My brain really wants that for me. So does my body. And whether I believe it or not, my brain wants me to be a friend who positively answers The Big Brain Question (recently revised) “Yes” as often as possible. If I answer that question Yes for others as much as I can, not only will I increase the odds of surrounding myself with people who will answer it Yes for me (as within, so without), but I will increase the odds of being able to answer it Yes for myself as well. In other words I’ll significantly reduce the amount of time spent bullshitting myself, a way of operating in the world which I’ll find myself less and less enamored with. More and more I’ll find myself coming down in favor of Radical Accountability. And in today’s world I think you and I will both find that stance for some reason to be an increasingly rare and radical one.
What Kind of Friend Exactly?
So, apart from affirmatively answering the Big Brain Question, what kind of friend do I want to be exactly? To answer that it might prove fruitful to go about it from the dark side, to first explore what kind of friend I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be a friend who promises to call at 8AM and then doesn’t. It would be better for everyone if I simply didn’t promise to call, or promised to call when the probability was high that I’d be able to keep that promise. Along those same lines, I don’t want to be a friend who promises to meet with you and then makes something else more important than my promise to you. After which, I then pretend that I couldn’t help it. I’d prefer to promise to meet with you and then simply keep that promise.
Reliability Makes It Happen
My brain needs a reliable, stable base of friends and family to roam out from to explore an often overwhelming, rapidly changing, unpredictable world. It is this stable base that helps lay down tracks of neurons in my brain to help me manage hyper-arousal. Until those networks are fully in place and strengthened sufficiently to actually allow me to calm down by myself in a smorgasbord of environments, I won’t be able to do that very well on my own.
At the same time, I also want to be the kind of friend who can make occasional allowances and be ruthlessly compassionate when truly unforeseen circumstances and / or occasional, transient mental or physical illness conspire to prevent me from fully being the kind of friend I want to have.
Withholds Pollute the Interpersonal Environment
Another way I don’t want to be a friend is by withholding things from you that you would be well-served to know about yourself. But I have to first seek your perspective and opinion (combating this bit of Catch-22ishness is where your skill as a persuasive listener comes in handy). In doing so, I realize that most evaluation shows up to the nervous system as threat, and we both can take that into account and do proper self- and mutual regulation and restoration, which I’ll be happy to help you with by reminding you about the honest intention of my feedback: to support healthy growth and constructive change. Which I hope is the basis of our friendship.
That said, when you ask for my perspective or opinion, you have every right to expect that I will deliver it with a tone of voice and a choice of words rooted in kindness. If I’m angry, frustrated or disappointed with you, you can’t really trust things I might tell you. And since we both know and understand that “any truth unkindly told is a lie,” we are each best served not lying to one another in this way, don’t you think?
There are lots of other ways to be the friend I want to have. The last one I’ll offer up has to do with intentionally making physical and emotional space for you in my life in a way that honors and balances both our needs. It can often involve conflict – needs sometimes show up that way – and the willingness and ability to move through it to full resolution. In the process we both may clear out some ghosts and turn them into something even better than ancestors: real, live, living, loving, enduring, messy, neurally-integrated compadres.