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This brief YouTube video previews what you'll find in this article:
This article is part of Lesson 4 - optimize your relationships. It covers
a review of relationship
how friendships differ
from other relationships
different types of
why some friendships end,
options for inviting and
keeping healthy friendships
comfortable enough with interpersonal conflict
__ I'm able to enjoy
social intimacy with selected other people.
__ I'm not overly
concerned about what other people think of me.
__ My friendships
usually last, vs. fading away
__ I'm satisfied with
my ability to make and keep friendships now.
Note your thoughts and
feelings. What did you just learn
Review: Relationship Basics
See how you feel about these ideas:
We humans are social critters. Most wholistically-healthy kids and adults
need regular social interaction for companionship, stimulation, affirmation,
and support. The intensity of this need ranges from low to high, and may
change with aging. Introverts find stimulation in solitary
activities, and may find socializing unpleasant. Extroverts depend on
being with other people for satisfactions.
We like some people better than others, which causes the
common phenomenon of "best friends." Friendship-feelings can be
one-sided or reciprocal: one person may need friendship more or less
than the other which can cause discomfort in one or both people.
They may or may not be able to admit and discuss this together.
Friendships require mutual respect + admiration
+ trust + interest +
caring (bonding) + empathy + common interests + honesty, + "enough" contact.
If all these
treasures exist, friends may feel platonic love for each other. If any of these
requisites is lost, the relationship may stagnate or wither unless friends are able to admit and
repair the loss. Has this ever happened to you?
Friendships deepen over time with shared mundane and special
experiences. They can range from regular meetings to eat, worship, discuss
books, quilt, and play a sport or game; to sky-diving, exploring a
foreign land, and
prospecting for gold. Part of this deepening is each partner gaining trust
in the other and gradually revealing intimacies about themselves.
Interpersonal bonding is the process of mutually
discovering common interests, values, and experiences over time, and
learning to care about the other person's welfare.
early-childhood trauma may not be able to bond with some or all people
because of excessive shame, fear, distrust (wounds), and unawareness or
Their relationships tend to be superficial, artificial, and impermanent, and often
cycle between seeking closeness and avoiding it. This prevents filling
primal needs for companionship, affirmation, and acceptance, and promotes
social isolation, self-doubt, loneliness, and self-medication.
Even the best of friends may be annoyed by - or disapprove of - some traits
of the other person. When the benefits of the relationship outweigh such
annoyances, the friendship can prosper. This is most apt to happen when both
A relationship occurs when the
existence and behavior of one person has a "significant effect" on another
person in someone's opinion. The effect may be local or
There are many
kinds of relationships, depending on the social roles two people share -
e.g. parent-child, manager-employee, neighbor-neighbor, lover-lover,
doctor-patient, citizen-citizen, consumer-vendor, jailor-prisoner,
teacher-student, etc. Some pairs of people share several roles at once (e.g.
All relationships have some things
in common (like the needs for mutual respect, caring, and courtesy),
and some things that differ.
Spontaneous (vs. strategic) friendships have some unique traits compared to
other relationships. Think now of several people you call friends. Whatsets these relationships apart from other people you know?
See if your answer includes some or most of these factors:
__ a range of shared values, priorities,
Compared to other types of relationships, true (vs. pseudo) friends each
have (a) most or all of these traits (b) to a higher degree than
non-friends. Acquaintances have only a few of these traits. Notice how many
factors are required for friendship.
Different Types of Friendship
Friendships differ from each other in the mixes of the factors above.
Imagine each of your friends
standing before you in a semicircle. Include any children who qualify,
Focus on each one, and decide which of these types of friendships you have
with that person:
Genuine, spontaneous, mutual, and steadily
Genuine, spontaneous, one-sided, and
somewhat or very stressful
Pseudo - i.e. dutiful, superficial, and/or dishonest about
Shallow or "deep" (intimate and
Platonic companions - no sexual energy or
Loving (vs. liking) - special bonding and appreciation
Focused on shared
activities, vs. on
talking, or vice versa
Erotic - one-way or mutual desire
Soulmates - exceptional congruence of
values, empathy, and interests
Generally, the more often each friend is
guided by their true Self, the more
stable, balanced, and mutually-satisfying the relationship will be. Think of your
"best friends" and see if that's currently true of each of you. By the way -do you count
yourself among your best friends? How about your
Higher Power / Higher Self?
