SEREN­ITY NOW

How to en­sure that the boat is se­cure and keep clear skies ahead. There’s noth­ing more im­por­tant

Canadian Living - - Contents - TEXT LIZA FIN­LAY IL­LUS­TRA­TION WENTING LI

Do you need a friend­ship re­boot? Use our check­list to find out

than the sis­ter­hood of friends. Where would we be with­out our gal pals? Lost. We’d be cast adrift with­out our an­chor, our North Star. That un­con­di­tion­ally lov­ing, non­judg­men­tal cir­cle of friends who sup­ply end­less amounts of sup­port, em­pa­thy and laughs (and, let’s be hon­est, Chardon­nay), they get it—they get us.

In fact, in the early part of the 20th cen­tury, the psy­cho­log­i­cal the­o­rist Al­fred Adler called the cre­ation of friend­ships one of the three vi­tal tasks of life. He said—and suc­ces­sive the­o­rists have agreed—that one of the most fun­da­men­tal tasks of any per­son’s life is to find be­long­ing.

“Who am I? How do I fit in?” Th­ese are the ques­tions an­swered by find­ing mean­ing­ful con­nec­tion. None of us could sur­vive solo; we need oth­ers, both prac­ti­cally and per­son­ally. From the ear­li­est stages of life, mere babes in arms, we’re psy­cho­log­i­cally and phys­i­o­log­i­cally hard­wired for so­cial con­nec­tion. En­coded into our DNA is the cir­cuitry we need to at­tune to oth­ers, to re­spond, to co­op­er­ate. To be­long. This so­cial con­nec­tion not only en­sures our sur­vival but also en­riches our lives.

So that means strong friend­ships are cen­tral to ro­bust and re­silient men­tal health. Just how strong is your cir­cle? That’s a sen­si­tive ques­tion, isn’t it? After all, the sis­ter­hood is sa­cred. But life is long, and re­la­tion­ships change as we evolve and grow. Some friend­ships no longer fit, but we keep them around for their his­toric value, like the prom dress and plat­form heels at the back of our clos­ets. It’s painful to think about walk­ing away from some­one who has been a fix­ture in our life. The thought of dis­card­ing an old friend­ship makes us cringe, but what is more cringe-wor­thy is con­tin­u­ally com­pen­sat­ing for so-called pals who stand us up, put us down and stomp all over the hal­lowed bonds—peo­ple who don’t lift us up but drag us down.

Some of our friend­ships need to be recharged; we have to plug in and make an in­vest­ment to bring them back to life. Oc­ca­sion­ally, we must take stock and do a com­plete friend­ship re­boot. Here’s FRIEND, an acro­nym I some­times use as a lit­mus test. If you hold this check­list up to your posse, do all of the boxes get ticked?

1. FAITH­FUL

No, that doesn’t mean your BFF isn’t al­lowed to “cheat” on you by see­ing other friends but, rather, that she faith­fully ad­heres to the sis­ter­hood code: hav­ing your back and keep­ing your se­crets. What you say in the cone of si­lence stays there. Pe­riod.

2. RE­CIP­RO­CAL

This is a two-way street, and she gives as good as she gets.

3. IN­SPIR­ING

Her words and deeds and the way she moves in the world in­spire you to do bet­ter and be bet­ter. After spend­ing time with her, you’re charged up to take on new projects and at­tain new goals.

4. ETH­I­CAL

A good friend is one who sup­ports you in do­ing the right thing, not the easy thing. She has in­tegrity and makes sure you main­tain yours, too.

5. NON­JUDG­MEN­TAL

She loves your im­per­fect self, through your glo­ri­ous mo­ments and your un­for­tu­nate mis­steps. She may not al­ways agree with your choices, and she’ll cer­tainly hold a mir­ror up (see Eth­i­cal, above), but she won’t judge you or hold you in con­tempt.

6. DE­PEND­ABLE

If she says she’s go­ing to be there, she is. You can count on that. She doesn’t show up just some of the time but ev­ery time.

LIZA FIN­LAY IS A REGIS­TERED PSY­CHOTHER­A­PIST AND AU­THOR OF LOST & FOUND: THE SPIR­I­TUAL JOUR­NEY OF WOMEN AT MIDLIFE.

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