We rarely talk about this subject yet, friendship is a great resource for our well-being. The movie “Pride” is good example of how friendship strengthens us. Two groups of people, bound by their common experience of disadvantage during the 80’s in England, get together to support each other in their struggles. I was deeply touched by their courage and loyalty.
In this newsletter issue I share my thoughts about what is unique in friendship and the benefits it offers us.
Friendship, together with other close relationships, is frequently responsible for large boosts in our well-being. Interestingly, people often seek counselling for family difficulties, though rarely for matters of friendship. Yet, in our modern lifestyle we operate less as members of a tribe or a community and more as autonomous individuals.
As such we increasingly rely on friends for support. In order to navigate the modern life successfully, friendship has become an essential skill, for both our survival and our flourishing.
What is unique about friendship?
In many of our relationships we regularly feel constrained by dictated social roles and their corresponding obligations and expectations. However, among friends these expectations are relaxed, and we are able to be ourselves. Friends don’t have a clash of interests, they are not solely dependent on us, and they do not expect us to perform a fixed set of responsibilities, as in family, marriage or work. Free from the pressure to perform we feel more at ease with ourselves in the company of friends. Within this relaxed atmosphere we are able to reveal more of our vulnerability, openness, authenticity and lightness. Thus friendship is a major source of happiness in our life. Friends come with all the benefits of close relationships, though few of the liabilities.
What are the assets of friendship?
The time we spend with friends is mostly full of leisure and fun. This focus on mutual enjoyment makes friendship a wellspring of positive feelings. These feelings have been proven in recent positive psychology research (“Broaden and build theory”) to be essential for well-being and optimal functioning.
Friends offer us emotional support. They listen, understand and relate to our experiences. They also offer practical support by providing ideas, resources and hands-on assistance.
Close friends, particularly friends from childhood, more easily accept us as we are. We are free from shame, and as such we don’t need to pretend or hide. Friends also more easily forgive us for our mistakes, as these relationships tend to be more flexible and open. Even after years of disconnection, old friends continue where they last stopped. This sense of acceptance allows friends to argue and disagree without the burden of shame, experienced in other close relationships.
Close friends are there for us in times of need. We can be vulnerable and ask for friends’ help, knowing they are ready and willing to accommodate our needs. Knowing there is someone who cares for our welfare reassures us that we are not alone.
Close friends stretch us, and contribute to our growth through offering their honest opinions. The trust among close friends makes it possible to share feedback and confront issues openly. With close friends you know there is no other motive for these confrontations other than care for our welfare.
So, how to make the most out of the assets of friendship?As always it starts with each of us acting as the agent of change in how we reach out, engage and remain active in the friendship. As we cultivate the friendship qualities, we will reap the joy it brings into our life.