I, me and my friend | education | Hindustan Times
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I, me and my friend

Early friendships lay the groundwork for meaningful associations formed later in life, says Jitendra Nagpal

education Updated: Nov 11, 2009 09:28 IST
Jitendra Nagpal

Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow.
Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.

— Albert Camus

Do you know someone, with whom you can establish a close relationship, spend some time with and interact daily, sharing confidential information, getting mutual emotional support and excluding outsiders from the relationship? This someone is a
friend or peer.

According to Aristotle, “ A friend is a single soul dwelling in two bodies”. Peer or friend, according to the dictionary, means, “To come in sight” or “appear.” Friendship or peer relationship is a close relationship in which each partner wants to be with the other. If one observes infants, one will see that they initiate play, display positive emotions, and engage in more complex interaction with selected, familiar peers.

Gradually, a peer is transformed from a playmate into somebody whom one trusts and turns to for assistance. These early relationships lay the groundwork for deeper, more meaningful friendships during childhood and adolescence.

At the teenage level, friendship is more closely associated with notions of intimacy and loyalty. When it comes to teenagers, they feel a strong need to learn about who they are and to fit in with their peer group at all costs. The predominance of gangs in schools is evidence of this fact. It is at this age, then, that many teenagers succumb to the influence of their peers. They are swayed by the opinion of others, especially when they admire them and desire acceptance by their peer group. Usually teenagers often find themselves acting in ways contrary to their beliefs in order to belong.

Adolescents interact with peers more frequently and longer than teenagers do, both within school and out of it. Peers are also associated with self-esteem and with the forming of a self-image.

This is because they are an effective buffer from the negative impact of family troubles. They also influence academic achievements.

Warm, gratifying childhood and adolescent friendships are related to many aspects of psychological health and competence in early adulthood. Thus, friends can go a long way in relieving psychological distress, such as loneliness, sadness and fear.

And because true mutual understanding implies forgiveness, only an extreme fall out can terminate a friendship.

Here are some steps to strengthen the bond with peers so as to multiply joys and divide grief:
Empathise: Until and unless you understand your friends’ emotions, you will never be able to get close to them. Learn to accept their individuality, because every human being has his/her own way of looking at life. Accept your friends just the way
they are.
Listen: Learn to be a patient listener and never jump to conclusions or judge your friends. It is necessary to understand your friend’s situation and necessities. Never impose yourself on them.
Support: Always stand by your friends. Try and be their guiding light. Try and motivate them whenever they are feeling low.
Forgive: Arguments and conflicts are a part of the communication pattern. Never take things to heart. Clear misunderstandings.
Share: Happiness, joy, success and every possible thing. Until and unless you share, you will not be able to relate to each other. However, sharing does not mean misusing someone’s liberty, especially in terms of money and materialistic things. You must know where to draw the line.
Loyalty: Whatever is the situation, never breach the trust that a friend has bestowed upon you. If you do this, it will become difficult to maintain the relationship. Try to be his/her confidant forever.

You will thus be able to foster meaningful relationships and deal easily with everyday stress. This will also help you inculcate a positive attitude towards life as a whole.

“We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection”.

H.H. The Dalai Lama

The author is a senior consultant psychiatrist with Moolchand Medcity & Vimhans, New Delhi. Send him an email at hthorizons@hindustantimes.com, marked ‘Dr Nagpal’