Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Trump Presidency Can Happen, and Here’s Why


A groundswell of authoritarianism could make President Trump a reality

Pundits have been discussing  "typical profiles" of Trump supporters. Terms like blue collar, male, lower income, lower educated, and older have been offered up for our consideration.  But statistical results tell a different story.
A recent article in Politico points to two traits that best predict whether you are a Trump supporter: Authoritarianism, and fear of terrorism. Matthew MacWilliams found that Trump’s bump in the polls is connected to support from “Americans with authoritarian inclinations.”   But what is authoritarianism? Adorno et al. (1950) offered an explanation for how the masses of Germany blindly submitted themselves to the Nazi authoritarian regime. Adorno posited that authoritarianism manifests in a willingness to submit to social authority, as well as the need to subject “weaker” others to one’s own authority. Correlates of authoritarianism include attributions of favorable characteristics to one’s own person or group, and ascribing unfavorable characteristics to “weaker” others. In short, authoritarian personalities obey, follow strong leaders, and tend to respond very negatively, and aggressively, to outsiders, like immigrants, Muslims, and visible minorities. When they feel threatened, persons inclined to authoritarianism support any policy that they think will help keep them “safe”.  You know, build a wall, ban Muslims, establish a database to track Muslim American citizens, which is totally unconstitutional. That kind of stuff.
But hold on, you say. Aren't authoritarian attitudes and policies the domain of only the hard right?  Not necessarily.  People on the far left and far right can be given to varying degrees of authoritarianism, and MacWilliams stresses that not all authoritarians are Republicans. For example, back in 2008, Democrats or Independents who scored higher on authoritarianism were more likely to support Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama (MacWilliams, 2016; Hetherington & Weller, 2009). This gets into other correlates of authoritarianism, such as militarism (being “hawkish”), and nationalism (“my country is the best in the history of the world”), not solely the domain of the right. Again, if you support a strong military, and believe your country is the best ever, you are more likely to justify use of that military might against persons or countries whose policies or actions work against the national interests of your country. “Carpet bombing” (killing civilians in the effort to kill one’s enemies) and torture become legitimate options to those who score high on authoritarianism and zeal, and score low on critical thinking (Killian, 2007). The trend over the last decade and a half has been authoritarians moving in droves from the Democratic to the Republican parties.  As Democrats continue to support the rights of various groups (e.g., civil rights, gay rights, the rights of Dreamers, equal pay for equal work, etc.), there is less emphasis of one group being naturally stronger, better, or more deserving than other (or Other) groups; hence, the shift of authoritarians further to the right of the political spectrum.
Here’s the danger: A lot more persons from the political middle can join the authoritarian column and end up supporting the Donald.  How? As folks on the hard right continue to fear monger, and fan the flames of prejudice and suspicion, more Americans are expressing fears of imminent terrorist attacks (i.e., they feel threatened).  For instance, MacWilliams reported that 52% of voters who expressed the greatest fear that another terrorist attack will happen in the US in the next year were non-authoritarians. That is, they are susceptible to Trump’s campaign themes, and messaging.  Scary? Yes. Inevitable?  No.  But folks must engage in considerable soul searching, and invest in political organizing, if they want to stop it from happening. We must stop thinking of Trump supporters as a “small, pitiful band” of older, uneducated, white malcontents, and acknowledge that Trump is riding the crest of a burgeoning wave of authoritarianism. Once we wake up to this powerful and prevalent force in the current American scene, we can work to challenge it, and "appeal to our better angels."
Kyle D. Killian, PhD is author of Interracial Couples, Intimacy & Therapy: Crossing Racial Borders from Columbia University Press, and co-editor of Time, Temporality and Violence in International Relations (2016).
References
Adorno, T., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D. J., & R. Nevitt Sanford. (1950). The authoritarian personality. New York: Harper and Row.
Hetherington, M.J. & Weller, J.D. (2009). Authoritarianism and polarization in American politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Killian, K. D. (2007). The psychology of terror: Relationships among xenophobia, zeal, critical thinking and (in)security in the post 9/11 era. In Kostas A. Fanti (Ed.) Psychological Science: Research, Theory and Future Directions (pp. 91-98). Athens, Greece: ATINER.
MacWilliams, M.  (2016). The one weird traits that predicts whether you’re a Trump supporter. Retrieved January 22, 2016 from http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/01/donald-trump-2016-authori...

