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What Makes Best Friends So Powerful?

What is it about certain best friendships that connects us with the essential, enabling communication to traverse time and space?
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"It's uncanny," he said. A university professor in economics, Marty, tells mem "I'm hardly given to 'woo-woo.'"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"You know, all that stuff about the so-called 'mysteries'? Frankly, I've thought it was crock. And, yet, ever since I found my best friend, I have this repeating experience I can't explain. We could save money on our phone bill, because when I'm thinking of her, the phone rings, and it's her. Often, the reverse is true. There seems to be this unexplainable underground connection that shows up when I need it most."

Telepathy or coincidence? I know what Marty means. Do you? Here's an example. Some 30 years ago, at 2 a.m., I awoke suddenly from dreaming about one of my closest friends driving his car along a dark and winding road at night. Suddenly, there's this blinding light, and a tremendous crash. The next thing I know, my leg feels deep searing pain. I know he's been injured and tell my husband. The next morning I learn that my friend's leg had been severely damaged at the precise time I was dreaming, a few thousand miles away. Go figure. All I know is that it was one of the mysterious experiences that changed my life, one of many having to do with people I love.

Said Rumi: "We have no idea what we are."

What is it about certain best friendships that connects us with the essential, enabling communication to traverse time and space? Biologist Rupert Sheldrake might frame this as a by-product of morphogenetic field. Carl Jung would refer us to an unconscious level of exchange that's ongoing beneath our radar. Ernest Holmes would explain it as an extension of what he called "The Thing Itself," that which is beyond words and names, which breathes through us as Life itself. However you frame it, when this experience ignites, you are richer for it. Rumi was right. We have no idea what we are. I'd add: we have no idea who we are.

Best Friends Can Provide Powerful Clues

If you've chosen well, there is no end to what's possible. The bond provides a protective function to your well-being (improving health, and extending lifespan). In studies of female friendship, oxytocin levels increase, the very same chemical produced in nursing mothers. What's going on here? Is this somehow connected to that profound instinct many mothers have for their young? If you've ever experienced the uncanny with your best friend, is this biochemically induced? And, what about those unexpected Internet connections, the ones that run deeper than the usual lightweight commentary? Is what we've called "a matter of chemistry" really simply a matter of biochemistry? Who knows? We are only just beginning to plumb the depths.

The "16 Best Friend Essentials" Rating Scale

Perhaps what matters even more than the answer is the experience itself. When you strip all else away, your best friend, if really the best, becomes your companion for the journey. Geographical miles do not matter. For decades, my own best friend and I have shared virtual tea parties, long distance, as a matter of necessity, to keep ourselves from buying our own self-imposed limitations. This is just for openers. Let's look at a check-list of essentials. Use them to rate (zero to 10) your best friend, and then yourself. Where can you stand improvement, to become a better friend?

  1. Best friends keep you honest with yourself, to the degree you are each committed to growth.

  • Your soul's best friend nudges you to come out from your own stale, crusted interior that has become too calcified.
  • Best friends help you upgrade when you've settled for a life too small.
  • They help you move closer to new edges, encourage you to face the unknown with courage and humor, perspective and praise, when you've mislaid your own supply.
  • True best friends make it safer for you to shed your contingency self's packaging, that old persona you use to ward off the world when you feel too vulnerable.
  • Best friends help you stand "in the fire," when you need more passion and strength; sweep up the ashes, from closing chapters; and "prepare the bath," metaphorically, for what needs cleansing.
  • When you get stuck, who else can give you a better "jump-start" when your battery needs charging?
  • Best friends are "there" without you needing to ask, willing to challenge you when you resist receiving.
  • Best friends see your warts, your flaws, and love the beauty, love and wisdom that goes deeper than your "nerdiness" and self-recriminations.
  • Best friends admit it when they are jealous, and judgmental, and ask for forgiveness, and support you to do likewise.
  • Best friends encourage you to bloom in areas where you are too myopic to see the seeds. They are willing to do whatever it takes to support you to follow the desire and delight of your own heart.
  • A best friend supports and prompts the continuing investigation of what this means over time, modeling this behavior themselves.
  • Best friends notice what drains and revitalizes your energy, nudging you in the direction of the latter.
  • Best friends draw you closer to the mystery that you are, "hold hands" with you in the dark, reflecting back to you all that makes you not only "good enough" but grand, especially when you doubt that you are here to be all that you can be.
  • Best friends, if they are worthy, bring you to the door of the Beloved that lives in your heart, with its desire to be free.
  • Best friends bring you back home to who you are, to the feast that awaits you where "you will love again the stranger who was your self...."
  • This assumes, of course that you've not settled for a best friend that supports stagnation and whining. Some do. But, then you've got to ask yourself just what kind of a friend this could be? You do deserve the best, you know.

    The most powerfully mysterious friendships teach you how to feast on life.

    What Makes Your Best Friend Your Best Friend?

    Is it mutual caring? Is it intimacy? Is it shared activity? Is it something even deeper? Ask yourself this question: how did your relationship with your "other" begin? What was going on in your life that created an opening for such a special bond?

    For Marty, it was the fact that he had just lost both parents in a car accident. Most of his friends were busy with their lives. While he appreciated that they "tried to be there for me, none of them really knew what to do." Then, Millie showed up, one day at a coffee shop, and sat at the next table. "I dropped my coffee and she ran to get a rag. I didn't even know her name. But the thing that got me was what she said as she mopped up the coffee: "Don't worry! Some messes are easier to clean up than others. Know what I mean?" I did. I guess my eyes welled up, something that just doesn't happen for me. She noticed. "What other mess are we dealing with here?" she asked. I blurted the whole thing out. I don't know what came over me. Instantly, we had a bond. She didn't try to fix it. She didn't say the routine clichés. She listened. We've been listening to one another ever since. That was 23 years ago. That spilt cup of coffee turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. Otherwise, we might not have connected."

    When the connection deepens to more meaningful levels, so often this comes when the "fabric of life" has been torn. Something we thought could not happen does. Some unexpected pain, fear, or profound joy takes place and the other bears witness. They hold our history. They remember. We are not alone. Years ago, when I was an army nurse during war, the gals that served alongside me were having PTSD encounters (although the syndrome had neither been identified nor named). We were "in the trenches" with one another. No one will ever know what that experience was like but us. We held it in the private, nearly unspeakable chamber of our hearts. We knew each other in a way that nobody else could. You simply had to be there. Know what I mean?

    Your turn: What are you willing to share about your best friend experience? I'm listening, and learning from you, my teachers...

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