A family physician specializing in mental health, Dr. Winfried Sedhoff uses a large canvas to explain how contemporary society became so fragmented, how individuals became so unhappy, and how we can cultivate close and casual friends to heal society and ourselves.
Sedhoff begins with the Balance of Self Model, constructed of Personal, Family and Community selves (the common desires and motivations we all share, despite any visual differences) and Land (the natural world). It’s a visual reminder that these elements are interdependent. From this model, he draws his Ten Desires of Friendship, (basic human needs such as being valued, respected, heard) that Sedhoff considers imperative for maintaining that Balance of Self. For these desires to create harmony, he rephrases the familiar Golden Rule: “It isn’t for us to make others meet these needs in us, it is for us to satisfy the Ten Desires in them.”
For each Desire of Friendship, he offers six steps to satisfy the need and argues for gender-specificity in the approach: for example, to help your partner feel supported, “Pay special attention to supporting women in activities that are high on caring and nurturing and support men in their ambitions and activities to provide and protect.” Given the fluidity of modern gender roles, many readers will find this controversial.
Sedhoff aims to explore how being a friend benefits the individual, which in turn brings social cohesion. But the author veers too often from the practical into social theory. He recounts ancient and modern human history to show how our desires for wealth, status, and power have caused disharmony inside and out. He covers bullying, inequality, exploitation, empire-building, war, and authoritarian rule at length and even digresses into how business can either foster community or fuel dissension.
This book could easily be broken into multiple volumes. As is, many readers will feel overwhelmed by the broad focus, which is unfortunate because there are nuggets of valuable advice here.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.