I have been thinking a great deal about what it means to be a friend. I have written on this topic before in my post “Darling, I Am Here For You.” Luckily for me, I have some incredible friends who embody this saying and have been there for me over the last several months during a time of great challenge and transition. I have cried with these friends and laughed, and they have held, supported, encouraged and nurtured me through my pain and sadness. They have also celebrated my great joys. For my part, I have, I hope, been there for them as well. While this saying, or more aptly stated practice, is incredibly important to me, I have realized in the last few weeks that friendship is about so much more than this simple principle alone.
In the last several months, I have discovered, much to my dismay, that for some people friendship is a matter of convenience or is based on what I can do for them. The word friend easily rolls off their tongues and while they talk a good game, the meaning of true friendship is a concept they are unfamiliar with. Sadly, some of these proclaimed friends have turned their backs on me when I was down and had no qualms about dumping me when they felt it was beneficial for them to do so. Before the last few months, I simply couldn’t fathom that some of those people who called me friend, professed to love and care about me, would quickly abandon me when others, with more power or greater influence beckoned them. Apparently, for these people, advancement of personal interests is higher in priority than friendship.
This realization has been quite painful for me and causes me to question my own judgment in trusting some of these people. Over the years, I have trusted and bared my soul in psychodrama to many of these folks. Much to my surprise, some have had no difficulty revealing to others what I shared in confidence. Some have gone so far as to use information gained in a psychodrama about my childhood experiences against me. Perhaps I was naïve, but this simply shocks me. How can anyone trust the psychodramatic process if those who participate are willing to and will breach confidence when it suits them to do so or when it gives them an advantage?
Don’t get me wrong; I am a firm believer in psychodrama. I don’t, however, think it is a panacea or the solution to all a person’s problems. But it is a method that can help people understand themselves and grow as a person. This is valuable and worthwhile. But it does not nor can it answer or solve all problems nor eliminate or erase the bad things that have happened to us. It can, however, give us clarity and insight and help us change for the better. At least it has done this for me and continues to do so.
Psychodrama is a process through which I have greatly benefitted in terms of my knowledge about myself, who I am and why I am the way I am. I have grown immensely as a result of my own personal work. I have also benefitted from my personal therapy off the psychodrama stage. The combination of both have given me strength and empowered me to stand up for myself and take control of my life. I know my therapist will not, and legally cannot, reveal my confidences. Just as a lawyer must guard and protect a client’s confidence (with limited exceptions), so must a therapist.
Despite the agreement of the participants in a psychodrama to hold in strict confidence the innermost thoughts and feelings of the protagonist, I have come to learn that too many people (including many lawyers) are willing to share confidences with those who were not part of the group. The hurt that results from such breach is especially painful when it comes at the hands of one who has professed to be my friend. And perhaps more so when someone I admire, respect and look up to and who has repeatedly told me that they loved me and would “be there for me” has violated my confidence. Even worse is when these people, who advocate and teach role reversal for greater understanding of others, have flat out refused to reverse roles with me when asked and instead have responded “I am not going to play those silly games.” Silly games?
I believe that a true friend seeks to understand, cares for and about me and will guard and protect my confidences as if they are their own. It has been a shock to me to learn that there are people who will take things I have disclosed in confidence, either in a psychodrama or a private and deeply personal conversation and reveal such information to others. I simply do not understand the ease with which my requests for confidence have been ignored. I hesitate to say the revelations were made maliciously or to hurt me, but I can’t reconcile why someone with whom I have shared deep, innermost thoughts and feelings would share those with others, especially with people who are not my friends or who have purposefully set out to hurt me.
I have also come to value the honest feedback of those friends who have been and are there for me. I know their comments come from the heart and are made with love and caring and not out of spite or with an agenda. It isn’t always easy to hear difficult things from your friends but it has been my experience that the truth from a loving friend enhances the friendship and helps me see things about myself that I may not have been able to see on my own. I appreciate people with whom I can be myself, even when we disagree. What would be the value of a friendship with someone who shares all of my opinions, sees all things through my paradigm or who agrees with every idea or thought I have? The sharing of ideas and open debate with those close to me are gifts I treasure and stimulates my creativity.
I am certainly not a perfect friend. I can be opinionated, short and at times angry. I can also be impatient. I have no doubt I have hurt people out of ignorance or anger. But I strive to be there for those close to me and keep to myself the confidences that have been shared. I also try to apologize when I inflict pain. I imagine at some times I am more successful than at others.
Maybe in life we only earn a few close friends who we can trust both implicitly and explicitly, and who will truly be there for us in our time of need. I am grateful that I have a few such people in my life. They bring me great joy and hope. And to those who have discarded me and my friendship because it no longers meets your needs, I hope you find what you are looking for and that you will be blessed, as I have been, with a few true friends.