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Jose Benigno Freire, Professor of the School of Theology and of the School of Education and Psychology.

Friendship covid

Thu, 10 Dec 2020 18:15:00 +0000 Published in El Norte de Castilla

Very possibly the confinement helped to discover or, better said, to rediscover friendship. In very general terms, and in the best of cases, in those weeks the psyche was covered with a mixture of uncertainty, fear and sadness that awakened nostalgia and the need for affection and friendship. We longed, with a certain anxiety, for the closeness of loved ones.

The de-escalation allowed us to recover and enjoy situations of ordinary life that surely, in normality, we lived with a dazed naturalness: visiting grandparents, chats with friends, family meals, friendly chance encounters... It is not that the affection grew, it is that we savored the moments more. Something similar to the effect of those light bulbs that adjust the brightness happened: the room shines more or less according to the intensity of the light. Well, in those days we turned on the affectivity and the illusion of reunion to the maximum. Heraclitus' aphorism was fulfilled: "Sickness made health good and kind". We simply enjoyed the usual, an enjoyment that in times of prosperity might have gone unnoticed.

And for weeks we savored with placidity those desired meetings. Conversation flowed almost in gushes and memories, longings, despairs... Time flew and we were very happy! That is why one author defined friendship as a gentle letting oneself be in the company of a friend.

In addition to this emotional well-being, intimacy was also softened and refreshed. The cordial and expansive conversations were a welcome outlet for tiredness, anxieties, joys... What an inner rest in the midst of all that turbulence! An ancient philosopher explained plastically the beneficial effects of conversations among friends. He said:

They produce a subjective relief, because by telling the sorrows it seems that part of the weight is unloaded on the friend, and that sensation lightens the heaviness. But it also causes a relief goal, real, because we feel understood, loved, and knowing that we are loved mitigates the sadness and caresses the heart. Friendship in its purest form.

And conversely, the same thing happens: empathy, the affective complicity with the feelings of others; when we share their joys and sorrows, discouragements, spirits... In the present circumstances, it would be concretized, at least, in trying to appease the tiredness and discouragement of pandemic fatigue. We imbricate ourselves almost effortlessly in an empathy that calms and pleases others and ourselves. And it predisposes us, sincerely and readily, to do favors, to help, to listen, to accompany: superadded advantages of friendship.

But we also made discoveries. We discovered that neighbors and people to whom we dedicated a simple polite attention were helpful, generous, kind...; and some people who appeared gray turned out to be bold, almost heroic. In other words, we discovered that there are more good people around us than we thought. In addition, and with some surprise, we shared fears, hardships, difficulties, needs, with some of those people that we so ugly we qualify as toxic. In conclusion, we discovered that we could relate naturally with them, even if we did not agree on everything. We expanded the radius of possible friendships.

Perhaps it will be objected that I idealize too much the status? Perhaps... yes! Or expressed accurately, I just draw the good profile of the matter. Of course, this cocktail of emotions with a sad tone, at times, unbalanced the character, which became irritable and more fussy than usual. Therefore, in family or social relations, possibly, some unkind answer flew, some bitter word or gesture, sullen looks... In final, understandable trifles in such a state of nervousness; trifles that fade away immediately, and that only bother if they add up.

Perhaps someone, broken by pain or suffering, or powerless in the face of adversity, responded with resentment and silent bitterness, reflected in acidic conversation and somewhat hostile behavior. These are excusable and understandable situations given the circumstances. They need time to distill the acybar and regain hope. Therefore, they deserve our understanding. One more fantasy in the kaleidoscope of friendship.

And one last consideration. I will repeat a sullen comment I heard a few days ago: during the economic crisis, we conjured ourselves not to repeat past blunders; well, not only did we repeat them, but we have gone back to business as usual! Will the same thing happen now with this greening of friendship? Predictably... yes! When we return to normality, the intensity of these emotional aftertaste will decrease, lazily, due to the simple mold of habituation. Good: one more turn of the sentimental merry-go-round. But it would be a big mistake to lose that deep and human need to give and receive affection, so evident in these exceptional times (regardless of its affective satellites). Let us not allow the rampant individualism of today's society to bewitch us with the fatuous glitter of living in our shell. Perhaps Machado's thought may serve as a reinforcement, as a stinging spur: Pay attention: a lonely heart is not a heart!