Friendships are vital to us. Research shows that people with good friendships have better immune systems and live longer and that having friends is more important to our happiness than having money.
A few years ago, scientists were stunned to discover that the urge to bond with others is as much a part of our response to stress as the famous fight or flight syndrome that for years was said to be our evolutionary reaction to being threatened. Much of the research that led to that conclusion was done on men, but when scientists made a special study of women they discovered that amongst the chemical cocktails released when we are stressed, women also release the ‘cuddle hormone’ oxytocin, meaning that rather than just attacking or running away, women are chemically programmed to bond when the going gets tough.
On a spiritual level, we become better people for having friends. Anais Nin 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.”
Something that psychologist Carl Jung said suggests why this is. He said “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” He firmly believed that our relationships were alchemical processes, that our bonds effectively created sealed containers in which our base elements became pure because of the heat generated. Think of it like this. As well as all the good stuff of friendship, the laughter, the shared support, your friends are also the people who stick by you, not just when times get difficult but also when they see you at your worst. They might call you on it, but they still love you and the presence of that unconditional love is what touches aspects of our shadow and helps us grow beyond it.
Friends are the people who accompany us on our journey through life. They are the cheerleaders of our successes and our champions when we fall down. We grow as individuals but there are some things that we only transform as a result of our relationship to others. Our strength as individuals actually comes from being part of the whole.
So how can you experience more of the joys of friendship?
1/Notice the moments that life offers you to connect with others. Doing my shopping yesterday, I was captivated as the young man at the checkout moved beyond small talk with me to telling me about his life, his girlfriend and his hopes for the future. How often do we bypass the opportunity for those precious moments where we can truly connect?
2/See yourself as part of the whole and reach out. One of the late psychiatrist Milton Erickson’s patients was a woman who by most other measures would have been diagnosed as being depressed, but Milton didn’t talk about that. Noticing that she grew beautiful African violets, he told her that she should make loads of cuttings, look through the local paper to see the notices of marriages, births and deaths and send a plant to each person with a personal note of congratulations or comfort. Years later, when she passed, the local newspaper ran the headline, “African Violet Queen of Milwaukee Dies, Mourned by Thousands.”
3/Appreciate. Look for the good in others and let them know you see it. Friendship is like love, the only way that you can feel it is to give it away.
Loads of love,
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