Not long ago I finished reading “Healing Conversations” by Neville Symington where he examines how healing occurs in talk therapy. While he says lovely things about what takes place in a therapeutic relationship, it’s what he says about friendship that I want to share with you. I had never heard friendship described in quite this way-but I also don’t know if it would have resonated before now.
Symington talks about how emotions are “…the substance of communication. Emotional is a connection between one person, and another, of which language is a mere representation-this connection we call emotional is invisible”. This seems typical when we think of friendship. There is something invisible that connects us to one another-some value we find in each other. “Qualities like goodness, courage, beauty, truth, or generosity. They do not exist in abstract. They are generated from within. They are creations from the individual.”
I believe when there is a connectedness that defies words, or “something in the personality when they understand each other, there is, then, a source of this creation”.
Symington speaks of both art and friendship as creations. “So, yes, call it a space, an emptiness, but one of which living creative forces emerge”. Symington believes there is a link between the men and women who started painting in caves and friendship where both cases the fruit and manifestation of communication is being celebrated. “In the case of primitive art it is communicated between man and nature that is being celebrated and also a communication to others for its own sake, and in friendship it is communication between one person and another that is being celebrated”.
There is a way in which we express externally the experience of the internal space. Brene Brown refers to connection as, “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
I had this experience with a former professor in graduate school, a kind of connectedness that defies words. As I was preparing for graduation, I was thinking how to express my experience with this professor, externally. Certainly I could write a letter, give her a card, or some kind of token gift of my appreciation and experience. And then, in some way, I began to merge the idea of art and friendship because there was something present that needed to be celebrated. I remembered a book I had read called “The Language of Flowers”. In the book, a foster mother teaches her foster daughter, who struggled with identifying and sharing feelings, to express herself through flowers by teaching her that each flower has a meaning. So I considered buying a bouquet of flowers, and choosing flowers that defined my relationship with this professor. Well, as I looked at my list of flowers, I realized it would be difficult to find some of them, I wondered who would put them together, and mostly, they would die. So, I decided to find someone to paint the flowers. I won’t go into detail about the specifics of painting, but I will say it seemed to merge all that Symington was trying to convey about friendship. And here is what emerged from the creative forces:
“The flowering of emotional life happens through deep communication with another person.”-Symington