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Published on October 9, 2017

The Harsh but Honest Truth About Friendship Decluttering

The Harsh but Honest Truth About Friendship Decluttering

Over the years you’ve developed a fair few friendships. While some are quite obviously close and fulfilling, there are some that you know deep down aren’t serving you anymore. You may struggle to find much in common to talk about or you may have noticed you both have developed different values, mindsets, or interests. Perhaps you or they are heading in different directions in terms of career or family life.

Humans are social animals and connection is important to forming and maintaining a sense of happiness in lives. But some connections just aren’t meant to last. Holding on to people despite a bad connection can end up draining your energy or even stunt your personal growth.

Embrace Labeling a Friendship

You’ve heard about the importance of decluttering homes every now and then, but what about friendships decluttering? The notion may seem harsh but it’s important to stop and reflect on the people in our lives that aren’t bringing us value.

In the book The Power of the Other, Dr. Henry Cloud discusses the influence that the people in our lives have on determining the amount of success we gain in our personal and professional lives.

There are three main types that can help you identify your current friendships: bad connections, pseudo-good connections and real connections. I’m labeling them with different colors so you know how to decide what friends to keep and ditch.

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    Red Label: The Bad Connections

    These are the people who drain your energy. This usually manifests from a feeling that bad friendships are better than no friendships at all. They tend to make you feel negative emotions on a regular basis, drain your energy or just don’t forge a deep connection. Examples of this kind of friendship could be someone who guilts you into spending time with them, are needy, find it funny to belittle you on a regular basis or you feel you give a lot to the friendship with very little effort back. There’s also no feeling of trust between you – if you told them something in confidence, they would most likely spread your secret around.

    Ultimately you can’t grow from a relationship like this but instead it keeps you feeling small generating feelings of guilt, shame or fear.

    Blue Label: The Pseudo-Good Connections

    These friendships are the tricky ones to decipher. While they are the people who are positive and even encouraging, the relationship tends to be shallow. There’s no vulnerability, no acknowledgement of the not-so fun side of life and you don’t share your troubles. They will have a tendency to tell you what you want to hear rather than having your best interests at heart. It could be a friendship where you know very little about what the other feels, or that they don’t confide in you and you feel you can’t confide in them. You do a lot of fun stuff together yet you still don’t feel you truly know each other.

    While it feels nice, the friendship is empty.

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    Green Label: The Real Connections

    These are the ones that really have your back. You’ll share your joys, fears, successes and failures with each other in a genuine and supportive way. There’s no judgement but a strong feeling that there’s a deep investment in each others’ futures. If you do something questionable they will be sure to be the ones questioning you – out of love and your own growth. If you have a crisis going on, they will be the first one there to help you through it.

    Friendship Decluttering Is Hard but Essential

    Decluttering is easier said than done. Once you’ve identified someone you may want to let go of, the fear of missing out may come to the surface. This comes from the human instinct to avoid feelings of loneliness and being ostracised from the main group. It’s also linked to our self-esteem and wanting validation from others even if it’s from people who aren’t the best for us. Common questions will arise such as what if they go off and do interesting things without you? What if you could develop a better friendship in the future? Maybe it’s someone you’ve known so long that it’s better to just stick with the friendship than to end it.

    While it can be difficult, it’s important to understand that ditching the bad connections will help the good connections to develop further and help you grow in the process. Having people who are truly supportive will provide you with the positivity energy you need to thrive. Read more about The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

    When you control your environment, you control your life. If you cultivate the best friendships in your life, you will maintain a better quality of life all round. You’re much more likely to reach your goals because the influence of the people you spend the most time with shapes your mindset more than you think. People who motivate you, support you and see the best in you will consciously and subconsciously drive you towards what you want in life and you’ll ultimately achieve more.

    Control Your Life by Creating a Good Friendship Circle

    To build up a good network of supportive and invested friends in your life, take these steps to carefully declutter your friendships.

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    1. Filter out your red and blue friendships

    The first thing is to re-evaluate the red and blue labelled friendships in your life by thinking carefully about each person. These are the ones that will make you feel more lonely in the long term if you choose to hold on and focus on them.

    When you think about them, how do they make you feel? If it’s a constant negativity within you and you can’t see how they add value to your life, then it’s time to label them as a red or blue. The idea is to distance yourself from these friends so you can create space to let in more supportive and genuine people. You could choose to cut them out straight away or decide to say ‘no’ more often to their suggestions. Find out more in my other article how to face a toxic friend: The Fallout of Not Facing the Toxic Behaviors of a Selfish Friend

    2. Spot out a potential green friendship

    The more you identify with the traits that make a deep and healthy friendship, the more you will see it in other people.

    Find people you can trust and shares your core values; someone who have your best interests at heart and aren’t afraid to sugar-coat if it means knowing you’ll grow. If you have a big decision, they will weigh out the pros and cons with you with your benefit in mind, even if it means you moving half way across the country from them. It goes both ways too – make sure you are giving them the best advice with no ulterior motives.

    3. Be vulnerable and open up

    This is essential to attract more meaningful relationships in your life. You reflect back what you put out so by opening up and not camouflaging yourself from others. This will allow others to do the same with you.

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    Don’t be afraid to talk about your fears and voice your opinions. If you have a big dilemma at work or you’re thinking about breaking up with someone, talk it out as this will make the other person feel they can do the same with you developing a trusted bond.

    4. Put effort in the green friendships

    Don’t dismiss a friendship because that person moved halfway across the country from you or they’re starting a new relationship. This can mean more effort to maintain a friendship but if the genuine connection, alignment and respect is there, it won’t be too hard. The connection you have is worth more than proximity or the amount of time you spend with each other.

    This leads on to the importance of effort. The maintenance of a good friendship is what allows it to deepen, so exchange thoughts with each other regularly. If you have a big problem, talk it out with them and they will do the same with you. Interact with them using text, funny pictures or Facetime, call them up, share ideas, suggest plans, tell them about your day – this gentle connection with someone who is equally invested in you will help your friendship grow all the more.

    By cutting out toxic relationships, you will start to see a massive difference in yourself and how you see the world around you in a more positive light. Don’t underestimate what a real friend can bring to the table!

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel.com via pexels.com

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    Anna Chui

    Communication Expert

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    Published on July 13, 2018

    Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

    Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

    What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

    By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

    When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

    In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

    Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

    What is attachment theory?

    Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

    The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

    His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

    The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

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    When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

    Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

    How attachment develops

    Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

    Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

    The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

    It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

    In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

    Different types of attachments

    In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

    • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
    • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
    • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
    • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

    What attachments mean to adults

    So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

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    As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

    • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
    • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
    • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
    • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

    Here’s where it gets really interesting:

    Move towards secure attachment

    The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

    Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

    The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

    If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

    The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

    Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

    How to restructure your thoughts

    Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

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    For the Avoidant Style

    As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

    Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

    Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

    Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

    Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

    If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

    Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

    And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

    For the Anxious Style

    For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

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    First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

    Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

    For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

    The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

    Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

    When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

    For the Secure Style

    Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

    Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

    Strive towards Secure Attachment

    As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

    • Positive self esteem and self image
    • Close and well adjusted relationships
    • Sense of security in self and the world
    • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
    • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
    • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
    • Trust in self and others
    • Close, intimate relationships
    • Strong determination and problem solving skills

    If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

    It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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