The 5 People Who Shape Your Reality the Most

No, not the 5 people you spend the most time with

Photo by Ann H from Pexels

Have you ever sat up and thought, wow, I’ve been in a really negative mood these past few days?

I sure have. It happened to me late last week. I felt drained, and I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why. All I knew was, it didn’t feel like “enthusiasm,” or “enjoyment,” or “excellence,” any other feeling I would prefer to feel.

Bewildered, I grabbed my journal notebook and decided to try to write my way out of my funk. What had been on my mind the most?

I had spent a lot of time thinking about one of my very good friends. Let’s call him “Dale” for the purposes of this article. I love Dale like a brother, but he’s one of those people who likes to give lectures. I thought back to all the times he lectured me over things he thought I should be doing differently in my life.

Those memories really started to grate on me after a while, because

  1. I never asked for any of the lectures
  2. Dale is not me and he doesn’t see the world through my point of view; rather, he sees my life through the skewed lenses of his own past
  3. Dale’s not a therapist and is completely unqualified to give the advice he gives
  4. Some, if not most, of the things Dale does are equally lecture-worthy (and in some cases, they’re the same things he lectures me about); however, I am not a lecturer so it’s a lopsided friendship

Now, it might be understandable that I spend time fretting over Dale’s lectures if he were someone I had to deal with on a regular basis. However, that’s no longer the case; he moved out of state a year ago. Yet I still spend time grousing over how unfair some of his “talks” with me were.

Then I think of another person who had played a major role in my past, this one a person who had been a good friend for years but is not anymore. We’ll call this person “Nick.” Nick had always been someone I could count on, until a woman, “Ursula,” came between us. The moment he became aware there might be a sexual opportunity in it for him, he turned on me on a dime.

I fought back, calling Nick out on his behavior. Nick didn’t want the bad-friend reputation he was earning for himself. He also knew of Dale’s proclivity to lecture me. Nick would get with Dale, play the victim, and appeal to Dale to have a talk with me. At some point later in the day, Dale would start in on me. “Paul, it HAS TO STOP…”

Then I would think about Ursula. She knew exactly what she was doing, turning Nick against me and setting this entire thing into motion. She wanted me to look bad. She wanted to damage my reputation and cost me friends. Kudos to her on correctly identifying Nick as the member of my friend group most likely to participate in her charade.

Back to the question: Who are the 5 people who shape your reality the most?

So, yeah. I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of last week fuming over how Ursula had wronged me. How Nick had wronged me. How Dale poured kerosene on the fire by taking Nick’s side, by lecturing me instead of listening to me.

No wonder I felt so lousy!

Keep in mind all of the events I’m discussing happened more than a year ago. Most happened several years ago.

Journaling worked. I had identified exactly why I felt so out of sorts.

Having accomplished what I set out to do, I ended my pity party and put my writer’s hat back on.

One of the things I do to improve my writing is to study top writers on here and attempt to reverse-engineer how they became so successful. Sinem Gunel is one of the writers I study. I’m a member of her Medium Writing Academy: Writers Mastermind Facebook group, which is a tremendous resource to network with other writers and get your questions answered.

In particular, I have been studying Sinem’s posts from early 2020, which was the time frame in which she got wildly successful, and I came across this one: I Am Definitely Not the Average of the 5 People I Spend Most of My Time With.

Sinem starts out by introducing speaker Jim Rohn’s theory that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. She then goes on to conclude that while her boyfriend, with whom she lives and runs a business, is a profound influence on her, there just aren’t 4 other people for whom she could say the same.

“I’m the average of the five people I spend the most time with?” I joked. “I wouldn’t know how to make a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned if my life depended on it… but by that definition, I’m a bartender!”

But then I got serious for a minute.

I don’t believe, either, that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. However, I do believe this…

You allow your reality to be set by the 5 people to whom you rent the most space in your head. 5, by the way, is a completely arbitrary number. In my case, it was 3.

A well-meaning but deeply flawed person and two people who had been horrible to me. All people of whom all my bad memories were more than a year old. That’s who I was continuing to allow to rent space in my head.

Now, that’s some highly defective thinking!

What I did to clean up my energy

Really, I did two things.

Author Eckhart Tolle defines the pain body as a sort of energetic body or force-field that lives inside of us. It’s the sum total of all the traumas a human being has endured but never dealt with throughout their lives.

When Ursula tried to ruin my reputation and turn my friends against me, that added to my pain body.

When Nick responded to Ursula, turning against me, planting bugs in Dale’s ear about all the perceived injustices I had done him, that added to my pain body.

When Dale lectured me without ever bothering to listen and understand my point of view, that added to my pain body.

Tolle teaches that the one thing that dissolves the pain body is presence. When you feel yourself reliving the traumas of your past, that is the ego and the pain body running wild. When you return to the present moment, those traumas dissipate, because they are figments of the past — they are not there in the present, which is the only moment that matters.

So the first thing I did was, I became the observer of myself reliving those traumas. I understood that not only were the traumas not who I am, but the “me” who chooses to relive the emotions associated with those traumas is not the real me, either. That’s merely my ego. The observer is the real me.

Every time thoughts of one of the three former head-space renters come back up, I simply say, “There’s the pain-body trying to assert itself again.” The funny thing is that I knew to do this already. Two months ago I taught myself to say, “There’s the rat chasing the pigeon again,” which is just a metaphor for the pain body.

The second thing I did was to revive another concept I wrote about a few months ago, one which I had let slip by the wayside: appreciation journaling. Inspired by the death of a friend, I took 2 to 3 minutes every morning to pick out someone in my life and write what I appreciate most about them. It’s a specialized form of gratitude journaling.

By writing about people I appreciate, I rent space to people I actually want in my head. I want the people who inspire me, uplift me, make me a better version of myself.


I don’t know if it’s true that you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with — but I do know that your reality is set by the people who rent the most space in your head. It doesn’t necessarily have to be 5 of them. Also, the memories of them that contribute to your pain don’t even have to be recent memories. They can be years old.

Two things can help cleanse your energy. For one, get present whenever you feel those past traumas arising and affecting you emotionally. The pain body dims in the light of the present moment.

Secondly, start an appreciation journal. This rents space in your head to people who deserve to be there, who enrich your life in some way.

Thanks for reading. Let’s keep in touch! Feel free to sign up for my newsletter. Here are links to my two previous articles referenced in this one:

I write about writing, ideas, creativity, intuition, spirituality, life lessons. Ex-college teacher Twitter: @paulryburn

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