Healthy Friendships & Your Nervous System
Everything we do and what (and who) we interact with, affects our nervous system. As I’ve shared in previous posts, having a balanced nervous system and staying in a state of homeostasis is imperative to our development and feeling at ease with ourselves and our lives. There are ways that we can reset such as sea swimming, exercise and meditation. Other methods include engaging in somatic therapies (when more extreme) and learning more about how the body engages in particular situations, and relationships.
Our bodies will signal our comfort or discomfort via specific signals in our bodies. These come in the form of sensations, intuition or gut feelings.
Depending on the situation or response, this can really vary according to a number of factors.
I wrote about this in ‘What we never learned in school’ regarding friendships. The chapter entitled ‘What does a healthy friendship look like?’ covers the variables around what I consider to be a friendship that adds to wellbeing.
‘We become like the 5 people we spend the most time with. We emulate their habits, behaviours, attitudes and beliefs about life; sometimes without even realising it’ (page 13).
When it comes to interactions, be aware of when you are emotionally activated.
Becoming emotionally activated can happen in a number of ways. These stem from the thoughts that we think and how we behave based on these thoughts. This refers to our interactions with friends and the people around us, in general.
Ways of emotional activation are gossiping, talking about highly emotionally charged topics and becoming reactive in scenarios.
We tend to take on roles and repeat similar dynamics and conversations in our lives until we know better. This leads to emotional activation and can greatly impact our overall state and how we behave in our lives in general. When we are in particular interactions, we may behave in ways that are different to others particularly if our nervous systems are not regulated.
Some ways to understand if a particular dynamic is working for you and your nervous system:
- Think of the last five conversations, text messages or phone calls with a particular person. What was the content of that dialogue and how did you feel after it? Note: This does not refer to people going through a hard time and needing your support (be there for your friends). Consider the following though: Was it a conversation that led to a solution? Were there topics that infringe on your boundaries and if so, how much does that happen when it comes to that relationship?
- How does your system feel during an interaction? This might sound random if you haven’t considered it before but our bodies will respond in various ways depending on the amount of psychological safety felt in a particular situation. When we feel unsafe (uncomfortable) in a dynamic, our bodies will tell us. Listen to your gut.
- A lack of boundaries tells a lot. I recently listened to a talk by Jay Shetty regarding power dynamics in relationships. Oftentimes, control can come in the form of care and acts of service that shift power from one person to another in a dynamic. Be mindful of parts of your life and relationships where there appear to be no boundaries or an ‘anything goes’ dynamic. Decide what works for you (or not) and act accordingly rather than being reactive that what others bring to the table.
- Our attachment style greatly impacts how we interact in relationships. There are four attachment styles that are formed based on how we grew up. While the majority of people have a secure attachment style, the three styles that fall outside of this are anxious, avoidant and disorganised. Learn more here.
Other resources to guide in terms of how we connect are:
- ‘How to do the work’ by Nicole Apera
- ‘Attached’ by Amir Levine & Rachel S.F Heller
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell