Love, Business, Friendships, The Common Thread
I have had to navigate an enormous range of human relationships in my time on this spinning rock.
I have held a variety of leadership positions in political and grassroots activist operations on national, state, and local stages. I have had a government marriage and two commonlaw marriages. I have seen my children be born and one die in my arms. I have helped friends and lovers conquer addictions, and lost others to them.
I was riding through central Florida thinking about all of it, and I realized how simple these complex situations can be navigated if we zoom out and take an honest look at them from a more basic perspective.
It is easy right now, as I am single and have the clarity of hindsight. I went through a radical change of mindset over the last few weeks and have vowed to apply these insights to my future interactions with other humans.
When we talk about substance use and abuse, there is use, chemical dependence, and addiction.
Many people use substances in moderation and appropriate settings. Some may be chemically dependent. You may require a medication to treat a condition, and not taking it could be fatal, or cause severe physical symptoms, like blood pressure, hormone, or cholesterol medicines that prevent cardiac or other issues that could kill or severely damage you. Other chemical dependencies such as opiates or may be a necessary evil for the injured or sick.
The line where we call them addiction is when they are harmful to your relationships, physical or mental health, when they impoverish you, or when they cause dangerous behaviors like violent outbursts, habitual drunk driving, etc.
Looking back I realized that I should have categorized my relationships with humans in this manner.
To “need” someone, for example a housewife who depends on her husband to provide food and shelter, is akin to needing a medicine, or a chemical dependence to some lifesaving drug. It is not bad, and in many cases desireable.
Toxic relationships are basically addictions to people. You may gain social status from someone being a friend, but it may come at an expense to your family or they may prevent you from success in some other area.
You may have an overwhelming physical attraction to a person and the sex with them, or perhaps they are wealthy and provide a lifestyle you would be forced to give up without them, and there is a growing body of research for something called “Love Addiction“.
This type of unhealthy relationship harms you or your kids, or takes time from them to deal with the other persons toxic behaviors. They may beat you down mentally and become catalysts for you to fall into chemical addictions or substance abuse, thus making everything exponentially worse. You may ignore it all in a form of pathological altruism that feels like unconditional love or loyalty.
This is destructive and weak behavior, and self inflicted. Just as a drug addict will justify their habit, we often justify our continued involvement with people we are addicted to. Anger can also be addicting, and many people ruin the lives of their kids as they stay in demon cycles with partners. Group goals may suffer under the endless drama seen in the organization.
While I am under no illusion that I can perfectly navigate this going forward, I now have something rather simple and concrete to evaluate my human interactions with.
We need water to live. We need food to live. If that water or food becomes dirty or poisoned, we need to clean it. That requires committment from both parties when we are talking about humans. If this cannot be achieved, we must find a new source.
If a person in your life is constantly taking and not giving back, oathbreaking, harming you or your kids, setting back your goals, eroding your happiness, etc., you can suffer physical illness from the stress, it can lead to clinical depression.
It can weaken you and make you vulnerable to substance abuse and chemical addiction.
Take a hard look around you.
Who invests in you, who helps you, who is appreciative of your help and is willing to reciprocate? Who forgives as you forgive?
Love is a verb, an action, do they say they love you or do they show love in their actions? Are they loyal? Are they kind?
Dunbar’s Number suggests you can only pick around 150 people to really share your life with. The quality of your life will be enormously impacted based on the quality of those relationships, and some of those slots are family that you may be forced to deal with on some level, bringing some unavoidable negative interaction.
I enjoy social drinking but I must carry the wisdom to know the line where it becomes a problem and have the strength to cut it out of life if need be.
In the same sense we all need to put more reason into our evaluation of the emotional ties we have with people, and recognize when these become toxic or addictive.We must have the strength to cut them out of our life.
It is easier said than done, just as beating a chemical addiction is no small feat.
Knowing is half the battle.