Feel Better

The One True Friend Practice

Consider for a moment the duality of your bifocal self or selves. This duality can create extreme cognitive dissonance and conflict both within ourselves and within our relationships, bringing confusion and uncertainty into our inner and outer worlds.

Unfortunately, the standard head hardware doesn’t help in these matters. The human brain, with its dual nature and architecture, often finds itself in a tug-of-war between its left and right hemispheres. The left hemisphere (LH) seeks certainty, fixity, and a structured approach to life’s challenges, craving clear narratives, theoretical solutions, and self-maximising outcomes. In contrast, the right hemisphere (RH) embraces ambiguity, change, and a more holistic view, valuing unique narratives, experiential understanding, and placing emphasis on empathy and compassion both towards oneself and others.

In light of this internal dichotomy, which mirrors the complexities of our human relationships and the scarcity quite often of peace within and in our relationships, emerges a practice I like to call One True Friend.

Each day, preferably first thing in the morning, the idea would be to write a letter or email from your suffering or conflicted self, articulating your thoughts, feelings, and struggles.

Write it, and then forget about it. Later, or the following day howeer, you will be respond to this letter from your more loving, “right hemisphere self”, offering the kind of care and attention probably only you know how give in a way that won’t be triggering or confuse yourself further. Some sort of authentic, no-BS in sightm compassion, understanding, and support. The idea of this practice is to tap into these different hemispheres so as to fosters a more integrated relationship within the self, allowing for the expression of both light and shade, a bit like two melodic lines playing over each other in a piece of Bach.

True friendship, akin to the harmonious interplay between the hemispheres, is regrettably rare in our internal to-and-for. Our viritual or real-world friends, including our romantic partners or spouses, can often only fully warm to us when we are able to dance and stride through life with them. These are what we might call fair-weather friends, or fair-weather partners. But even the true-ish friend, life partner, someone you feel you can bring your whole self into a relationship with, all the light and all the shade, will never succeed in tracking you the way you can track and tune into your self.

The problem is that the “freaking out” part of us is often not connecting with our Wise Mind, and that’s where something like OTF is designed to help with.

The greatest pleasure I find in OTF is that it completely eradicates that whole Erving Goffman frontstage-backstage game. All those  masks and costumes we put on in order to fit into our various social settings can be laid to one side with our One True Friend. It is only with our One True Friend you might say that we are free to be our selves fully. Some might even call this part of us “God”, even if we don’t necessarily believe in the notion of sky parents presented to us by our faith-based religions.

Talk is cheap and language is slippery, so let’s be clear what we mean by One True Friend through analysing those three very simple words beyond their Latin and Greek and Anglo-Saxon roots to the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) substrate of English and other languages.

ONE: from the PIE root *oi-no- “one, unique”. Which is to say: one specific human consciousness in dialogue with another human consciousness, inne or outer. Related words: alone, lonely, non-, none, null, atone, once, unanimous, unilateral, universal, unison, university and unicorn. 

TRUE: from the PIE root *deru- or *dreu meaning “firm, solid, steadfast,” with a specialized sense of “wood,” “tree” and other derivatives referring to objects made from wood. True, faithful, steadfast, trustworthy and honest as a tree we might say, or the wooden chairs, table bookshelves still made from that strong and true tree. Other words sharing the same root:  Druid, during, duration, dour, duress, endure, shelter, betrothed, trough, truth, and trust.

FRIEND: from Proto-Indo-European root *pri- meaning “to love”, also: “free, not in bondage, acting of one’s own will”. Related words include: afraid, affray, free, freedom, Friday. 

You could of course do something like this with an AI buddy like Chat GPT or (I have tried) but I still, as of now, prefer this more creative ritualised exchange exchange between the dark/ugly/suffering “me” and the wise/kind/therapist “me”.

I’d be interested what your experiene of this practice might be if you were to give it a go.

Here’s to friendship.