19. Keep Friendship Alive
The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. —Anonymous
People need people. And often they don’t realize how great their need is until some moment of great joy or deep sorrow. At some point in your life you’ve probably experienced this yourself—wanting to share some great news with a friend or, perhaps during hard times, needing care and support from others.
Less obvious is the need for strong, positive day-to-day relationships. Just as children need to be physically touched, stroked, and held in order to develop normally, all people need emotional stroking for a healthy, well balanced life. A "stroke" is any form of stimulation or recognition that arouses feelings. Strokes may be positive, such as smiles, hugs, and loving words, or negative, like brush offs, cold stares, slaps, or repri¬mands. Whether they are positive or negative, “strokes” confirm that you exist and that you matter, and this validation is essential to human survival.
It’s alarming to realize that if people don’t get life affirming strokes, they will seek them out in death promoting ways rather than suffer the condition of being a nonentity. Many people use illnesses of body, mind, and spirit, both consciously and unconsciously, to get attention, touching, stimulation, and something to do.
One of the healthiest things you can do for yourself is to cultivate vibrant friendships—the kind that will supply you with the genuine support everyone needs, friendships in which you can dare to reveal your feelings, act spontaneously, care, touch, and serve. Stimulating and supportive relationships with other human beings are tremendous blessings—to the body, the mind, and the spirit.
A twenty year survey of adults in the United States reported that, regardless of health problems, people who participated in formal social networks of some type outlived those who did not. An affiliation with a social network was found to be the strongest predictor of longevity, even above age, sex, or health. “When people are counting on you, you have a reason to get up in the morning,” one researcher said.
Keys to a Healthy Relationship