My Friends Yin and Yang

There is no doubt, deliberate isolation or at the very least, stepping back from our usual lives can be beneficial. Likened to fasting for the digestive system it can give our minds, physicality, social calendars, responsibilities, and our souls a well needed break for regenerative purposes. A sabbatical exists partially based on this premise. It is a form of quietening the mind, impossible through the day to day grind of “normal” living which most of us participate in. And while that day to day living is necessary for us should we want to be IN the physical world – part of experiencing money and spending, houses, society, commuting, working, creating, teaching, learning, and connecting – it needs to be balanced if we are to achieve harmony within.

Because isolation for long periods, or used for other purposes over and above a brief and necessary intervention, can be extremely detrimental and offset any measures for potential balance. It is like cracked black pepper giving a pleasant bite and flavour to the food when added only, in the right, and usually sparse, quantity. Too much and the balance is off and then, the food (life) becomes unpleasant, bitter, and something which would be easier to avoid rather than engage in.

Feeling lonely and isolating yourself from the world is both a cause and a symptom of anxiety

Calm clinic

Friendships don’t have to be plentiful, their quantity is not particularly important (sorry face-bookers). But they are needed. In terms of the human experience and the hardwiring which gives rise for connection with others, friendships and socialisations are a significant aspect of living a fulfilled life.

Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light

Helen Keller

The word friendship, like love, in the English language has been mistakenly short-changed due to an inadequecy of the language itself. Freond (early english) represents the noun and is defined as lover, friend. (Interestingly face-book usage of the word references it as a verb instead. Something which you do!) And Sciepe (early english) refers to a state of being – a particular condition between two people. So that by looking at these orgins we can establish this thing friendship has been considered of high importance for thousands of years and yet, Robert Johnson maintains that given our ‘poverty of awareness’ for words like love (and friendship) “we are close to dying of lonliness”. In Sanskrit there are 96 words for love, which may actually come close to the gamut of possible engagements in relationships where such emotion abides. The same could be said of friendship, for where there are in fact, the same multitude of variations around closeness, shared responsibilities, love, emotion, family, professional, support, and ‘besties’, all wrapped up in a single word that is all we have to express such a multifaceted experience.

Friendship is one mind in two bodies

Mencius

It is curious that the word itself connotes fear for many people too in professional supportive roles. Fear of boundaries and appropriateness, and policies, and attachment (as if these things happen overnight or without knowledge). No wonder so many people are confused about what friendship is, how it works, what supports it to work and what doesn’t. Some people are supported to think they are not “normal” and therefore, can’t ever have “normal” friends. What a conundrum we have created for people we support to be included, connected, and re-established into their communities and families and social circles?

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend

Albert Camus

And while it seemed a natural and involuntary experience for most people in primary school, does it become harder to make friends as we age?

At worst, the comfort that comes with age and experience brings limitations too. Suddenly, you’re not only going out late less, but you’re out meeting new people less often. You no longer have to forge chummy connections at work to get ahead either. And your other friends are married-off/moved-away/much-changed. Or you have

Katherine Feeney

It seems that circumstances can directly affect our potential for friendships. In particular those with which we have an associative level of connection. This has been researched and shown in great detail through studies of retirement changes and the relevant social/health impacts, especially for men. And according to Marla Paul “many women [and men] shove friendship to the stone cold back burner” and she quotes Robert D Putnam in addition “Visits with friends are now on the social capital endangered species list”. Surely both of these statements beg the question does it really matter? Is it worth the extra push proportionately necessary as we get older including more compromise, more acceptance, more effort. By way of what Katherine Feeney says here, it is more than worth the effort, any time from about 30 until we die.

… real friends help us grow. True friends make us better people. And the big breath between birth and death is just plain more enjoyable with a few around

It needs to be mentioned, that there is plenty of research around the detriment to the immune function and the increases in stress when negativity prevails in a friendship, especially for women. And sometimes it will be necessary to love and fairwell remembering Jom Rhon’s infallible statement that we are the sum of the five people we most surround ourselves with. And friends do come strong and fast when we are very young, often when we have materialistic offerings. But the most important factor in shaping ours and their lives, is quality – mutual benefit. Sometimes the couch will be far too comfortable but at other times we will recognise the ‘effort’ we speak of is not only worthwhile, it is necessary. A few quality friendships are in fact a major component in leading and co-creating a fulfilling and healthy life.

It gives you a sense of being connected and not just free-floating in space

Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem

While Yin may be different to Yang and you can’t see “them” both all the time, appreciate the strengths that each brings you and remember keeping them in balance with you is the way to sustain and grow quality friendships with quality people. Remind them as often as necessary,

“I am happy because I am your friend”
“I am happy because you are my friend”
“I am happy because we, are friends”

Pleasant musings

Johnny

REFERENCES

Albert Camus Quote, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_friendship.html#y7SWBFH3ZrTKJeVh.99Are
Calmclinic.com, http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/isolation-loneliness
Feeney, Katherine, brisbanetimes.com.au urban affairs reporter and blogger, http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/life/citykat/is-it-harder-to-make-friends-the-older-you-get-20120131-1qr4v.html
Helen Keller Quote, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_friendship.html#y7SWBFH3ZrTKJeVh.99
Johnson, Robert, The Handless Maiden and the Fischer king
Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem, Top 10 Reasons you Need a Best Friend, CANADIAN LIVING, Jessica Padykula, http://www.canadianliving.com/relationships/friends_and_social_life/top_10_reasons_you_need_a_best_friend.phpMencius Quote, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_friendship.html
Paul, Marsha, The Friendship Crisis, 2005, Rodale Inc. USA

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