I was going to call this article ‘ Friends – a lifeline to sanity ‘ because I feel that friends are an important part of our individual support network. Some people refer to everyone they know as a friend. I prefer to call that wide group of people ‘people that we are friendly with’ as, for me, a true friend is someone with whom we have a true and honest connection.
I do not feel that we need to have known a good friend for a long long time. Sometimes it is possible to form an instant empathic connection with someone with whom we have only recently become acquainted, and that person can become an important ally and a close friend quite quickly. I am an advocate of spring cleaning our stable of friends from time to time as we can sometimes keep people in our lives just because they have always been there, even when they are a negative or unfortunate influence.
Some people are fair weather friends. These people can be good fun to be around, but they have their limitations. They are no good in a crisis or when advice is needed. If we recognise their good points then they can be a valuable distraction from problems and provide a fun outlet whenever we meet up. But with them the ground rule is ‘no complications’.
Other people are good at being foul weather friends. These people are great problem solvers and are very supportive at difficult times. They may not be interested in a lively social time or in mixing with lots of other people, but they are reliable, trustworthy allies and very special to have around.
Many people are a mix of both fair and foul weather friends. They are people with whom we share lots of different times and experiences in life. They appreciate that sometimes we are sad, mixed up, confused, and do not judge us badly for it, because they also know that there are valid reasons for us feeling that way and they understand. They also know that there are many times when we are fun to be with and that we are also supportive of them whenever required.
A good friend helps us keep our feet on the ground, but does not discourage us from achieving our goals or from trying something new. A good friends calls when we miss the gym, but understands if we need to take a day off and calls round for a relaxed coffee and a chat, encourages us on our diet, but doesn’t judge us when we need to have a splurge. A good friend is also able to point out when we are over reacting in a situation, or in danger of making an error of judgement. We can trust what they are saying because we value and respect their point of view and why they are saying these things. They provide us with the time and opportunity to safely reflect on what we are doing in our life and maybe re-evaluate our reactions and responses.
Maintaining friendships is also a valuable lesson in life – it teaches us about sharing, understanding someone else’s point of view and about having a wider perspective on a variety of situations. Being respectful of people and the way that they live their lives and how it works for them is an important part of building close relationships. It is fascinating to see the variety and depth of different human relationships, and we learn about them by becoming close to others and seeing how people think and interact.
By taking time and making the effort to be friends with people builds a close support team for ourselves and also teaches us much about other people and the many different ways of living effectively. Important lessons in human interaction are the cornerstone to a healthy and viable life.
Susan Leigh, South Manchester Counsellor and Hypnotherapist, www.lifestyletherapy.net