LIVING BEYOND: WHY AUTHENTIC FRIENDSHIPS ARE KEY TO GOOD MENTAL HEALTH AND RECOVERY

“A friend is what the heart needs all the time.” ~ Henry Van Dyke

As a person, I learned early on that friendships can prove an asset or a hindrance in this life. Friends are like the pebbles found within the body of a river; while you will tread upon many beautiful stones, it is seldom that we will find a rare and precious gem. Similar to those that we encounter in this life, all friendships have their merits, but it’s unique to find a friendship that is authentic, genuine and unconditional. What truly is the difference? While we may have an abundant number of friends; it’s like the old adage says, “true friends are few and far between.”

Friendships can prove the greatest asset one has in this life. Again it is not about having a vast number of friends on social media like Facebook; rather it’s about establishing a healthy and close connection with another. At the core, friendship is about having an intimate bond and relationship with another human being. It is the unique relationship that can encourage, inspire and transform our way of thinking. However, not all friendships are an asset; sadly, in some cases, friends can prove like an albatross strung around our necks sinking us to the depths of the ocean floor. Therefore, it is critical that we are diligent in connecting with individuals who have a vested interest in our lives and who will prove a positive asset rather than a negative one

WHAT IS A HEALTHY FRIENDSHIP?

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.” ~ Jim Morrison

While the onset of a friendship may develop through a family member, or an acquaintance, either way, healthy friendships are a critical ingredient in human survival. “’Friends are what make us uniquely human,’ says James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California at San Diego. ‘There is no other species that interacts so widely with other members of their species. So right away, you know that when you’re studying these relationships with friends, what you’re really doing is studying what makes us unique.’”

Healthy verses Unhealthy Friendships

A healthy friendship is driven by mutual respect, admiration, and interest. A friendship is the ultimate partnership designed to enrich and enhance all active participants. An unhealthy friendship is an imbalanced and lopsided relationship. An unhealthy relationship is most commonly disguised as a healthy and genuine relationship, but one or both participants are seeking out the relationship for selfish and self-serving reasons. The nucleus of a self-serving relationship is concern for one’s own welfare and personal interest rather than the interest and welfare of others.

A healthy friendship is supportive, trusting, and nurturing. It is the sort of relationship that recognizes that we are all human, and still willing to stick by our side through the good times and bad times. An authentic friend is always interested in maintaining the strictest of confidentiality, but will not encourage or tolerate unethical or immoral behaviors.

Friendship is a critical ingredient in living an abundant, secure, and fulfilled life. A friend is imperfect, but they recognize your own imperfection with acceptance and an unconditional spirit.

What should we be looking for when initiating and developing a friendship?

1) Always begin a friendship with mutual respect, honesty, and integrity.

2) Always insist on healthy boundaries.

3) Always insist that conversations should remain respectful and polite.

4) Healthy friends will most certainly disagree
or even have an opposing position.

5) Connect with people who are interested in being authentic.

6) Friends will never insist that you compromise your person.

7) A friend is supportive, encouraging and willing to provide emotional reassurance.

8) A friend is cooperative, having a common goal and expectation of the relationship.

9) Peer pressure is a reality of most relationships, but it should never become a nexus for compromise of one’s character or ethical behavior.

An authentic friend will never cause or insist that you compromise your integrity or your values. A friendship established on mutual respect has the makings of a lifelong friendship.
It is through a friendship that we learn to trust, bond, and to convey mutual affection. An authentic friendship should avoid placing conditions upon your friendship.

A COMMON REALITY OF ADDICTS

“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” ~ Walter Winchell

For many who are struggling with addiction, finding a friend who is an ally, a support and an accountability partner can prove a challenge. Unfortunately, addicts have been portrayed in the media and society as blemished and unworthy, but the truth is, all of humanity struggles with some form of addiction whether
it be a thought, a perception, or an ideological perspective. Moreover, we have a skewed perception of addiction because of its orientation to drugs and alcohol, but the truth is drugs and alcohol only account for a small portion of addictive habits.

AN UNCONDITIONAL FRIENDSHIP

As a person, we must adapt an unconditional persona. A person living an unconditional life looks beyond one’s failures and successes and strives to see the authentic person. Unconditional acceptance does not mean that we are to compromise our belief system, ideological perspectives, or ethical slants, but that we are accepting of others despite themselves. An authentic friend remains loyal and accountable during the good times and the bad.

The Keys to a Healthy Friendship are:

1) An authentic friend should avoid tactics that may compromise the integrity of the relationship.

2) Do not allow the sun to go down upon your anger. Allowing anger to fester can prove toxic ultimately destroying the integrity of the relationship.

3) Be willing to share your appreciation and gratitude for others.

4) Develop and maintain healthy boundaries.

5) Be clear with your desires and expectations within the relationship.

6) Regularly practice and maintain a mindful approach to friendship.

7) An authentic friend is readily available.

8) Acknowledge and accept responsibility for mistakes when they occur.

9) Never accept responsibility for the failures or mistakes of others.

10) Respect is the deep admiration and personal regard for another.

11) Continuously work and strive to improve your own person.

12) Never accept any form of abuse from any person at any time.

13) Practice active listening; active listening is a skill, technique,
or an inherent trait whereby, a person is purposefully and intentionally focusing on the communications being sent by another person or persons.

14) Forgiveness is a purposeful action to move beyond an intentional or unintentional harm. “Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”

15) Authenticity is the ability to be genuinely your own person.

An authentic friendship is the key to developing and maintaining a healthy relationship. Authentic friends are interested in being an advocate, ally, and proponent of your person. Most of all, friendship is the blending of the hearts, minds, and souls of two imperfect individuals into a common cause, a common good, and a common goal. Friendship is an ever-evolving relationship with a similar connection; you.

May you begin living beyond.
Author: Dr. Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., D.N.C.C.M.,
F.A.A.E.T.S.
Website: www.asadonbrown.com
References Provided Upon Request