by Dr. Lorin Bradbury
Question: At the moment, I am very sad, possibly depressed. I have lived in Bethel a number of years, and it seems that whenever I get a good friend, she moves away. I am a person that needs friends, and when I get a friend, I don’t want to ever lose that person. But the cycle seems to repeat itself, and once again I feel friendless. I am at the point of never allowing myself to make friends again because it is almost certain they will abandon me. Any thoughts on how I should proceed will be appreciated.
Wow! It sounds as though you obtain a sense of wholeness from a friend, and as the result of the loss of a recent friend through no fault of your own, or of hers, you are left feeling as though a large chunk of yourself is missing. Generally, I would suggest that you turn to another friend to share your sadness with, but if I understand you correctly, you really only have one good friend at a time.
I may be wrong, but I get the sense that you are very needy and that your friendships are one-directional. You need the friend much more than the friend needs you. You stated that you are afraid to try and make friends again because it is almost certain that person will “abandon me.” There is a very good chance that you are living with abandonment issues from somewhere in your past. The fact that you have only one friend and feel so deeply about that friend may indicate that you have a need to possess that friend to be a friend. This is not healthy.
Healthy individuals usually have more than one friend and hold them loosely. Some individuals have many friends, but neither possess the friends nor allow the friends to possess them. Friends come and friends go, and some friends are maintained at a distance. Friends maintained at a distance may be maintained for life through letters, cards, or electronic social media, and some friends are allowed to drift away, while new friends are developed.
If you feel abandoned when friends move on, need friends to provide you with a sense of wholeness, possess your friends and live in fear of someone will take your friend away, it is probably a sign of a less than healthy relationship. I suggest that you seek professional help and explore underlying abandonment issues.
Alfred Adler, an early psychotherapist, promoted the concept of “social interest” as a route to healthy living. Social Interest in the German language literally meant “community interest” as opposed to being self-absorbed. In your case, instead of always longing for a friend, try being a friend.
Another psychotherapist, Victor Frankl, who spent a considerable amount of time in a concentration camp during WWII, stated, that “happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.” And before either Adler or Frankl developed the above concepts, King Solomon left us with a bit of wisdom: “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly” (Proverbs 18:24, KJV).
So even before you get that appointment to explore the underlying cause of your dilemma, you might start the therapeutic process by being a friend to someone. Refuse to think about what you are going to receive in return for being a friend. Just do it for the sake of the other person. I have a hunch you will be surprised at what shows up at your doorstep.
Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]