The desire for community, friends, partnership, etc. has been popping up in many of my conversations (both social and coaching conversations) over the last week. For those of you who are seeking ‘your people’, here are some of my recent insights on the matter:
Who you’re with is (indirectly) a product of who you’re being.
As you grow and change it’s natural for your friends, relationships, and communities to follow suit. But there’s also usually a big lag time, because relationship change is usually much slower than individual change. Many of my clients go through a stage of loneliness because they’ve outgrown their previous communities and are still in the early stages of meeting and/or creating new community.
Sometimes who we’re with is holds us back. Most relationships aren’t prepared for one person to dramatically change. A common client challenge is that even after they escape their internal gravity into a new level of understanding and possibility, then it looks like everything external to them tries to drag them back. They might be happier, healthier, more productive, etc. but they’re ‘not behaving properly’ according to the old ways. Your change is often an unspoken request for your community to change, and the community might say no by trying to get you to change back or by going away. (And sometimes they accept your request, and change within yourself inspires change within them.)
You can also proactively leverage this power of community to support and accelerate change. Seek out people and containers who embody who you want to become. Seek out people you’re mysteriously drawn to, who might be a sign of whom you’re becoming. This is the “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” pattern.
You’re never done.
Whether you’re looking to create new connections or keep current ones, you’re never exonerated from putting in some work. Relationships require attention to start, grow, maintain, evolve, and adapt. Some might be significantly more fragile or resilient than others. Some might require a lot of attention and some just the occasional nudge — but all relationships are alive and will diminish when ignored. So be active and intentional about where you want to focus your ‘grow light’ of time and attention.
This is one of the reasons I send most of my Facebook friends a note on their birthday, as part of my morning routine. At the very least I’m thinking about each of them once per year. Many don’t notice, but some are brought to tears that I’m holding them in my heart for that moment on their day.
Loneliness is a call to aloneness
The simple desire for friendship, relationship, and community is healthy, inspiring, and creative. From that desire it’s fun and easy to meet people. But when it’s coupled with the story of “I’m not ok until” it becomes loneliness: that downward spiral of feeling like you’re broken without connection, but because you feel broken it becomes harder for you to connect, which makes you feel even more broken…
Often compassion is enough to drop this story, but if you find yourself caught up in feeling lonely another direction you can try is to ‘follow’ it, to consciously follow your loneliness into aloneness. Stop ‘trying to meet people’. Newborn attachment needs don’t apply here: you’re not going to die without a date or a new friend; but you will come face to face with your stories, to sit with your scary thinking and seize the opportunity to connect much more deeply with yourself. It’s not forever: it’s a codependency cleanse to help you get back into balance.
At Burning Man this is often part of the daily itinerary. I’ve gone deep into loneliness many times on the Playa, and my most common advice when supporting friends who are in the thick of it is to wander off on their own and ‘let it suck’. Instead of trying to fix it, they drink in the loneliness as medicine and somewhere along the way they fall in love with themself again.
Leadership, Life Optimization, Intimacy and Enlightenment