friend who you like
  4. friends who send you “I miss you “ texts that you respond to days later

Make a list of friendships you think you might be taking for granted.

  1. Friendships that could use love, attention, and nurturing.
  2. People you have been meaning to get in touch with 

These last two lists, these are the folks you should be giving your time to. The folks that deserve your laughs, your day parties, your shoulder to cry on... your impromptu birthday hosting!

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If you have gotten this far you have taken a brave and honest look at the friendships in your life, and I hope this gives you a better understanding of where you stand. What you do from here is up to you. Only YOU know and understand how these friendships affect your life. Remember we are social creatures, we have a biological imperative to create community. If your relationships don’t feel safe, good, and healthy you risk your physical and mental health.

For me, it meant letting go of friendships that didn’t serve me, with the inventory complete I understood *exactly* how they didn’t serve me. I was a lot less motivated to create connections with people who didn’t want to connect with me. I understood where I was being taken advantage of, and where I was being motivated by self-centeredness.

I still have a lot of progress to make in terms of being a present and available friend, but at least now I know where I stand, I know who to call, I know who will show up for me no matter what. And that's all that truly matters.


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Raven Burgos,

MSWis a Therapist and Native New Yorker. Learn more about her work and her, here hellohappiness