WHAT IS FRIENDSHIP?
This is something that I thought I knew the definition of, but the meaning has changed over time for me. First, let’s look at some definitions, then I’d like to offer a different perspective…
Anais Nin of Psychology Today put it beautifully when she said, “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” Though some natural loners are happy without them, most of us depend greatly on the company of true friends.
There is also this definition on Wikipedia: “Friendship is a relationship of mutual affection between people.Friendship is a stronger form of interpersonal bond than an association.” Wikipedia goes on to state some characteristics that exist when we bond and form friendships: Love, kindness, affection, compassion, trust, make mistakes without fear of judgement from the friend, honesty, virtue.
Of course there are many other sites that I found on my web search, but rather than focusing on those, I’d like to take you along a search I did years ago, and that is the search within – a search that took me out of pain, depression and anxiety into wellness. Wait a minute, so far the definitions above seem to imply a relationship with someone else, no? Yes, but I’d like to offer another perspective, and that is the relationship with YOURSELF. Begin within. Then you can cultivate healthier relationships with folks you’ve known and also develop new, positive relationships.
Years ago, I moved away from where I grew up in NJ and bought a home in NY with my husband, we decided to settle near where he grew up. I came to a different place where I knew no one other than family members from my husband’s side. At first this didn’t bother me too much, as I had a lovely new house, I recently graduated from grad school and rapidly found a full time job in my field of special education, life was good! My husband had a far commute though, and so I found myself spending countless hours ALONE since he left so early and came home so late. It was in that time alone that I was sinking further and further into depression. Me, who had always been so social, I spent so much time ALONE and I hated it.
I could have gone out and perhaps made new friends, but it was not that easy. Besides feeling lost, I found that my arthritis back pain had increased due to my own increased commute to work, so the pain added to my depression and anxiety. And, I had less time to go out and “be social” because of my back pain and because I was so tired by the time I got home, and my weekends were dedicated to time with my hubby and house projects… what set in was extreme sadness and anger at my situation with no apparent way out…
Until I reinvented my life.
And with that, I reinvented my ideas about friendship.
Due to a panic attack and increased pain, I decided to take a big risk, took a leap of faith, and quit my job so I could get counseling and change my life. (I had gotten a new job near home which was great, but worked long hours, which cut down on socialization.) Fortunately, my place of employment was very understanding and told me the doors would be open if I ever wanted to return to work there (and I did, part time, more on that later…).
While I was able to keep in touch with folks from NJ, I did not see them nor my side of the family “enough”, so that did not help me feel any better. I had met some local folks here and there (the mall, the park, etc). I met some wonderful ladies who I still keep in touch with, as my son started preK and Kindergarten, but somehow I still felt something was missing…
Well, I had been going about it all wrong. Why was I looking for others to fulfill my needs when I did not even love myself? I was looking without, trying to find others to make me whole. What about my husband? Yes, love him to pieces. But he commuted and we spent countless hours apart, not to mention that I was so angry at him for taking me away from my home! (Since then I’ve let go of that anger and our relationship now is awesome.)
THE WELLNESS JOURNEY
Thankfully, the Universe took me to a wonderful counselor that helped me work on the depression/anxiety and manage my back pain. And she told me something really great, which I will never forget, which is, “Take the time to take care of you”. Fast forward a few years, I love myself; I work that same job I left but part-time now, and I opened my business – making enough money for everything I need; my 10 year old son is happy, smart and an absolute joy; my marriage is rock solid; I have a wonderful network of friends, now a wonderful group of souls who live near me as well as nurtured relationships of folks who live “far” (some relationships fell away with the distance, some have remained). Here’s how I manifested wellness, in addition to the support of my counselor:
Raise your vibration.
We are all beings that exist on a certain frequency and vibration, according to several ancient traditions. If our vibration is “low”, then we attract not-so-desirable outcomes such as pain and disease. If our vibration is “high”, then not only will you increase your chances of finding and keeping truly loving relationships, but you are happier and healthier as a result, cultivating a wonderful relationship with your Self. On my journey, I have found that in order to attract positive outcomes, keep healthy relationships and foster new nurturing relationships, I had to raise my own vibration. Today, my back pain has gone down significantly (I have moments that I’m pain-free!), my depression and anxieties are gone, and I’ve healed myself of hyperthyroidism. By raising my own vibration, I also found teachers who helped me manifest what I needed.
I changed the way I perceived my time alone.
Not “just” changed, I had to work on that very hard, beginning with altering my perception. I did that via journaling and doing the work my counselor suggested. I also, intuitively, started purposely looking at myself in the mirror and I engage in “Mindful Face Washing”, which I developed as a result of my personal wellness practice, and here it is: I wash my face in front of a mirror and tell myself everyday “Hello, I love you” and an affirmation such as “I am healthy.” Affirmations are a wonderful way to manifest, as you are telling the Universe that you already have what you want, right here and right NOW. Use positive words, believe it, take action steps, and you attract your desired outcome. Use personalized affirmations as they apply to you. Also, express gratitude daily for what you have, and you attract more reasons to be grateful.
I changed the way I spent time alone.
I developed a consistent practice over time that involved energy work, prayers/meditation and movement. Besides learning to use affirmations, I also learned Reiki, Qigong, Yoga, and The Law of Attraction – took the certifications and learned the practices. Besides seeing clients and teaching classes, I spend time each day meditating, praying, and giving myself Reiki, and engaging in movement – for my own wellness. Now I love my alone time! Movement practices such as Qigong and Yoga are proven scientifically to increase your body’s resiliency and vitality, boost your immune system, increase your ability to relax, and helps your body move toxins to the elimination system, so that your body works optimally and increases your good health overall (Janke, 1997). Meditation increases our “Relaxation Response” (Benson, 1972). I encourage you to incorporate a movement/breath practice that resonates with you, as well as daily meditating. (Personally, I also pray daily; the power of prayer is a whole other discussion.)
Read self-help books.
There are countless on the market, and many wonderful authors out there. Personally, I began with Inner Child work at the suggestion of my counselor (Bradshaw, 1992). I currently read books and articles based on my own searches, and based on recommendations.
- Eat healthy. You’ve heard the expression “you are what you eat” and I have found this to be true. I have changed my diet, radically and for the better, thanks to two very good friends who specialize in nutrition, and under the care of an Ayurvedic Doctor.
Finding, making and keeping nurturing friendships all starts with doing the work on YOURSELF. You are awesome, so you are worth it!
*Find a practice that works for you, and do it!
*Spend quality time alone with your awesome self.
*Connect with and cultivate the relationships in your life.
It may not be easy, but going through those bumps on the road is all a part of healing.
Take qualities that I mentioned in above definitions of friendships and affirm those qualities exist with you. For example, I am Love and Compassionate.
Express Daily Gratitude. Ex. I am grateful for my practice which helps me feel healthy.
Engage in your wellness practice daily.
You may like my own little definition of friendship: “positive relationships cultivated, which includes a positive and loving relationship with yourself”. Enjoy the journey!
Thank you for reading!
Namaste ~ I honor that beautiful light within you that is also in me.
Editor’s note – There appears to be a consensus here that the best way to find good people to share your life with is to love yourself well first. Check out a similar article that Laura Ansell wrote about finding a good romantic relationship.