Friendship

All too often, I hear people saying they have tons of friends. This always concerns me because in my world it means they believe that almost anyone they engage with is a friend. I tell my patients that real friends along with your spouse or partner is essential to life and includes typically no more than three to five people. These three to five people include those who: always have your back, hold your confidences, you can say anything to and not be judged, are always there, and have unconditional regard for you. Now this inner sanctum, as I call it, is the essence of true friendships. Others are either casual friends, who like you have similar interests and you can go “do” things with. Things like hiking, talking about current events, going to movies with, and enjoying foods and wines with. All others are strangers.

The inner sanctum, are the core of your existence and are where the riches of life can be found. It is here that you know where you stand, and can get the honest feedback one needs at various times of life. Now often, patients will say it hard to find these quality people. I agree. Even though there are three hundred million people in the U.S. alone, and tough it doesn’t sound so ominous, it still is. Looking for and finding quality though difficult, is always worth the hunt. Most people agree, and when I offer these parameters of what real friendship looks like, most realize they have at least one. Now these people don’t have to live down the block. It certainly helps, but with social media, skype, and travel it is not too hard to stay connected. But the reason three to five true friends is about all you can handle is because with family, and work and all that life asks of us, it is hard to maintain this quality of relationship throughout life with too many more.

One of the real difficulties is for men more than women. Men are socialized to believe that other men are only to be interacted with through competition. The vulnerability that is required to have a real friend as I describe it, is just too dangerous for most. I truly get this and it is this socialization that limits men from having the support they need and deserve. Most men have very little idea how to commence, attend, and maintain such a relationship. And yet it is imperative that men have such supports to go to.

The other misnomer connected to friendships is that people hold a double standard as to how to allow friends to support them. Many will tell me that if a friend needs them of course they would be there. BUT, if they themselves need support, it would just be burdening others, which just wouldn’t be right. I say to them, let me get this straight, if your friend came to you in need you would tell them they are burdening you? And when they do come to you and you are there for them, it doesn’t feel good? The answers are always no to the first question, and yes it feels good to the second. I then say, you are not burdening a true friend as they aren’t burdening you. AND, if you don’t let them be there for you, you are depriving them of that good feeling of being a true friend. This usually gets them thinking.

The inner sanctum of true friends is the richness of life. It allows us to feel truly connected and loved. This is an important aspect of being human and relating to others without feeling like you live in some kind of dark hole or abyss. When people are depressed or even suicidal (see my blog about Why Suicide?) it is more because of a lack of this connection.

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