In this series of blog posts I attempt to translate the Moral letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English. In Letter 9, he discussed why you having a few true friendships is important, while they last.
You asked about if a person needs to have friends or if you can be content dealing with unhelpful feelings alone. Well, yes you can face feelings by yourself. It’s pointless in trying to suppress them. But it’s good to be able to have friends to discuss things with. But you should accept that if you should lose your friends then you shouldn’t worry. After all, friendships come and go.
But while you should bear this in mind, also try to notice your expectations of the other person, and let them go. Don’t pigeon-hole them, don’t try to make them someone they’re not … just explore who they are without knowing what you’ll find. Be curious. You’ll find the real them this way, and it’s much better than finding what you hoped to find. Try to notice your expectations of the other person, and let them go.
When I randomly meet someone, I try not to be closed to them. This means opening up, wondering who they are and setting aside any prejudgements that happen, sharing who I am openly and with a smile. I don’t know if this will be a connection to last a lifetime, but it can be one to brighten a moment.
Making New Friendships
Making new friends is part of life, it’s also fun too. The secret to making friends is to follow the Golden Rule. That’s not to say that maintaining existing friendships isn’t important to (remember what I said about friendships?) For example, if you have hundreds of so-called Facebook friends, ask yourself how many of these are real friends. Would they help you when the going gets tough? After considering this for a while, I personally decided to accept fewer invitations these days than I did a couple years ago.
Also, consider those people you are deeply attached to, for example: your parents, children, wife or husband. Feeling this type of love is what makes you human and fills your life with joy. Making and keeping a true friend is a little like falling in love, although without the physical attraction. Question which of your friend’s make you feel like this and which don’t. The ones that do are true friends.
All the money in the world, and the best job in the world, and all the material possessions in the world … won’t matter much if you’re alone and have no genuine human connections. We have a human need for this kind of connection, and there’s no doubt that it makes us happier, even if it complicates our lives a bit.
So, like I’ve said, friendships come and go. You may think that losing a true friend is too much to bear. To try to prepare yourself for the powerful emotions, for example grief or jealousy, which result. I recommend contemplating the loss of these relationships, training your mind so to speak. By recognising the impermanent nature of relationships it helps to strengthen the bond between you both. It also increases the value of the interactions you have too. And console yourself that while all the energy and love you have invested disappears in a physical sense, you will still have your memories.
Finally remember that no matter what happens you can always fall back on being content with your own thoughts. Being able to achieve satisfaction with this alone is a step towards being truly happy.