Social is one of the components of the Bio-Psycho-Socio-Spiritual model. It covers a couple of aspects presented below.
Ship on the Ocean
Humans are social animals. When we are isolated we lose track of who we are and who we want to be, much like an old time ship on the seas on a cloudy night. These days we have GPS and other technological devices to help a ship navigate, but let us pretend that these aren’t working. The ship is on the ocean, can’t see the stars or any land. How will the ship know if it is heading in the right direction, where it is in the ocean, or if it is travelling a straight line instead of sailing in large circles?
Once the clouds clear up, the captain can work out location and heading based on the stars, or during the day time, the position of the sun and the time of day. These things help the ship know it is and where it is heading. Social friends do pretty much the same thing for us humans. They help us work out where we fit into society, help us work out what we mean to life, each other, and whether we are acting sensibly or not.
It isn’t a full proof system. If our friends are out of whack, then our feedback is out of whack. Below are some tools to help work out where the people we associate with are on our friendship scales.
Not all friends are equal and sometimes we can mistake the quality of a friend and miss-classify them. Some useful classifications are close friends and family, friends, acquaintances and professionals. The diagram below indicates the relative distance from the self that friends to professionals should be located.
Close Friends and Family
Close friends and family are the people that you can lean on and who can lean on you. The strength of your reciprocal relationship is quite high. Reciprocal relationship means that you give to them close to equally what they give to you. Friends give to each other – they don’t take. Look at the next section to see more about relationship types and how they can change the kind of association you have with someone.
Imagine that your life is a bridge held up by supports. Close friends and close family are those supports. If you only have 1 or 2, then there is quite a burden on those supports and if something comes along and removes or damages that support, your bridge is at high risk of falling down. If you have no close friends or family, then you may find yourself very vulnerable. Most people have between 2 and 8 close friends and family. Some have more, some have less.
Friends are a stronger tie than acquaintances (which we will cover next), but not as close as your close friends and close family. These are not the strong pillars of your life bridge, they are the support struts (to carry the analogy on) to your life bridge. You can loose quite a few of these without a dramatic change to your balance. Sometimes people put more distance but still relevant family members into this circle, sometimes it is just friends. Some people don’t have many people in this aspect at all.
These are the kind of people who when you put the call out for a party or to help you move house, you get a mob of supportive people who know you, care about you and are willing to lend a bit of a hand. Some of these people will bounce between acquaintance and friend – the boundary can sometimes be a bit fuzzy.
Many people mistake acquaintances for friends. An acquaintance is a friendly person due to repeated similar circumstances, such as work, drinking groups, sports groups and so on. If there is one primary reason you meet with someone, then you have an acquaintance, not a friend.
For example, if I have joined a dart league and turn up each week to practice with my team, go to competitions and the occasional after party with them, I might mistake these people for friends. When I quit the dart league and no longer have anything in common with them, the invitations to the activities rapidly drop off and I realise that I didn’t really have anything deep or meaningful with these people. I can become distressed mistaking the acquaintance for friends.
This can be challenging when trying to stop drug addiction. My drinking and drug buddies no longer want to have much to do with me when I stop indulging in the drug that binds us together. I can feel isolated and alone and be tempted to go back to the habit that I am trying to quit. Narcotic substances aren’t the only habits that can be reinforced by acquaintances.
Friends, on the other hand, will have more in common with you than the habit. They will adjust around your withdrawal from one aspect of your friendship and maintain connection with you.
Professionals are not friends. They can be friendly, but not friends. Consider it like this – they are being paid to be there. You don’t pay friends to be friends… you pay employees to work for you. Professionals are the same. They should be friendly, do the job well, but not get to know you on a personal level, go to your parties or invite you to theirs. Carers and counsellors are a special category in that a carer may attend social events to help you manage, and counsellors may learn a great deal about your life and even share select relevant parts of theirs. However this is done as a professional with a goal of helping you in a specific way with the only return being some kind of pay from someone for the job they are doing.
Like any employee, if the professional fails to treat you well, fails to do their job or steps over the professional line, you should fire them and get a new professional to do the job properly. By all means, it is fair and reasonable for you to query the new prospects credentials, give them a probationary period and decide if this is the correct applicant for the position. By the same token, if the professional is giving you the right advice but you don’t like it, accept that it is the right advice rather than finding a “yes” person.
Ideally you should have a regular medical doctor in your life. If you don’t, go find one. At the least, go for yearly check ups to set a nice baseline for if something does go wrong. Many medical doctors work in the dark when you only go to see them when things go wrong. What is right for you? Is this symptom normal, and if not, how far from normal is it? Without that base professional knowledge, abnormal is a variable quantity.
Friendship Type – Friend
Friendship Type – Acquaintance
Friendship Type – Someone you use
Friendship Type – Someone who uses you
Friendship Type – Professional