Inspiring Thoughts from EAC

The Importance and Role of Friendships


“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive,

and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” -Anais Nin


By: Steve Gainey, MA, LLP, ADS, CAADC, EAC Clinical Specialist – In 2021, in response to the Wellcome Collection’s exhibition, ‘On Happiness’, Professor Robin Dunbar stated, “Friendship is the single most important thing affecting our psychological health and wellbeing, as well as our physical health and wellbeing.” It has been studied that spending time with friends’ releases endorphins in the brain and thus, makes us happy.

However, the term “friend” can mean different things to different people.

Many scholars have identified different types of friends. However, I particularly like the way Geoffrey Greif categorizes friendships in his book, Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships (of course, in my opinion, the term “male” in the book title applies to all friendships, same gender or opposite gender, or the feeling that a family member is a friend.)

The categories are:

  • Must Friend: a best friend, a member of your inner circle, a person you count on when something big happens in your life.
  • Trust Friend: a friend who shows integrity, someone you feel comfortable with, that you’re always glad to see, but not in your innermost circle; perhaps someone you’d like to be closer to, if you had the time or opportunity.
  • Rust Friend: a person you’ve known for a long, long time; you’re probably not going to get any closer to that person, unless something changes, but a part of your life.
  • Just Friends: a person you see — at a weekly exercise class, at your child’s school — who is enjoyable company, but you have no desire to socialize outside of a specific context or to get to know that person better.

I’m sure you have friends that you can fit into each category. They all serve a purpose in your life and have benefits that you may not even recognize. According to Mayo Clinic, “Good friends are good for your health. Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent isolation and loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too. Friends can also:

  • Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
  • Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
  • Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
  • Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
  • Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise”

Indeed, friendships are important and a key to happiness and well-being. In fact, friendships are a crucial component of child development and are ultimately essential at every stage of life. The relationships formed help our social and communications skills.

The ancient philosopher, Aristotle, describes three types of friendships:

  • Friendships of Utility: exist between you and someone who is useful to you in some way
  • Friendships of Pleasure: exist between you and those whose company you enjoy
  • Friendships of the Good: are based on mutual respect and admiration

These friendship types further our understanding of the importance and role of friendships in our lives.

My Father always said, “You can pick your friends; you cannot pick your family.”  True.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a friend as:  a person who you like and enjoy being with.  I encourage you to surround yourself with those who fit that definition.

If you are interested in exploring this topic further or if you have other life issues you would like to address, please reach out to EAC.  We can help!

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