The other day in therapy, my therapist pulled out a white board, and drew a little circular image. Then she told me to write names on it. It instantly transported me back to being in a waiting room as a child and seeing the pile of toys on the floor in the corner. This space is for me. I could have sat there with that white board all day. I suppose I am an interactive learner.
The image she drew started like this. Just a little dot to represent me, myself, I. Then each circle outwards represented how close I am to different people. I’ve create an example to share.
Hello, this is me, a little dot! Wave to the little dot! Great.
Here I am with my partner, the person closest to me.
Level three, my close friends. On my actual chart I wrote out names. There likely aren’t more than 5 or so people in this circle.
Now it gets a little harder. You can come up with your own categories. I started to notice people I was kind of close with, people I wanted to be closer to, and people I was not very close to (but maybe still saw pretty often.) Where I put the names surprised me. Some people I thought I was closer to ended up further out in the circle, and vice versa.
Okay, zoom out. People who I enjoy seeing but I’m not close to at all. People I’ve met a few times. People I dated in high school, or old high school friends. One night stands. People I ghosted or people who ghosted on me. Ex-boyfriends (technically on the map, but completely disconnected from it.)
The issue I face is a fear of escalation.
I fear that giving clear “I want to bring you in to a closer circle” signal would be misread as “I would like to be the very best friends with you.” This is in part due to previous issues with boundaries and communication skills, but also in part due to experiences with people who have high social energy. When I indicate “let’s spend more time together” it’s often read as “we have reached a new level of closeness.” Mix that with my interest in being liked and pleasing others, and it can be a dangerous combination. Navigating these social boundaries isn’t something that I had ever learned before, and as an introvert, it’s something I’ve always struggled with.
It was helpful to learn that you can bring people in to a closer circle without opening the door of escalation.
For a lot of people this is common sense.
You simply indicate what does or doesn’t make you feel comfortable. But if you’ve been around a lot of people who don’t like to have conversations about boundaries, you may have been burned once or twice before.
My goal is to learn to be kinder to myself and others by being honest.
I would like to see you, I would like to bring you closer, but this is all I have the space for.
You might find it an introspective practice, too.