Why Do Some Friendships End?
As you know, friendships may deepen or decay over time. Some fade from
active to inactive, and some end. Why is this? Meditate and say your answer
out loud, and then compare it to this:
Relationships exist to fill each
person's needs for companionship, affirmation,
stimulation, intimacy, feedback, acceptance, respect, and support. Reality-check that
by thinking what keeps your favorite friendships going. What do you get
(what needs are filled) from each of them?
As people grow and age and the world evolves, the degree of
need-satisfaction in one or both friends may gradually shrink. People's
priorities, activities, interests, location, and mix of relationships shift
slowly or abruptly. For example, "We shared an interest in sky-diving, but
since your accident you've lost interest in that activity and don't want to
talk about it."
This need-shift can happen because one friend discloses something personal
that their partner dislikes or strongly disapproves of.- like a friend
revealing that s/he is an addict or a criminal or had an abortion or is
sexually attracted to children. The values conflict overpowers the
satisfactions of the relationship, and one of both people stop seeking interaction.
Perhaps the most obvious and widespread example of major friendships ending
is the U.S. divorce epidemic.
It occurs, in my opinion, for
five reasons, which manifest as one partner discovering over time that their mate is not
the same person they fell in love with. A minority of ex-mates do maintain
genuine friendships with each other, but most divorcing couples aren't able
to do that.
All the ideas
above exist to increase your awareness about friendships. Let's put
this awareness to work now. If you're satisfied with the number of real
friends you have now, skip to the recap
- otherwise, keep reading
for Gaining and Keeping Healthy Friendships
Tho every person is unique, some general possibilities for expanding and
strengthening your friendships include...:
Assess yourself for psychological wounds,
and intentionally reduce any you find - i.e.free your true Self to guide you.;
Could you have
named all eight of these options? Do you think most other adults can?
Which of these are you motivated to do now?
brief detail on each of these options:
Assess yourself for psychological wounds
Opinion: a core reason for most personal and
relationship problems - including isolation - is unawareness of significant psychological wounds
like excessive shame, guilts, fears, trust disorders, and difficulty
empathizing and bonding with other people. Common symptoms of these wounds
include excessive shyness, "anti-social" behavior, low self confidence, and
addiction. Lesson 1 in
this Web site provides an effective way to
assess for and
psychological wounds. It's the foundation for progress in all 6 other
Lessons in this Web site.
Strengthen Your self confidence and self love
Do you believe
the old saying "You can't love another until you love yourself"? Self-doubt,
self-criticism, and feeling inferior inhibit friendships. With determination
and patience, These can be converted to stable
self-love over time, as you
free your true Self to guide you.
and apply Lesson 1.
Review and upgrade your attitudes
Attitudes - Human nature
dictates that kids and adults form attitudes about a range of things.
An "attitude" is an acquired good/bad, right/wrong, better/worse opinion about something
or someone. Our attitudes come from our active personality subselves, and
are often unconscious. A "toxic attitude" is one which inhibits or stresses
wholistic health and/or relationships,
"I'm smarter and/or better than you are."
"Males are more logical and better
problem-solvers than females."
"Children should be seen and not heard."
"Liberals are better than conservatives."
"I deserve your respect, acceptance,
despite my flaws."
"Jews are God's chosen (i.e. superior)
"Native Americans are lazy drunks."
"All politicians are dishonest and
"Christians are right, and Muslims (or
Hindus, Buddhists, Sufis, Wiccans, Rosicrucians, and/or Zoroastrians) are wrong" (or vice versa)
Once aware of any toxic attitudes, you can upgrade them in two ways: The first is by
freeing your true Self (capital "S") to guide you. That will automatically moderate biases and
prejudices, as judgmental subselves
activate less and/or take on new personality roles and values. Self-guided people
characteristically are more empathic, compassionate, and non-judgmental than
Grown Wounded Children (GWCs)
The second way
to convert toxic attitudes is to do
''parts work'' with individual
personality subselves (e.g. a Bigot, Critic, Cynic,
Pessimist, orPreacher) who bring you toxic old attitudes.
