Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Introvert/Extrovert Matched Friends

"Treating friends like investments or commodities is anathema to the whole idea of friendship."
"There's a limited amount of time and emotional capital we can distribute, so we only have five slots for the most intense type of relationship. People may say they have more than five [friends] but you can be pretty sure they are not high-quality friendships."
Ronald Sharp, professor of English, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York

"People don't like to hear that the people they think of as friends don't name them as friends."
"Reality might be that] the possibility of non-reciprocal friendship challenges one's self-image."
Alex Pentland, MIT computational social science researcher

British evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar explains his take on friendships; that they are layered with the ultimate layer represents one or two people; a spouse, for example and a best friend where daily contact reflects the closeness. The second tier represents maximum, four people with whom weekly contact is made, because there is an affinity between the character and the needs of those friends for emotional support.

The lower tier or tiers are represented by friends with whom relationships are strictly casual, seen far less frequently, interacted with sporadically and with whom the emotional connection may be more practical, not a tight one. Alexander Nehamas, professor of philosophy, Princeton University, feels that the connection we call friendship "is difficult to describe. It's easier to say what friendship is not, and foremost, it is not instrumental".

In essence friendship is a deep regard for others, an intangible connection of great psychological meaning and inner need fulfilled. The purpose of which is not to gain something material or some kind of status, but to satisfy an emotional need for the company and regard of someone with whom one feels a need to communicate and whose company is deeply satisfying in fulfilling that social/emotional need.

Research of recent vintage confirms that of perceived friendships, only fifty percent turn out to be mutually regarded. Taking for granted that someone is your friend might be surprisingly wrong; that person may have no more than a slight interest in a reciprocal friendship. And of course the reverse occurs as well, that someone who doesn't enjoy your high regard feels secure in the belief that they do.

Social scientists are convinced of the need for people to be fulfilled through social relationships that feed an emotional drive. Without that fulfillment, they feel convinced that most people suffer blows to their health outcomes and harbour feelings of unappreciation and loneliness. A recent study took 84 subjects to analyze friendship connections of people aged 23 to 38. The subjects were urged to rank one another.

They were all in a business management class. A five-point recognition of closeness ranged from "I don't know this person" to "one of my best friends". The result identified feelings that were mutual 53 percent of the time even as the expectation of reciprocity was seen to hover at 94 percent. So what is perceived is not necessarily what pertains.

According to Dr. Sharp, friends are those people whom you make the effort and take the time to try to understand, permitting them in exchange to understand what matters to you. Those who reach out casually to increase the numbers of people they can count on as being their friend leads to shallow, non-reciprocal relationships.

The lack of depth and commitment of those relationships, according to medical experts risks feelings of isolation and friendlessness which in turn can make people obsess about the emotional facade their life represents lacking depth, and this is when harmful habits may kick in like smoking, alcoholism and over-eating, leading to obesity and early death.

Science also recognizes the part of the brain that responds to helping people to invest themselves in maintaining quality relationships. "It's huge to have good vagal ['smart' vagul nerve] tone, because it modulates our instinctive fight, flight or freeze response", explains Amy Banks, a psychiatrist specializing in the field of interpersonal neurobiology, author of "Wired to Connect: The Surprising Link Between Brain-Science and Strong, Healthy Relationships."

When authentic friendships do not occur, the theory is that the smart vagus nerve remains unexercised, losing tone and leaving someone with deep anxiety. That state of being makes it ever more difficult to connect with others. Identifying the people in your life who matter to you requires some questioning of yourself.

Who values time time spent with you? Whose company makes your life richer and more interesting? Whose absence would you grieve? Who would experience sadness if you were absent for any reason from their life and circle of friendship? On the other hand, given the results of the experiments determining how often people misinterpret the depth of their friendships, perhaps the questions would all be affirming rather than confirming.

No one wants to believe their investment of time, emotion and need is a wasted effort. And of course there are always people who prefer solitude, have no deep emotional need to share their lives with anyone in a meaningful way, and somehow manage to live deeply satisfying personal lives, and whose longevity and health is no different than those with a close coterie of friends.

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