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Negotiating life with Drains and Radiators

Updated: Oct 29, 2022

Theory would have it that there are only two types of people in this life. 'Radiators' and 'Drains'. Let's think about the radiators, these are the people in your life who make your eyes light up when you see them. Their name flashes up on your phone and you eagerly open the message or answer the phone. You look forward to having contact with them. They make you feel warm, positive, comfortable, and cozy. They support you and celebrate your wins with you. They catch you when you fall and listen to you talk and work out your problems. Think about the people who you know like this and write down those names. Hold on to these people. Be a radiator back to them and keep these people in your life for as long as they will have you.

Now let's think about the drains, these are the people you roll your eyes at when you read their Facebook status, the ones where your heart sinks when their name flashes up on your phone. These people are quite literally a drain on your well-being, they suck the life out of you. Sometimes they make you feel bad about yourself, they are dark, cold, self-absorbed and miserable. They are prone to gossip and drama. When you come away from spending time with a drain you feel depleted maybe sad and unimportant. Drains have the potential to chip away at our self-esteem and in turn, will make us more vulnerable to attracting other drains into our lives.

You might think that's fine, I'll work out who the drains are and I'll just avoid them. If only it were that simple. Drains could be a family member, a colleague, your partner, a member of a group you belong to or worst still what if it is you who is being the drain! Being a drain or a radiator isn't static, there will be times when the radiator will go on the blink and isn't quite on form, the radiator can most certainly become a drain and likewise, a drain can absolutely become a radiator. It's inevitable that we are going to be exposed to drains or be a drain ourselves it's how we deal with it that counts. We need to make sure we are building resilience against drains so we can handle being around one without allowing the drain to affect our well-being. We also have to take time out to reflect on ourselves so we can realise when we are being the drain. Self-awareness can be painful, it's not always comfortable to look at our flaws but it's necessary to grow as a person and to create the life you want. Nobody sets out to be a drain and we can all be a drain and a little self-indulgent every now and again but acknowledge this and don't stay stuck in this too long.

Once we have identified who the drains are then it's time for action. If it's you that's being the drain, think about what's happened to make you feel like this? Acknowledge it and be kind to yourself. How can you make it better? Can you change it? If not, what can you do to make yourself feel better and be re-energised? Try to remember what you enjoy and what makes you feel good, it could be going for a walk, seeing a friend (make sure he/she is a radiator), a good night out, work out what it is and take time out to do that thing! Make it a priority.

There is a lot of power in simply being aware of a drain. Acknowledging it as part of their behaviour allows you to not take it on board and absorb the negativity. It's far easier to let it go over your head if you know that this is their stuff, not yours. Drains often aren't intentionally being a drain, a way of dealing with them could be to point out when they are making you feel bad, they may not be aware they are even doing it. "I don't know if you realise this but when you talk over me and bring the conversation back to yourself it makes me feel really rubbish and unimportant." This can help someone realise what they are doing and it gives them a chance to change it. Of course, there will be people who are unable to take this on board, they may try to turn it on you and blame you for how they acted. Remember you can set boundaries with drains. It's ok for you to limit the time you spend with them and refuse to tolerate their behaviour and sometimes the relationship is just too toxic and bad for you and it's ok for you to end the relationship completely whether that's an intimate relationship, a job or a friendship. You could do this by directly saying. Try to do this without blaming them but taking ownership for the changes you want to make, "I need to change who I'm spending time with." A non-confrontational way to end a friendship may be to reduce your contact over time and eventually the relationship phases out of its own accord. Ending contact with a drain can feel uncomfortable and scary and quite frankly if it's an abusive relationship it can be unsafe so you will often need help to end the relationship, there are lots of support agencies around, Police, domestic abuse helpline 0808 2000 247, victim support, and women's aid.

Whatever your circumstances you are never alone. If you are struggling to find any radiators in your life, find a therapist and ask them to help you to work towards finding some. See your GP for therapists in your area, these can often be accessed for free in the UK. Anna Taylor is quoted as saying 'Nobody else gets to live your life, you are the artist. Paint your picture. Dream your own masterpiece into being'

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