As they begin to trust your Self and the world, such subselves become open to moderate
their judgmental opinions. Even if they don't, your Self can choose not to
express or act on their opinions.
For more insight and options on
reducing toxic attitudes, see
this articlewhen you finish here.
option is to become aware of your...
of Other People Life experience causes adults and kids to make
assumptions - expectations - about themselves, other people, and the world. Some expectations
are realistic and others aren't. Unrealistic expectations are usually caused
by false selves, and can unintentionally inhibit friendships. For example: "I
expect you to want to...
...put my needs before yours if I'm hurting."
...listen to me if I need to vent."
...side with me when I disagree with other people."
...loan me money or your car if I need them."
...treat me as well or better than your other friends."
...attend me if I need you, unless you're having an
...empathize with ,me in all situations."
...make sacrifices for me at times."
...spend more time with me than with other people."
...trust me with all your secrets."; etc.
expectations of other people that are self-centered, pessimistic or cynical, arrogant, rigid, and
unempathic will cause irritation, hurt, anger, conflict (or avoidance) - and ultimately,
dislike and rejection..
(subselves') expectations are self-defeating, like...
"I know you'll leave me, sooner or later."
"I'll probably bore you."
"You'll never tell me what you
of me (I don't trust you)."
"You'll see that your other friends are more fun and
interesting than I am."
Expectations like these usually come from a
Shamed and/or Abandoned (Inner) Child, and a
Worrier, and/or a
Doubter/Cynic subself. Over time, you can (a) free your true Self to guide
you, (b) identify your toxic social expectations and where they come from; and (c) use
inner-family therapy to convert them to more positive expectations.
As your expectations
improve, so will your social behavior and self-confidence.
check: are you motivated to review your social attitudes and
expectations and upgrade them now? Which of your subselves is answering
for improving all your relationships) is to...
Upgrade your communication
Human relationships form because they satisfy a set of needs in each person. Interpersonal communication occursto
subset of these needs. The effectiveness of communication in calm and stressful
situations is a major factor in forming and maintaining relationships -
I've studied and taught interpersonal communication for over 40 years. In my
experience as a therapist and instructor, most people don't know what they need to know
about the vital process of interpersonal communication. To
see if this applies to you, take this quiz and return here.
To improve your communication effectiveness, patiently
study and apply
Lesson 2 in this
ad-free Web site. It will show you why, how, and when to use seven
skills. It will also give you a variety of useful
tools, and suggestion to amplify the
effectiveness of these skills
To gain the full benefits of these skills, you'll need to be steadily
guided by your true Self (Lesson 1). Ideally, each of your friends would want to
upgrade their own skills - specially if they're nurturing young kids.
For an overview of ways to improve your communication effectiveness, see
this when you finish here.
Another important option for strengthening your friendships is...
Assess for and
complete any unfinished grief
Throughout their lives, most people (like you) form attachments or bonds to special people, places, objects, pets, rituals, visions, and beliefs.
Exception: people with major psychological wounds may have trouble
bonding and empathizing with some or most people.
As people age and the world evolves, bonds break by choice or chance,
losses. Nature provides a way to accept and adapt to these
losses - the
three-level grieving process.
Few people are aware of bonding, losses, and healthy grieving
many people suffer psychologically and physically from incomplete mourning.
For example, many people mis-label incomplete mourning as
"depression." Their symptoms are similar, but their causes and "cures" are
very different. Test your "good grief" knowledge by taking this
and returning here.
symptoms of incomplete grief can stress any relationship, including new and
old friendships. The symptoms can promote excessive concern, frustration,
anxiety, and avoidances - e.g. "You've been moping around, isolating, and
oversleeping for weeks. I want the old you back!"
