Nurturing Our Friendships In The Age Of Covid


COVID has taken a big bite out of everything predictable. A common theme that rose to the surface for so many of us during COVID was the sudden hindrance in our practical ability to nurture and maintain our friendships. Our previously assumed routines and patterns for building connection were suddenly and blatantly disrupted. As isolation began to set in, it is no surprise that many of us started to ask ourselves, “Who are my real friends, anyway? Yikes, to whom AM I truly a friend?”



THE EAGER EGO (hint: it isn’t the real you) – The stories we create about ourselves and others.


The space created by isolation opens a vast landscape for our imaginations to run amok, and our egos are eager to create elaborate, subtly enticing, really believable stories about ourselves and others. But your ego is not the real you!


If we are conscious enough to notice our egoic stories as a mere snapshot, a false self, and we are attentive to name The Eager Ego as a clever deceiver, we can move with trust toward productive bridging instead of wallowing in layers of nuanced projections. When we can acknowledge our own story-making, we become more capable of moving vulnerably toward others with an awake stance of ownership. Otherwise, what we imagine is who we’ll become.


To challenge these egoic stories, an alert consciousness is often enough to start. This consciousness may help shift your energy toward the other and stay more grounded and present in your own sense of self. For a very accessible and interesting read about ego, try Eckhart Tolle’s, “A New Earth”.


When we can acknowledge our own story-making, we become more capable of moving vulnerably toward others with an awake stance of ownership.

Ego management involves continual re-learning and re-noticing, moment by moment, and it is characterized by staying grounded in the present. Through COVID, a few of my friends modelled a steady practice of reaching out to me with frequent and spontaneous touches and invited me to reciprocate. As I’ve reflected on this practice, I’ve come to realize that it offers a perfect, simple, and practical antidote to tame the ego.



An EGO Antidote: FREQUENT AND SPONTANEOUS “TOUCHES”


Touches

As the name implies, a touch is a brief check-in that is characterized by what shows up in the here-and-now, in your present everydayness. Even though brief, it tries to distill something authentic within you: “I miss you”, “I’m making potato-leek soup, and just thought of you”. It is tempting to wait until I have some kind of worthy news to share, something significant and deep before I reach out. This is an ego story, so try a touch instead.


Spontaneous

Rather than set up a date or text ahead to ask if it’s a good time to call, we’ve challenged ourselves to skip these formalities, and I’d encourage you to experiment with deliberately NOT planning ahead. It’s nice to develop enough rapport where either can say without hesitation and without feeling slighted, “I’m sitting down for supper in 5 minutes”, and then, have a two-minute authentic check-in before saying goodbye until next time.


Frequent

Frequency creates a nice context of “quantity time” from which to enter into deeper conversations with these friends. I’ve noticed that with friendships where we have nurtured regular and light touches, it’s easier to move to more drawn-out and meaningful conversations. Quantity time is an usher to quality time.


These approaches can quickly bridge the gap created by the projections and stories that are promulgated by the Eager Ego and help nurture our friendships through Covid and beyond.



Joel Durkovic, RCC, RMFT-S, is the Director of Arbour Counselling Centre in Victoria, BC, a team of 6 therapists who practice and learn together through a systemic lens and offer services to individuals, couples, and families since 2006.


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