“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey
I woke up thinking about the kind of friend I am and the kind of friendship that I offer to those closest to me. What kind of friendship I offer clearly depends on the type of person I am but also on the level of openness about who I am being. I remembered Dr Art Hardy who developed one of the first anxiety treatments for agoraphobia. He determinded that there are six types of personalities who can interfere with an anxiety sufferer’s recovery in the type of care they offer. These types easily translate into how we show up in relationships and friendships and made me start thinking about how they would apply to the kind of friend I can be. You may recognize yourself or others in the kind of care you offer or receive in your friendships, how these type tendencies can creep in and take over and send the course of your friendship in an undesired direction.
The types are:
1. Overly Capable
2. Overly Domineering or Dictatorial
3. Overly Protective
4. Overly Critical
5. Overly Shy or Inhibited
6. Overly Objective
Recognize yourself yet? Asking where am I being too capable, too domineering and so on can help to clarify this tendency. Here’s some more information on each type.
The Overly Capable person believes in their skills and capacities but frequently to the detriment of the other person. They believe in their capacity to handle a situation, fix whatever problem occurs, do more and more and take over more and more in the relationship.
The Overly Dictatorial person wants to dictate and control what happens, dominate the decision-making process. They believe it’s their way or the highway and may infantilize the other person in the relationship, asserting their dominance.
The Overly Protective person responds too readily to the needs of the other. They are over solicitous and over protective in their care of the other person. They try to protect the other person from the consequences and outcomes of decisions they are making or behaviors they are choosing.
The Overly Critical person criticizes, puts down or ridicules the other’s limitations and weaknesses. Their standards are high and the other person knows it. Their derisive communications may be overt or covert, expressed sarcastically or expressed under a veneer of friendliness.
The Shy or Inhibited person holds back or may not even recognize their feelings in a relationship. They frequently play an invisible part in the relationship, are non expressive and allow the other person to fill up the relationship space.
The Overly Objective person is just that – overly objective, rational or logical. They apply reason and logic in the relationship without expressing understanding, empathy or compassion for the other person or what they might be experiencing.
Each type affects the relationship in different ways, increasing or decreasing behaviors in the other person. The result can be imbalance, stress, resentment, under functioning, low self confidence, poor communication and many more problems for the friendship or relationship. Each type is an example of inauthentic care, or care that has a hidden or not so hidden agenda such as control, competition or power. These agendas undermine trust, intimacy and love and replace an authentic bonding process in the connection.
At times taking the above stance in a friendship may be appropriate and needed. In stressful times, taking a stronger approach may be helpful. Clearly a case of a little bit goes a long way, too much of these patterns tends to create a rigid and stressful friendship based on inauthentic care.
Authentic care is freedom of agenda, approaching the friendship with transparency about one’s motivations and priorities. We’ve all learned inauthentic care. I see it occurring on a regular basis and am slowly learning the tremendous satisfaction of living a life based on authentic care, a freedom that I give to myself and others in the process.
In being up front about the above agendas, we escape the trap of becoming entrenched in them. Acknowledgement of our vulnerabilities to the other creates a window through which a fresh kind of connection can occur. It’s like a vibrant breeze blowing through the friendship, taking out the old and bringing in something new and precious and alive. It’s both tantalizing and surprising and creates a way of relating that is exciting and creative and full of possibilities.