Lesson 3 in this non-profit Web site provides a clear explanation of
healthy-grieving basics, and resources for identifying and ending
incomplete grief. For more insight on this often-ignored health and
social issue, see this Q&A article.
friendship-building option is to...
Upgrade your relationship
Try defining "a skill" out loud. Then try defining the specific "relationship
skills" you've been learning since childhood. What do you think
requisites for "getting along with" other people? Take this
quiz, and then see how your relationship-skill list compares with
comfort with giving and receiving
affectionate physical contact
(add your own relationship skills)
Did you realize how many skills and traits are useful in managing your
relationships? Could you eliminate any item in this list and still nourish a
true friendship? Option - review this list and check the
skills you have now, or that you want to develop. Consider asking someone
who knows you to identify your current relationship skills (and/or lack of
If you're nurturing young kids, are you helping them develop skills like
The size of this list shows that "Upgrade your relationship skills" is
a long-term project. Progress is
directly proportional to how often your true Self guides you.
For more perspective, options, and
Lesson 4 (optimize your relationships) and
Lesson 6 (effective parenting) in this Web site
after you complete Lessons 1 thru 3.
depend, in part, on shared interests. So to meet compatible people, ...
Seek your life passion and
Passion is intense interest in - and strong feelings about - some idea,
person, activity, cause, or thing. A life mission is what you want to
accomplish with your life. Can you think of one or more people who are clear
on their mission in life? Are you clear on yours? The alternative is living
aimlessly a day at a time with no long-term goals, and possibly regretting a
wasted life as you're dying.
Poor people are often focused on daily survival. Other people in
developed ("high tech") cultures are challenged with over-stimulation, which
hinders introspection and self-awareness. Both situations can make it hard
for persons to recognize and pursue their life mission.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed that average people must fill a
''hierarchy of needs'' before they can "self actualize" - pursue their life purpose.
Survivors of early-childhood trauma often have trouble filling these needs,
so they may not self-actualize until late in life,
discover their life purpose. Do you know anyone like that?
People with a common passion (or mission) are often drawn to each other.
They tend to congregate in local groups and larger societies.
Participating in such groups can be a rich source of friendships!
For perspective on personal and family "mission statements": see
this article when you finish here.
final option for discovering satisfying friendships is...
Take social risks - try new experiences
Typical people who were well-nurtured in childhood are comfortable trying new experiences
and meeting new people. People who
weren't well-nurtured can
be loners who avoid people, or be compulsive, insecure socializers..
If you're a loner or recluse, you may not know or miss the satisfaction of
human fellowship. Your life experience may have been that most social
interactions caused shame, hurt, frustration, rejection, anxiety, and/or
boredom. If so, you may have trained yourself to avoid people and "not need
inherited psychological wounds and become
reduce them, you can discover that relationships with minimally-wounded people can
he a rich source of companionship, stimulation, warmth, fun, learning, and support. To
discover this, you'll need to intentionally risk new social experiences with
an open mind. As you
free your Self to guide you and increase your self respect, self confidence, and
relationship skills, this will become easier and easier over time.
from this option, learn to recognize
Grown Wounded Children (GWCs) in denial, and to be cautious about
befriending them. Relationships with Grown Nurtured Children (GNCs)
are usually more stable and satisfying, and less stressful. An exception:
two recovering GWCs can share rich friendship and empathically
support each other's healing.
+ + +
We just reviewed eight practical options for increasing and strengthening
healthy friendships. Could you have identified these options before you read
this? Note your reaction to what you just read.
Are you motivated to try these
options now? If you seek to improve your friendships but feel
reluctant to try these options, suspect that a well-intentioned false self
is hindering you. See
Lesson 1 when you're ready to
free your true Self to guide you.
relationships can stress or nourish daily life and health. They can also
help or hinder recovery from significant losses and other traumas. This
Lesson-4 article focuses an understanding and improving your friendships.
a review of relationship
how friendships differ
from other relationships
different types of
why some friendships end,
8 options for inviting and
keeping healthy friendships
To improve all your inner and outer relationships, study and apply
1 thru 4.