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March 21, 2023

Distinction between Unique Self and Ego # 14: Authentic Friendship or Pseudofriendship

2011. Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici.

©2011. Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici.

By Dr. Marc Gafni in Your Unique Self.

When you are in ego, you might help friends who are successful and even friends who are down, as long as it does not threaten your position. But you are not capable of truly delighting in your deepest heart in a friend’s large success. When you are in Unique Self, your deepest heart delights in your friend’s success, even if there is nothing in it for you at all.




Further Discussion:

When two Unique Selves are in friendship or any kind of interpersonal relationship, significant transformation often awaits them, whether that means gaining deeper insight into themselves or being change agents for each other and sharing a purpose together in the world. This potential for transformation we sense in through the other may at first feel threatening to us because we could be drawn to a Unique Self who holds or demonstrates in some way a missing piece of our personal story. We intuit the missing piece, such as a talent he or she can help us nourish or see in ourselves, and it can often be painful for us to rise to the full invitation of this gift until we are ready to receive its message. In an article on the CWS website on Unique Self relationships, Dr. Marc Gafni writes:

“There are people we are more dependent on than other people. Not the people we often think. Not the people who are paying our rent or providing me with a job although that may be. They are people who are part of our story, and they are holding a piece of our story, … helping us to enact our lives because they hold a piece of insight about our story. So a Unique Self encounter is when our stories intermesh, intertwine, and we recognize that we are each part of each other’s story and holding a piece our story.”

Two people holding pieces of each other’s stories have available to them a form of deep, direct contact that goes “beyond win-win” (Your Unique Self), a contact in which neither partner loses. Unique Selves are not in competition; rather, they are evolving the Kosmos together in a conscious way by aligning themselves with their own evolutionary impulse. There is a call or invitation that is radically glorious and specific and personalized to each member of a Unique Self friendship. In the same CWS article on Unique Selves in relationship, Dr. Marc says, “In order for our uniquenesses to touch, we have to disambiguate, clarify the distorting prisms.”

This is why the threat experienced in response to a friend’s success, as mentioned above, points to ego instead of Unique Self.  It is helpful to remember that our ego story points to our Unique Self story.  We have the ability to choose “inter-action” instead of “re-action” in the friendship (Your Unique Self, p. 311). And, if we do experience discomfort in the Unique Self contact, we can

“Stay in the discomfort. Feel into it, and let it well up. Do nothing to dispel it. If you stay in it, even for fifteen minutes, you will feel something new, something deeper arising. As the energy of discomfort is released, a feeling of fullness and well-being can arise. This is the essence that lies just beneath your personality, ready to reveal itself.” (Your Unique Self, p. 311)

Our Unique Self friends are some of our richest gifts, and they can help alchemize our development in mutuality. Dr. Marc says, “I think it’s fair to say that Unique Self is psycho-active. When you come into contact with it, it transmutes, reorganizes, recognizes, and re-deepens every field that it encounters.” (See article.)

Although Unique friendships are often private, famous Unique Self friends throughout history have often stayed in touch with extensive letter writing, even when they were kept apart at a distance. Published volumes of their letters offer us glimpses into the interior of their friendships. We can look to the letters between mystics, artists, philosophers, educators, and leaders for insight into the dimensions of these relationships. An example of this kind of writing can be found in Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.*

In the Celtic christian contemplative tradition, such transformative friends are called our “anam cara” or “soul friends.”  John O’Donohue writes about our soul friends in a way that resonates richly with the dimensions of the Unique Self encounter: “It could be a meeting on the street, or a party or a lecture, or just a simple, banal introduction, then suddenly there is a flash of recognition and the embers of kinship glow. There is an awakening between you, a sense of ancient knowing” (Anam Cara). Another way to imagine our “anam cara” is as those with whom we share soul roots.**

When we show up as Unique Selves in friendship, we can celebrate and truly delight in our “deepest hearts” at our friends’ successes because we are invited by their greatness and uniqueness to our own.


Who are your Unique Self friends? Or, which friends help you to show up in the world most clearly as your own Unique Self and champion your successes? Have you found friends who were holding pieces of your Unique story, and if so, how did that discovery feel? How have these friendships changed over time?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments – here or on Facebook.


** For more on how soul root connections in the Kabbalistic tradition are a foundation for the Unique Self teaching, see Radical Kabbalah (2012).

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