Thursday, June 13, 2013

You Are Not My Friend

There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship
–St. Thomas Aquinas

      In Robert Louis Stevenson's book "Gulliver's Travels" he describes a society of tiny little people who have amazing adventures, a fascinating story that you are probably familiar with. I have always loved the idea of little worlds and would spend hours as a young person searching the pages of Richard Scarry books for tiny little lives to be revealed. What is even more fascinating than these stories though is the way that Robert Louis Stevenson came about his story. He didn't so much craft it as take dictation from the "little people" in his head. They would reveal their stories to him in his dreams and they made him a renowned author. I found this singular fact to be something interesting to know but finding out that a large percentage of people actually think and dream in "little people" well that gave me a whole lot more to think about.

     Of course we are not just a singular creature, one neuron cannot make a thought by itself it must connect to another neuron and it is an entire network in our heads that weaves together the stories of our lives. So why not imagine our thoughts as little people? We all have facets of our identity that aren't completely integrated, two big ones I name are "morning Signe" and "nighttime Signe" I do not think or act the same in these states. Maybe you have "Mom you" and "friend you" or maybe you break yourself down into a thousand little people. We all have some version of our best self and some version of our fearful self living in our heads.

     So here's the thing, if we can think about our thoughts as colonies of little people in our heads then maybe there are some of these little people that it is more nourishing and affirming to hang out with and other little people that might need a time out or even banishment from the kingdom of your mind.
I started thinking about the thoughts in my head in a comparative way and holding them up to friendships I have or had in "real life". I have been blessed with knowing some really quality people who have remained friends, but I have also had to learn to cut ties with a few people whose negativity just brought me down. It was hard to do but it was a loving act I needed to do for myself. Sometimes we are meant to be a rock for a hurting person but if that rock get tied to your ankle and drags you underwater it is time to cut the rope. So, the other day when I had a particularly negative self talk thought in my head I immediately knew I did not need to be hanging out with this "little person". Our thoughts can be our friends nudging us gently to be our best self but our thoughts can also be passive aggressive, belittling or just plain mean and these are the thoughts we need to unfriend. So the other day when my "mean girl little person" thought arose I did not react by shrinking internally or by listening to the thought as a truth but with a surprising humor I just told the thought "I'm sorry but we can't hang out". And it left and I don't remember it and I have more mental space for good friends now. So what if it can be that simple? Are your thoughts your true friends or just masquerading as a friend? Would you talk to a friend the way you think to yourself? If thoughts are unfriendly show them the door even if you have to do it a hundred times, refuse to hang out with "tiny little people" that are anything less than encouraging truth tellers. The theme of being a friend to ourselves is one that weaves its way through my life and writing often, but it begins in our heads with our colonies of "little people". So, what are you thinking about? Are there friends or foes landscaping your mind? Weed out the nonfriends and your headspace will become a lot more nourishing. It can be as simple as just saying "No you can't hang out with me mean thought". Simple, but maybe not easy, but so worth it. So watch those thoughts and show the ugly ones the door. Because you are worth it, be a friend to yourself. You are worthy of  deep love and good friends and don't let any thought tell you otherwise.