The Healing Power Of Friendships

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America is in the midst of a loneliness epidemic,and the isolation is underminding our health. Yet because our culture esteems self-reliance and abhors dependency,many of us are ashamed to admit we’re lonely and too proud to reach out. In American society,saying you are lonely suggest that you are weak,or unable to attract friends. Yet total self reliance is a myth,and loneliness is not a sign of weakness.It’s an alarm system, a signal that we need to bring people into our lives.

Because of the stigma of admitting to loneliness,many people don’t even know they are lonely,much less what to do about it.They may call the problem “low self-esteem” and look to the past for solutions.What they really need to do is get more involved with the people around them. Of course,those who are too depressed to do so need to have their depression treated first. Our seeming obsession with the most intimate details of strangers’ lives,as evidence by the rise of “tell-all” television talk shows is another manifestation of our isolation.When you lack a circle of people you know well,gossiping about strangers is a way to fill the gap.But it isn’t satisfying.

No matter how busy our lives,it’s essential that we make room for others.Even if you are married,you need close friends other than your spouse. It’s unreasonable to expect one relationship to meet all your emotional needs.Even if your spouse could meet all your needs, it is risky to depend solely on him/her. What would happen to you if something happens to him?Many people assume that a friendship forms naturally when we meet people we like and invite them to get together once in a while. But liking someone and intending to get to know that person aren’t enough. To grow,frienships need a context,a shared endeavor that provides regular contact.

Interest groups can provide this enviroment,but only if they have a long term focus. Helping out on a one time political campaign does not give you the same sense of connection that you would get from helping on the park cleanup crew every week.If you are shy about approaching new groups,consider inviting someone you already know to go with you to a meeting.In addition to a context,frienships need some degree of mutual dependency  and mutual obligation.


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