8 Things I’ve learnt about Friendship since becoming a Counsellor
This, as well as the Mental Health Awareness Week topic of loneliness got me thinking about friendships and what can get in the way of these positive relationships.
Keep reading to find out more.
1. We are all deserving of friends
Sometimes life can leave us feeling we don’t deserve to have people in our corner, particularly if we’re struggling with our emotional wellbeing or mental health.
Shame often drives these feelings, leaving us to believe that we are unlikeable and/or less than others.
Core beliefs like these can cause anxious thoughts and feelings and will often play out in interpersonal relationships where we might consciously or unconsciously keep ourselves distanced or “once removed” from others.
This might also feel like the safe option if we’ve been let down or hurt by people that we thought were on our side in the past.
2. Friendships are not a competition
It can be easy to make negative comparisons in friendships. Do you find yourself thinking “those two see each other regularly so they must prefer them to me”.
Friendships are not measured by the amount of time spent together. If that was the case, we’d automatically be best friends with all of our co-workers.
Friendships, I would say, are relationships where people respect each other and where you are each prepared to make an effort to meet each other needs. Whatever those needs might be.
For some, that will mean spending a lot of time together where, for others a phone conversation every few months might be what’s needed.
It's not about who can shout the loudest.
We all have the capacity to have more than one good friend and for friendship to look different with different people. This doesn’t lessen the value, impact or importance of any friendship.
3. I can only be friends with people who share similar life views/backgrounds with me
The only view you need to have in common with your friend is that you respect each other and value what the other person has to offer.
This means being able to openly share and discuss issues without becoming dismissive or defensive.
Some of my richest friendships are with those who have differing experiences and opinions to me.
I love hearing different viewpoints and why they feel the way they do; that allows me to “broaden my own horizons” and challenge my own ways of thinking.
4. I’m “the listener” in our friendship group; I can’t burden others with my stuff
This ties in with point number 1.
Having often been the listener, I know how challenging it can be to step out of our accepted role with in a group; it becomes what’s expected of us.
However, we don’t have to stay confined to only one role in any group situation and its okay to ask for support if it feels safe to do so.
Generally, people are only too willing to reciprocate the support they’ve more than likely felt from you over the course of your friendship.
Unfortunately though, we can’t control the actions of others so we won’t always get the reaction we want; it's important to remember though, that the other person’s response is reflective of who they are and the circumstances they find themselves in.
Allow them to take responsibility for their actions rather than assume that its something you did that caused the reaction.
5. Numbers are not important in the friendship game
Some people will have a lot of friends where others will have only a few.
The numbers are not important and are NOT a measure of your value.
Friendships, like people, come in all different shapes, sizes, combinations and permutations.
More than likely, the number of friends you have will be reflective of your way of relating to and with others e.g. some people are energised by company where others are drained by it.
6. Friendship groups can be complicated
Friendship groups are not always easy to navigate as we can find ourselves amongst groups of people with different needs.
The dynamics can be especially difficult to read if you’ve been hurt or let down by others in the past (see 1) as it can be hard to identify in the group context who has the capacity, ability and desire to support.
Sometimes it will feel easier/safer to pull away and to keep yourself to yourself.
That’s okay but it can be useful to notice if you're blaming others when this happens as this can impact the group dynamics going forward.
Sadly, we do sometimes find ourselves in a situation where a group member acts out of malice or with an intent to hurt. The absolute priority in this case is to keep yourself safe and to place responsibility where it belongs.
7. Friendships, like all relationships, take effort
In order to grow friendships we sometimes have to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and allow ourselves to be vulnerable with those that we care about and that have shown they care about us.
This can be deeply uncomfortable, feel like a big risk and trigger some anxious thoughts and feelings.
However, in order to feel a connection with others we have to be able to offer up something of ourselves; something that allows others in.
This is not always an easy thing to do.
8. Friendships can change over time
Knowing people for a long time can give us a shared history that strengthens the bond we feel with others and allows us to understand each other better.
However, sometimes we evolve at a different pace to those around us and the friendship will no longer feel the same as it once did. At this point your friendship might feel like a “lot of hard work”; that your efforts are not reciprocated and that you find yourself pulling away.
Sadly, it’s not always possible to save every friendship that reaches this point but it is important to acknowledge the feelings of loss that will arise.
The same would be true if life events take friends away.
If any of the above has a struck a chord, please don’t hesitate to get in touch because individual counselling can help you with these issues.
Because it gives you the opportunity to understand yourself and what you want from others. How we do this would be specific to you but it might involve talking about issues like trust and boundaries that impact your relationships and what it would be like to cultivate relationships that work for you.
Text 07484 160971 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
to book a free initial consultation.
May 20, 2022
Photo credit: Clay Banks on Unsplash