How to gain Vital Energy by clearing out Social Contacts

As far as I am concerned the turn of the year is always a perfect time to finish with things, to clean house, culling and make room for something new. I personally prefer doing that at this time either concretely or even figuratively speaking (finally saying bye-bye to those elements of the old clothes collection like for instance those that are “technically still wearable” but I am sure of never wearing again) or my address book, for instance.
I have no idea whether this happens to me alone, but as I am getting older I find that I am less and less prepared to suffer folks in my life who could probably best be described as “energy devourers”: That is to say after one encounter with those folks I feel mostly worn out and at best bored stiff, often dissatisfied and even actually aggressive as well. Could it possibly be that these days I am less than previously prepared to casually and generously offer my resources of time and energy? Or maybe as I am getting older, I simply become more particular where friends and acquaintances are concerned? In any case, while leafing through my address book and spontaneously thinking: “for a very good reason I did not actually call them during this entire year “ and best leave it that way, I have again deleted two names, addresses and telephone numbers.

In my case it took some time until I even conceded to those clearing out activities in my social environment. Like most women I always prefer trying to be as “nice” as possible with everybody, not to step on anyone’s toes, not to hurt anyone’s feelings. In most cases something certainly the right thing to do. Unfortunately there are always those folks where we should make the decision whether we want to be nice to them – or else preferably to ourselves. After a meeting or a telephone conversation with someone we notice that we are dealing with such a person when we end up in a bad mood or less energized than previously. In case we already hesitate for a tiny moment when we see the number displayed while deliberating whether to pick up or activate voice mail. When relief instead of disappointment is our first impulse in response to the last-minute cancellation of a planned appointment, we should categorically reflect whether this relationship is still and truly good for us.

For instance, in some respect it could frequently be an existing imbalance where we may have the feeling to be constantly investing more in the relationship than the other person. Or we determine that we simply have drifted too far apart - that sometimes even happens to the best of friends primarily when the life plan- or course has drastically changed. By all means, then it is time for a clarifying conversation – sometimes such a state of affairs is repairable and the relationship can be revitalized on a different level. A relationship should only be terminated when a positive change proves to be impossible either now or in the future. Sometimes it also suffices when a relationship is “put on ice” for a while and after a while an attempt is made to find a new mutual basis. For instance, this frequently occurs among women when one is involved in the phase of starting a family and the other has her plate full with children – or, even worse no matter how hard she is trying, she can’t get pregnant. Sometime later when the turbulent years with children are over, one may be able to find a common ground again. However for the time being an “intermission” may just be the best choice – and might even be a necessary prerequisite for a later rapprochement.

To clarify this: In this context I am not talking about people in our immediate environment who temporarily – for whatever reasons – may be stuck in difficult life situations and therefore just may be unable to continuously spread cheerfulness about. Or else about folks who just happen to somehow be in need of help and therefore need our help rather more than we need theirs. For a time it is completely ok, if as a consequence the relationship with them may even require more energy than we get back in return after all, that is what friends are for. The problem is just with folks with whom the relationship is imbalanced in perpetuity and with whom any prospect for any remediation of this imbalance is non-existent.

In case of rather more loose relationships and when one arrives at the conclusion that they just aren’t worth continuing, one can always decide to simply let them die a natural death without much fuss. This is obviously not all that honest vis-à-vis the other person, as a matter of fact it kind of falls into the category of “little white lies” ( in this case not telling the truth) with the good intention not to unnecessarily hurt the other person’s feelings. When this involves a closer or potentially even long standing relationship one intends to terminate, just to be fair sooner or later one won’t be able to avoid an open word. Whenever one simply withdraws from those relationships without an explanation, something akin to a “loose end” remains hanging in our space, something that won’t accrue to either of the parties involved. The other person is entitled to be told why we want to terminate the relationship – it is only in that way that he/she may have the opportunity to change something about the (in our eyes) relationship unacceptable behavior.
The more emotions in a relationship are involved, the less it is justifiable to simply steal away. But then sometimes this “stealing away” where relationships are involved represents a kind of a test run: in that case one quasi experiments with longer extending phases of the temporary and unacknowledged separation in order to examine whether and what one may perhaps miss without each other. Under certain circumstances one actually realizes that something makes it worthwhile to continue the relationship, after all. For instance, exactly that has also happened to me with a longtime friend and today I am glad that our contact continues.

Either way, as the person taking the initiative of potentially terminating a relationship one must always expect that the other person may react angry, hurt or sad. And since he/she is perfectly justified one must be able to take it. One can only expect a separation without pain when both parties involved concurrently and simultaneously come to the conclusion that they will be better off without the relationship – it is only in that case that no-one is left without the feeling of loss. Unfortunately that is relatively rarely the case regardless whether this involves a friendship ore love relationship. One should always proceed as gently as possible when rationalizing the separation but at the same time sufficiently but not brutally honest make it clear that the separation is final. It is ok to tell someone: “I believe that we simply don’t have any interests and subjects in common any longer; we are just not as connected as we used to be.” On the other hand personal insults à la: “You are just boring!” are totally unnecessary.

Although it may not be easy: I can only recommend this regular review of all personal social contacts. First of all the old saying is true: “Our hands will not be free unless we let go of other things.” Saying farewell to the old that lost its usefulness is the most important precondition for something new to evolve. First of all, we should deal with our social relationships just as we occasionally get rid of unnecessary ballast by de-cluttering our basement, external hard drive or our wardrobe in order to make room for something new. Secondly, to quote a favorite saying of Psychologists: “Separation Skill” (letting go, breaking up and starting new) is a very important, possibly the MOST important life skill, period. After all, our entire life consists of many major and minor farewells – from things, humans, situations, competencies, locations, and, and, and. And in the final essence of the Great Farewell from life itself. That is why separations so frequently scare us: Because the familiar, although not one hundred percent satisfactory generally appears to be less intimidating than the new and unfamiliar. Thus is also exactly the reason why it is so important to overcome this fear and find our own best personal approach of dealing with our life’s constant transitions and changes. „Panta rhei“ - “Everything flows” also does apply to our social relationships - and that is not a calamity, but good and healthy. Stagnation represents Death. Only he/she who changes remains faithful to him/herself.