Connection is an extraordinarily important factor when it comes to mental health. So much can ride on our perceptions of how other people feel about us, and of course the support provided by our loved ones is essential.  People are really the most wonderful and the most terrible things that happen to us!

Family is the first layer of connection – they are our teachers and models of how to engage in community. Then come friends – chosen family.  These two groups trigger the vast majority of our psychological pleasure and pain, and many therapy clients have issues rooted in these connections.

Two key issues around connection are abandonment and a lack of reciprocity.  These certainly trigger me.  ‘Why hasn’t she contacted me?’ ‘Why am I the one always reaching out?’ ‘Why isn’t he even trying?’  Even the use of the words ‘friend’ and ‘unfriend’ on a certain social media platform is very one-sided.  Because of the trigger, I have been thinking deeply about this, and I wanted to share a semantic framework that may assist you in thinking about the connections in your life.

Just as we have the two words ‘relation’ and ‘relationship’, we also have ‘friend’ and ‘friendship’.  The first in each pair obviously refer to the person themselves, and the second to the abstraction of that person and their connection to you.  Aunt Mary who you only see briefly at Christmas is a relation, but you have no relationship with her.  Your sister is a relation too, and your relationship with her is ongoing, healthy, and dynamic.

Let’s draw that same lens over the word ‘friend’.  There are probably people in your life who are friends, but because of distance and other factors, you do not have a current, dynamic friendship with them.  There’s been no fight, no bust-up – but the living, active energy of a friendship is not in play.  If factors changed, the friendship could quickly be re-invigorated, but it’s currently in a dormant phase.

This really helped me to think about friendship in a new way – that I don’t need to be maintaining friendSHIPS with all my friends.  That friends will ebb and flow with age, time, distance, and a hundred other circumstances.  That if I am truly with those people when we have the opportunity – present, engaged, and full-hearted – the friendship will be nurtured. The SHIP will have a safe harbour and a secure mooring.

Please get in touch if the above article resonates with you in light of your own situation.

Photo by Dimitar Belchev on Unsplash

Disclaimer: This article contains the views of the author and is not a replacement for therapeutic support. Please reach out to a registered therapist if you are experiencing distress and require assistance.