great expectations

by rantywoman

I have three or four friends here who are quite lovely. They check up on me periodically, and we spend time together every few weeks. We can be honest and open with each other and are able to be sounding boards for each other when necessary. I have two or three friends like that in Los Angeles as well.

We don’t have anything like a “best” friendship however. Most of them have children and/or partners, and their prime intimacy needs are fulfilled. We don’t call each other on a regular basis. We aren’t currently struggling through the same things, and our interests don’t entirely converge. I’m forthcoming with them but not like I would be with a truly intimate friend or partner.

The irony is, my friendships with them have stood the test of time and will likely continue to do so, whereas my close friendships have all gone down in flames. The lowered expectations and lower levels of intimacy have preserved the relationships.

I’ve been banging my head against the wall for so long now about the loneliness and lack of true intimacy in my life, and last night it occurred to me that perhaps I need to completely lower my expectations on that score. I already find solace in reading and writing, and I may need to accept that that is as good as it gets. Certainly this blog has been a huge help to me when I no longer had any friends left with whom to discuss these issues.

This morning I came across this piece on the Gateway Women forum:

http://www.utexas.edu/features/2005/writing/

His research has shown that short-term focused writing can have a beneficial effect on everyone from those dealing with a terminal illness to victims of violent crime to college students facing first-year transitions.

“When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health,” Pennebaker says. “They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function. If they are first-year college students, their grades tend to go up. People will tell us months afterward that it’s been a very beneficial experience for them.”

In his early research Pennebaker was interested in how people who have powerful secrets are more prone to a variety of health problems. If you could find a way for people to share those secrets, would their health problems improve?

It turned out that often they would, and that it wasn’t even necessary for people to tell their secrets to someone else. The act of simply writing about those secrets, even if they destroyed the writing immediately afterward, had a positive effect on health. Further studies showed that the benefits weren’t just for those who had dramatic secrets, but could also accrue to those who were dealing with divorces, job rejections or even a difficult commute to work.

“Emotional upheavals touch every part of our lives,” Pennebaker explains. “You don’t just lose a job, you don’t just get divorced. These things affect all aspects of who we are—our financial situation, our relationships with others, our views of ourselves, our issues of life and death. Writing helps us focus and organize the experience.”

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