Soul Friends by Stephen Cope
Published by Hay House, 344 pages, $26
The satisfaction of deep human connection in its many variations is the subject of Stephen Cope’s book, Soul Friends, involving famous people, himself and even you. Backed by psychologists earnestly using theories to promote what our hearts thumpingly know already, Cope shows that attachment to others is essential. A senior scholar at Kripalu, he lays out different connection styles: Twinship, containment, adversity, identification and conscious partnership.
The stories that Cope shares to illustrate his points are riveting. Eleanor Roosevelt was mistreated by her heartless mother, but that was offset by Marie Souvestre, a powerful admiring school principal who finally gave Eleanor a sense of her worth. In another case, Charles Darwin was friends with creationist Robert Fitzroy, sailing with him on the HMS Beagle while developing his groundbreaking evolutionary ideas. Sometimes the friendship is a resonance between writers: Henry David Thoreau’s literary ethos was developed through a connection with Ralph Waldo Emerson as well as an exploration of the works of writer Reverend William Gilpin.
Cope’s personal experiences also affirm his main point. As a teenager, he worked for a difficult woman who insulted his mother; Cope developed a backbone while fighting back. But he also learned hard work from that same boss. He writes of befriending a minister with who he joyfully sang hymns. Later, he moves in with a non-romantic partner, knitting together a harmonious household—sometimes blended and sometimes side-by-side. With his life stories as well as those of others, Cope invites us to explore the sizzling power of our own friendships.
From page 86: “Self object. A strange term, and one that Kohut invented. Well, what is it?
Here’s what Kohut meant by his term: Our friend—our selfobject—is so close to us, so involved in our developing self, so deeply entwined in us, that he is at one and the same time self and other. He is at one and the same time self and object.” ◆