62. Intrinsic Relationships
Of all the means which are procured by wisdom to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is the acquisition of friends.
Epicurus (ancient Greek philosopher)
This area is based on the universal human need (sometimes called ‘affiliative need’) to be with others. Intrinsic relationship can spontaneously appear in any situation. For instance, you may have a chat with a shop assistant or a stranger in a train for no particular reason; it is also an important component of intimate relationships. However, the most prominent type of intrinsic relationship is friendship, so this is what we will mostly focus on here.
What matters in intrinsic relationships
An intrinsic relationship is a relationship that is an end in itself – its main purpose is to be with others. So, instrumental motives (wanting or trying to get something out of your friends) can spoil it. This is not to say that friends should not or cannot help each other, but when friendship is used as a bargaining chip to make others do something for you, it ceases to be a real friendship. Some other things really matter in this type of relationships.
Affective elements of intrinsic relationship
Intrinsic relationships usually include an affective component (we tend to like or love our friends). These feelings can be stimulating and refreshing because they relieve us from being preoccupied with ourselves. However, there is a catch: we also want to be liked and loved, but if we like and love others in order to be liked and loved, this is not intrinsic anymore. It becomes instrumental – which others can easily pick up. So, what can we do about this? Start by liking and loving yourself to reduce dependency on others. Then you can like or love others without expecting them to return it. There may be some truth in the saying that ‘unless you love yourself you cannot love another’. Ideally, loving and being loved get blended like a smoothie! Liking and loving need to be nurtured though, for which some other ingredients are necessary.