There are many ways to Be in life. I don’t like to number things, but there’s not a lot of ways. At least not in general. Less than 20 for sure. We’re all little pattern machines that either go right or left at this or that stimuli. That’s why you can meet your friend’s new boyfriend at a party and you already know his “type.” People are psycho-logical. And without even realizing it, you’re pattern-matching him to other people who’ve given you similar cues.
At its worst, this assumptive calculating is what ruins the world. But in daily practice we need it to function, and if you have a particularly quiet, truly open mind, it’s also correct the vast majority of the time.
No pattern is any better or worse than any other. They all have advantages, and disadvantages. But one pattern everyone will easily recognize is the woe-is-me “friend.” Everyone has these people in their lives. If you feel you don’t, then maybe it’s you. You don’t have to guess though. You can always test yourself to see if you meet that definition or not.
The woe-is-me friend rarely talks philosophically about life itself, and they rarely ask about yours. They mostly want to list their miseries to you. And they don’t want to tell you about how they overcame anything, or how they learned from the experience. They just want to make sure they detail their suffering to a few people before chalking it up under the “I knew it,” section of their lifebook.
It’s not that we don’t love these friends. We do. In fact, maybe more than most. They’re certainly more demanding of us than other friends. But we know they’re good people just like anyone else. And we’re not adverse to hanging around with them. The problem is, they never want to hang around. Go figure that they’re depressed. They turn down every invitation to fun they’re given. And then they say they’re left out.
The truth is, they are addicted to the chemistry of pity. They live their life in such a way as to ensure that they will receive regular doses of it. But pity isn’t a fun emotion. And friendship is about fun. Friends aren’t friends because they have to be, or because they should be. They’re friends because they want to be. So if you feel you have no friends, you should ask yourself, “Am I friendly?”
If you never do anything fun…. If you don’t interact with the world and allow it to inform and shape you into your own unique person, then you will have very little to share with others. And you don’t want their time with you to be taxing. You want it to be rewarding. But to do that it has to be: a) actually happening, b) voluntary, and c) engaging. Friends are friends by choice. It’s a selfish act at its best. Each person is focused on appreciating what they receive from the other.
If you’re always just wanting, your life will feel small and painful regardless of your external circumstances. However, if you feel rich enough to be generous and share with others, and if you appreciate the qualities in others, then you will be attracting those same qualities in the people around you.
Do not hide yourself away. Not with physical space, your clothing, your hair, or your silence. Be yourself. Be open. Be compassionate. Be loving. Be active. Be fun. Do those things and the appropriate friendships will find their way to you. It’s that easy.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.