Whole Life Magazine

January/February 2015

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By Brandi-Ann Uyemura W e'd been friends since childhood. I'd known her long enough to grasp the gravity of the question. But when my best friend asked how I really felt about her dating my on and off again ex-boyfriend, I held my ton gue. It was the decision that ultimately ended our friendship. While confl ict is a normal part of intimacy, like me, most of us would rather ignore it, rather than confront it. According to Irene S. Levine, PhD, creator of The Friendship Blog, all relationships inevitably run into confl ict. "Because two different people don't act or think in the same ways, some degree of confl ict and dis- agreement is inevitable." Levine says. "People often fear that confl ict will undermine a relationship. The opposite is more likely to be true: Unresolved confl ict can derail a relationship and create distance between friends." In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes, "…whenever your relationship is not working, whenever it brings out the 'madness' in you and your partner, be glad. What was unconscious is be- ing brought up to the light… If there is jealousy, defensiveness, the urge to argue, the need to be right, an inner child de- manding love and attention, or emotional pain of any kind— whatever it is, know the reality of that moment and hold the knowing. The relationship then becomes your sadhana, your spiritual practice." Part of the practice is in understanding how friendships can alert us to our own spiritual growth. "Our friendships can be an indication of where we are on the spiritual growth spectrum. If they treat us in a loving and supportive way, it's an indica- tion we have achieved a signifi cant level of spiritual growth. If friends are critical and judgmental, we probably need to work on self-acceptance," says Jaqui Duvall, MA, a health and life coach. Levine notes that if you're always being taken advantage of, you may need to set better boundaries. And since no one person can satisfy all our needs, if friends continually disappoint you, your unrealistic expectations could signal dependency and neediness. The key is to notice and mend recurring patterns. The Healing Potential of Friendships Besides being an antidote to loneliness, friendships provide an opportunity to address fears of intimacy and confl ict, and redo what didn't work in the past. A friendship that ended be- cause you were afraid to say how you really felt, for example, can teach you how to be more transparent in your present relationships. Confronting confl ict, Levine says, "can build a foundation for a more solid friendship based on honesty and trust." Criticism and judgment from friends, while hard to swallow, can be healing as well. Instead of reacting defensively, Duvall suggests taking time to consider whether there is any truth in what was said. Not taking things personally gives you the free- dom to see things clearly. It's also an opportunity to assess your relationship. An up- set friend may simply be going through a diffi cult time and require compassion. A friend who is constantly emotionally draining, however, may be toxic. The lesson may be to let go of the friendship so you can take care of yourself. It's not easy to share who we are with those we love. But Levine says it's always worth it. Friendships can help us devel- op a deeper understanding of ourselves, alert us to areas that need healing, and instruct us on how to be better people in the world. Surviving the most diffi cult encounters emboldens us to take greater risks, boosting our self-confi dence and en- couraging us to be more authentic. My own healing has required forgiving others and myself, but it's also been about changing the present. Recently, I've run into a challenge with a new friend. My initial reaction was to escape the confl ict and cover my feelings with a smile. Instead, I confronted the issue. As I write this, I'm not certain how she took it. But as Tolle notes, the goal of relationships isn't to make you happy, the goal is to make you more conscious. And regardless of the outcome, at least I know I ac- complished that. What we can learn from friendships CONFLICT WITH A BESTIE whole living 14 wholelifetimes.com

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