Finding Soul Friends

December 21, 2009
Category: Wellness

The Holidays bring up a lot of emotional “stuff” and a broad range of strong feelings for many of us --everything and everybody seem to be a little more intense. Many of us may be asking: Who is my family? Do I belong? Am I loved?

This time of the year may be an opportunity to take a look at our primary relationships and the concept of a Soul Friend. Who will be with us during the darkest and brightest of times?

The Holidays bring up a lot of emotional “stuff” and a broad range of strong feelings for many of us --everything and everybody seem to be a little more intense. Many of us may be asking: Who is my family? Do I belong? Am I loved?

This time of the year may be an opportunity to take a look at our primary relationships and the concept of a Soul Friend. Who will be with us during the darkest and brightest of times?

In American society it’s not uncommon to call people “friends” when in reality they are social connections—extremely important but not Soul Friends. Under this “friends” umbrella we include neighbors, business associates, colleagues at work, social buddies (bars, clubs), church/organizational people.

If we spread ourselves too thin—“friendships” can become superficial and we wonder why so-and-so doesn’t return our call. Soul Friends return calls—social friends might not feel the need to—the bond—the real connection is not there.

A Soul Friend is a person with whom you can reveal your inner most secrets and not be judged. Soul friends are deep personal connections which last over many years. These primary relationships take time, work, energy and commitment in order to ensure a high level of intimacy.

A Soul Friend will come pick you up when your car breaks down at midnight, sits with you after you got fired, picks you up at the hospital after minor surgery, takes you out for a drink when you got that much sought after promotion, drops plans when you’re in trouble. Soul friends nurture us. They become our family of choice.

It doesn’t mean that Soul Friends are an absolute pre-requisite for having a boyfriend. It’s possible to concurrently date and build friendships and community. In fact, some men find wonderful Soul Friends through the dating process.

The best way to start attracting Soul Friends is by loving ourselves--being compassionate and kind to ourselves and never, ever putting ourselves down. There are occasions when I have told clients, “I love you” not in an inappropriate or icky way and for some men it’s been the first time they have heard these words from a deep and unconditional place.

The process of finding Soul Friends need not overwhelm us. It might mean taking our present friendships deeper or joining organizations and extending our social network. We may need to be more vulnerable--letting our guard down, and no longer pretending to be someone we’re not—what a relief!

Building friendship and isolation are mutually exclusive. I am not talking about solitude which is a healthy choice. Isolation is separation. It can be very seductive—it gives off the illusion of independence but is in fact living in a self-imposed emotional prison.

One of the quickest ways to break the isolation is to do something for others. I remember visiting an old friend (a jazz musician) in the ICU of New York -Presbyterian Hospital around Christmas a number of years ago. I thought the visit would depress and overwhelm me and add to the holiday blues but it had the opposite effect— I felt enormous joy to be with Don. What a gift he gave me. Afterwards I walked from the hospital on the East Side of Manhattan to my home cross town ( about an hour walk) thinking how lucky I was to be alive and that Don would never have wanted me to waste one moment of my life. Don was a Soul Friend.

We can be either reactive or proactive, contract or expand, shut down or open up emotionally during the holiday season. We decide the course of action. Gay writer, E.M. Forster wrote, “Live in fragments no longer…only connect.” The season of lights is here—the long days of darkness are coming to an end—no need to live in fragments. There is someone out there waiting to love you!

Jim Sullivan, dating and relationship expert, is author of Boyfriend 101, A Gay Guy’s Guide to Dating, Romance and Finding True Love and is currently working on his second book project. Jim maintains a private coaching practice on dating/relationship/life issues. He holds two master’s degrees, one in counseling from New York University and one in religious studies from Manhattan College. - www.JimSullivanCoaching.com

Tags: Intimacy
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share this
View all posts by Jim Sullivan

Comments

I was into this until the very last line. Isn't this more about loving yourself and thinking you are worthy of being loved then there being someone out there waiting to love you?

Is there anything wrong with ones self looking for themselves out in the world? Many people feel 'lost' and need to find themselves befor they can find someone else. Love of self is not always narcisistic. In order to be a better person, one needs to accept themselves, they then are be able to open up emotionaly to others. This isn't always true, but is close to the mark nonetheless. Once you 'find' and accept who it is that you are, you seem more at ease with the rest of the world. Once you 'love' this person, meaning yourself, you tend to exude more confidnce, this in turn will be percieved by others as sexy. Finding someone to love after that is much easier in the long run.

I agree with Terrie here. And with all of the article up to that point.

The notion of someone out there really waiting to fall in love with me, is a bit too Christmassy, and reeks of loads of wishful thinking, too.

No doubt, there are people out there waiting to fall in love with someone... But as the life has it, even when you meet them, you are only starting to walk a very long, uphill way towards a possibly working relationship...

Nonetheless, a good article!

SC

I think that the author mixes up the virtue of loyalty with the questionable virtue of intimacy.

I know that I have a core group of people in my life who are true friends (including family). They have often been loyal to me and have helped me though tough times, like job layoffs, breakups, fractured ribs (rugby), etc. I've had a chance to return the favor at times, and hope that this will continue.

However, that's not to say that I have been granted license to burden these same friendships with excessive "intimacy". Sometimes it's better to keep ones emotions private. Or else disclose emotions selectively, in a constructive way, with an eye on solving problems and making life better.

The other side of the coin is that casual "friends" add enormous value to life. I don't think any less of my co-workers at my job because we don't share deep feelings very often. I enjoy the projects we build and the beers and games of pool during off hours. It keeps me connected to the world, shows me how to get along, tempers my self-delusions and makes my a little more humble.

Allbeef rightly mentions here another vital category of friendships that many people cultivate: core group of true friends. Life would be very difficult without them, no doubt. Yet, most of these people (and family members, at times) are really NOT your soul friends. "The core group of true friends" is actually a reliable social support network based on the principle of reciprocation. The primary motivation of the members to help each other out, is not a very deeply rooted friendship alone, but far more than that, an unspoken but firmly understood promise, that you would come to their aid, if a similar situation occurred with anyone of them being in actual need of help. Intimacy of any kind here only makes the reciprocation more complex and less warranted.

Soul friendships are like all friendships: reciprocal, too. Yet, while any decent person of your (or higher) social standing can join in and become part of your core group of true friends, who would help you out, and give you a ride home from the hospital; possibly help you out if you get laid off, etc., it DOES take a very special person to agree to provide you with emotional support once your personal, intimate and emotional life suffers injury. Supporting you emotionally through a period of personal grief takes a much greater effort and sacrifice than providing limited material support on a level of daily living as mentioned before. The stakes are much higher, and the unspoken promise of reciprocation takes a totally new dimension, since the provider may only hope that you will have the energy and wisdom to face the challenge once the going gets tough beyond the mundane things of daily living.

SC