Monday, September 9, 2013

Deconstructing a friendship myth

The idea of friendship was a huge obstacle for me a few years ago. 

I wholeheartedly believed that those who called me 'friend' must pay a terrible sacrifice through the burden of knowing me, and that all of them secretly regretted the social niceties that required them to pretend to like me. I treated the whole idea of friendship like a myth that could never really apply to me.

It wasn't their fault. Many did genuinely appreciate me, but their demonstrations couldn't get through the lies I was being told about myself every day by the person closest to me ... and my own defeated thoughts.

As a result, I tended to desperately cling to anyone who was kind, then pushed them away in an effort to protect myself from the inevitable rejection. My primary concern was not to get hurt, even though I couldn't avoid the constant attack of my own mind.

When I finally learned to accept that some people are capable of loving me, and that kind people aren't liars, I began to evaluate the friendships I'd had all along in an attempt to understand why I hadn't recognized them.

  1. My idea of "what friendship is" was ... impossible. (I thought a friend would be someone who always wanted to be with me, who always wanted to do the same things, who thought like me, who would never leave me.... Basically my ideal best friend was in the mirror.)
  2. There are different kinds of friendship and I was trying to make them all look the same.
  3. I thought only one friend would be enough for all my friendship needs.

As I studied and read and experimented, I slowly learned how limiting these ideas had been. I had created a box that most friendships couldn't fit, and I was blind to anything outside. In the end, I purposely shattered my own myth and am now slowly replacing it with the truth of experience. 

I see myself mimicking a scientist while studying my relationships.  I have a lot of theories, and every day I test their validity so I can learn the truth. I hope to value people for who they actually are, just as I want to be valued for who I am. In order to do that I have to see them clearly ... and permit them to see the real me.

  1. Anyone can be a friend, even if only for the short time when you meet. If you help and learn from each other, and treat each other with respect then it is friendship.
  2. Friendship has many types, from casual and light to the deep and meaningful conversations between two open souls. All have value.
  3. Multiple friendships can complement each other to create a mosaic of friendship that supports every area of your life, where none could individually cover everything.
  4. Friends can hurt you and still remain friends. They often try to help without knowing how and, while it doesn't make the hurt less painful, you can still appreciate their intentions. A good friend will accept advice on how to handle the situation better next time. They will also tell you their perspective on the truth so you can think about it from two perspectives instead of just your own.
  5. The various friendships your friends maintain help to make them who they are. You benefit, too, when they have a strong connection with other people. A good friend intends to strengthen others' friendships, also, not just their own.
  6. Friendships may come and go, brighten and fade. These effects are the normal results of travel, growth, and life changes. Change is inevitable. The friends who pull away make room for new friendships and experiences in your life. You cannot lose the link you developed by knowing each other. It is always part of you, even when it fades to a silver line of hope to someday connect again.
  7. Connections always involve risk, especially in a world where masked identity is expected and tolerated. Remember you have a social mask ingrained in you, too, and even if you don't remove it entirely with someone new, remember to lift it just a little and consciously let them glimpse the real you. They might do the same in response.

There are more lessons I've been learning, but I'll leave it here since this could get really long. Next time I'll tell you about the filters I use to discover the quality of a friendship.