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THE NEED OF FRIENDS

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WHO IS OUR TRUE FRIEND (part 1) ?
(next issue)

The Need of Friends

Humans are social beings. Friendship with others is vital for survival, sustenance, and well being. We need friends for consolation in grief, for support in distress, for self-expression, for sharing joy. Interdependence is not just a matter of religious idealism; it is the most compelling aspect of human reality. Relatedness to fellow human beings - the feeling of belonging to a larger whole and of being of value to others - is a natural necessity of life. There are also psychological reasons for having friends. A person wants to express his emotions of love and sympathy, and he wishes the same from others. He cannot satisfy the urge for love without being socially conscious. Self-expression is an inherent instinct in every person. A person seeks companions; he wants to have friends around him and feels lonely when there is no one near. The instinct for self-expression is not to be identified with the sex-instinct, as Freudians claim, nor is it the wish for power and the desire to dominate others, as Adlerians would have us believe. Vedanta maintains that the instinct for self-expression stems from a longing for self-expansion. Expansion is life; contraction is death. The repression of the instinct for self-expression can often derange a person's mind. Many become mentally unbalanced if left alone for a long period of time. When a person cannot have friends or companions and is forced to live in isolation or in solitary confinement, he tends to become abnormal, if not insane. Those who do not have the opportunities for self-expression withdraw to themselves and become more and more selfish and self-enclosed. This selfish nature disrupts interpersonal relationships. As they withdraw to themselves more and more, their egocentricity increases, and that makes them more and more antisocial and unpopular.

Science teaches us that we can understand the universe only in terms of relatedness, that things are nothing in themselves in isolation, that even an atom has significance only in some pattern of organization. Carbon atoms, for example, form charcoal when related in one way and become diamonds when related in another. Everywhere we turn in the laboratory, whether in physics or chemistry or biology or psychology, we find that isolation is impossible and relatedness is everything. A lone atom is meaningless, whereas a related atom is the building block of nature. A lone human being is a destroyer of values, while a related one is the builder of individual and social peace.

Even Freud would say that we are formed psychologically by our friends and relatives, and in the same way we mold others. This fact calls upon us to become free, warm, and cooperative personalities. Too few of us realize that what the law of gravity is to the stars and the sun, the law of relatedness is to human beings, and that what attraction and repulsion are in space, approval and rejection are in human society.

The need or fellowship is as deep as the need of food. When we are accepted, appreciated, and needed by those who know all about us and like us anyway, we get the first taste of peace and self-satisfaction. Devoid of friendship and fellowship, a person becomes irrelevant in this universe, running from loneliness to loneliness. (To be continued)

- Swami Adiswarananda

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Copyrightę 1996, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York.