Tick and Tock. Here is the nickname given to Véronique and Marlène when they became inseparable in college. Their friendship was forged in adversity: “In 6th grade, we were the only students in our old school. It brought us closer and we developed a close relationship. The others made fun of our ungrateful physique but we didn’t care. It was us against the rest of the world,” recalls Véronique, 48. “For me, as an only child, she quickly became like a sister. Without her, I would have had a lot of trouble getting through this difficult period of adolescence,” says Marlène in turn.
Despite the tenderness and mutual admiration that unites them, neither is able to explain precisely what attracted him to the other. “Marlene is super nice, always even-tempered. And she is, like me, loyal and faithful,” sketches Véronique. “We had received the same education, we laughed at the same things, we had the same interests. We looked alike even if we didn’t have the same character at all, Véronique being much more outgoing than me,” adds Marlène. For the therapist, lecturer and trainer Anne-Laure Buffet, author of L’Amitié (1), this difficulty in analyzing the relationship is not surprising: “It is an alchemy that cannot be explained , is obvious to us. »
Friends often appear in our lives without our looking for them, in the course of studies or work, in a sports club or during a cultural activity, on leaving the school where you pick up your children… “We prefer to go to someone with whom we have things in common or with whom we identify. The statistics show a tendency to prefer the same as oneself, in terms of social class, sex or age,” notes sociologist Claire Bidart (2).
This process of mutual recognition can be accelerated by a “common test” which blurs the hats and takes the individual out of his usual role of colleague or rowing companion. “During a strike, a fire or an event that breaks the routine, a person will do an action that is not expected and that will distinguish him from the group, give him a particular depth”, explains Claire Bidart. In the same way, when a colleague breaks down in tears at the coffee machine, unexpected confidences can suddenly tip the formal relationship into intimacy.
If it is born a bit by accident, friendship quickly becomes fundamental. “Sincere friendship is only possible if everyone reveals themselves, going beyond their restraints and their modesty”, however assures the psychoanalyst Saverio Tomasella who describes, in a luminous essay (3), the different ways of “falling in friendship », from love at first sight to progressive taming. Also, paradoxically, certain relationships emerge after an argument or a conflict: “By firmly defending their positions, the other suddenly appears to us as someone who is frank, solid. » For the psychoanalyst, it is moreover otherness, more than resemblances, which « nourishes »: we are enriched by a difference, by another way of seeing life.
In this perspective, friendship inspires and encourages us to question ourselves, stimulating as much as it soothes. “Sometimes, we receive criticism from a friend better than from our spouse because this relationship of trust, disinterested, leads to a kind of abandonment of ourselves”, remarks Anne-Laure Buffet for whom friendship “makes us grow “. Our friends would even allow us to discover unknown aspects of our personality and to develop our potentialities: “They reveal us to ourselves because they strive to know us as we are deeply, beyond the labels stuck on us in childhood: the family clown, the taciturn, the sissy…”, underlines Saverio Tomasella.
When they pass through time, friendships form a reassuring anchor. Even if they took different paths, Véronique and Marlène shared all the highlights of their lives: marriage, birth of children, mourning… “Nothing important happens in my life without her knowing about it”, testifies Véronique who compares Marlène to a “pillar”. “The strength of childhood friendships comes from the historical depth of all the identities that one has endorsed and witnessed by the other. Since the link has survived all these transformations, we tell ourselves that, in the trials, we can always count on this person. It comforts, it softens the world a little, ”analyzes Claire Bidart.
And if, sometimes, life separates, friendship can also be reborn from its ashes. Alain, 75, can testify to this. After years of intense attendance at college and high school, but also in the context of pastoral activities or during holidays in the mountains, he lost sight of his friend André, who had gone to study in another region. “I didn’t know what happened to him until the day he phoned my doctor’s office. We had not seen each other for thirty years but we reconnected as if we had left the day before, ”he rejoices. Anne-Laure Buffet has an explanation: “True friendship abolishes time and borders, it’s a link from unconscious to unconscious, from soul to soul”.
(1) Eyrolles, 184 p., 18 €.
(2) Author of a reference book, L’Amitié, un lien social (La Découverte, 1997, 402 p.), out of print but downloadable for free at: https://shs.hal.science/halshs-00197849 Read also the chapter she signed in 50 questions of sociology, book edited by Serge Paugam, PUF, 2020, 528 p., 25 €.
(3) These friendships that transform us, Eyrolles, 2018, 128 p., €14.
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