All About Affiliation
LEARN MORE ABOUT AFFILIATION, ALLIANCES, FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL WELLNESS
-- Updated October 7, 2010 --

Welcome to Dr. Sterling's Affiliation Web Page!

    The mission of this page is to provide you with information and resources for understanding social interaction and intimacy skills.

    "Affiliate" means to become closely connected or associated. The ability to allow closeness, give closeness, and construct mutually-supportive interpersonal networks in our lives is the skill of affiliation. Affiliation is different from socialization. Social skills assist in creating closeness, but the ability to feel closeness, allow closeness and benefit from closeness goes a little deeper than developing social skills.

The Ability to Form a Connection with Others.

    Affiliation Defined and Discussed

      The word "affiliate," in my opinion, is the best word to describe one of the major factors in mental wellness -- "the ability to form a connection with others." Words and phrases such as "sociability," "shyness," "loner," "lack of empathy," "intimacy," "social consciousness" and "attachment" all describe certain aspects of our ability to affiliate. In my opinion, the term "antisocial personality" in the context of affiliation needs is a misnomer -- it should be "antisocial-consciousness disorder." As most of us know, anti-social people are not necessarily "unsocial."

      The ability to affiliate with others and the mindsets and skills necessary to facilitate closeness and intimacy are factors in mental wellness. It is a well-known human trait to seek out the company of others. In fact, studies show that people spend 50% of their lives in the company of others. However, as with other factors which play roles in our overall mental wellness, we may each have a biologically-determined baseline for how we deal with interpersonal closeness, touching, and intimacy. It could be concluded that we all have a biologically determined "autism-factor" which, if we inherit it in a strong way, affects how much we can handle attention and intimacy.

      Please keep in mind that our affiliation comfort zone and our ability to make alliances and affiliate with others has a benefit to our mental wellness, but it is only one factor in the mental wellness equation. Being too "independent" or a "loner" does not necessarily imply mental wellness difficulties. It is the sum of the five factors -- self-appreciation + resilience + affiliation + negotiation + mental and physical exercise -- that gives a bigger picture about our particular mental wellness profile.

      Most of us accept and believe that infants need a lot of human attention to grow properly. But, what about when we are older? Shouldn't we be able to live just fine without much attention from others? Well, not really. The importance of human contact and connectedness even when we are older is reflected in many research studies, some better than others. For instance, the survival rate of elderly people who have had a heart attack doubles if they receive social support from two or more people (Kiecolt-Glaser et al, 1987). Persons with more social contacts have a higher life-expectancy (Berkman and Syme, 1979).

      Although you may think there is an obvious answer to the question "Why do people seek out the company of others?," it may surprise you to know some of the answers that researchers have proposed:

      • Biological and evolutionary needs -- reproduction.

      • Reduces fear and stress -- Amoroso and Walters in 1969 found that waiting in the company of others without verbal communication, reduced the fear of expected electrical shocks.

      • Social support -- facilitates coping with stressful life events, allows for feedback about decisions and information, and serves as a "buffer" against stress.

      It doesn't take a rocket scientist to rate our affiliation style and preferences. Each one of us can rate our affiliation comfort zone -- how much we can handle or enjoy closeness. The more difficult task for us is to decide whether our affiliation style is healthy or not. If we are too independent, we often don't question that ability nor do we view it as problematic. Do you know many independent people who question themselves that much? If we are too dependent, we often bump into situations that are problematic -- feeling guilty, wondering if we can ever make it on our own, easily discouraged, often fearful of challenges.

      However, whether we are "happy" with our too-independent style or our too-dependent style, when it comes to our affiliation style, it makes sense to try to understand it. Self-awareness is never out of style.

    How our "Attachment Style" Affects our Affiliation Needs and Abilities

Thank You for Stopping By!

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RON STERLING, M.D.
MentalWellness.ws
Seattle, Washington
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