Kyle D. Killian, Ph.D., LMFT
Kyle D. Killian, Ph.D., LMFT teaches in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Capella University, and is a licensed couple and family therapist and clinical supervisor.


Friday, May 20, 2016

The Magical Fantasies of Borderlines and Narcissists

FG Post Redaction 

Imaginings of success, ideal love, and abandonment
 

Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, and brilliance (NPD)

For the narcissist, it's hard to distinguish between fantasies, unconscious lies, and the False Self. As a DSM-IV trait, it refers to the narcissist's need to fend off inner emptiness, feel special and in control, and avoid feelings of defectiveness insignificance (Hotchkiss, Why is it Always About You, 2003, p. 8-9). While we all fantasize, the trouble with narcissist fantasy is that the narcissist treads a fine line between what is magical thinking and what is real. As unhealthy as it is for the narcissist, it becomes gaslighting for his family members and contributes to their own confusion, frustration, and magical thinking.
Sam Vakin, a narcissist and author of Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited, acknowledges this when he writes;
Everything I do is imbued with these grandiose fantasies. I fully expect my writings to elicit overwhelming attention (either negative or positive), to impact events and personalities, and to render me immortal. I fancy myself the power behind the throne, and a mover and shaker. I look everywhere for evidence to support these confabulated narratives. I communicate my fantasies to co-workers and family. I create a shared psychosis and mobilize them to participate in my grand schemes and thus to buttress my inflated (false) self. I reject, deny, belittle, and re-interpret all information to the contrary.
A woman says, "Before my husband went into therapy, he frequently based our plans on fantasy scenarios of sudden wealth (winning the Lotto) rather than on a realistic in-the-here-and-now plan.  In terms of our relationship, he had built up a happy-ever-after scenario that had no basis in reality. He had himself so convinced of the happy-ever-after scenario that he wasn't even able to hear me when I expressed the need for the trust/honesty issues between us to be addressed."

Preoccupation with ideal love (NPD and BPD)

You don't need me to tell you how these relationships begin. The narcissist, borderline, and partner all get caught up in idealized, obsessive relationship in which "I love you's" are declared more quickly than the time it takes to download "Hello, I Love You," by the Doors on the Internet. I have yet to hear a relationship tale that didn't begin with the terms "white knight," "princess," "fairy tale" and "soulmate." And too often, the tale ends unhappily when the person who was split "white" either becomes split black (often in the case with BPs) or discarded when they start making demands and fresh narcissistic supply comes along. People confuse intensity with intimacy, which takes time, self knowledge, honesty, consideration, and willingness to be vulnerable.
A woman told me this all-too-familiar story about the charisma of the narcissist and the willingness of the partner (who often has low-self-esteem) to play their part:
He was internationally known symphony orchestra conductor. I was a striking, dynamic single woman in her 30's; a violin player for a major orchestra. He is married and several decades older than her. Their fairy tale begins when they first meet, as he is a guest conductor for her orchestra. Their eyes meet. She approaches him to talk about the music.
Her violin concerto should be heard across the world, he says. After a few days he started sending her text messages. His words were powerful, and seemed truly genuine: his feelings for her were extremely strong, he was in awe, had never met anyone like her. The texts began to get romantic. When he met her at the airport on her way to Rome, he knew this relationship was inevitable: they were meant to be together.
It was love at first sight he told her. He was blown away by her charm. This totally unexpected and wonderful love is emotionally and intellectually satisfying. He is away frequently on tour. But when they do meet he is loving, tender at times, very passionate, he admires her so much he becomes speechless. She writes so beautifully her letters should be kept for posterity.
Only he cancelled several meetings at the very last minute. In fact, they rarely had more than 90 minutes together. She lived on a roller-coaster of hope and expectation. He's told her about his traumatic childhood, so she knows how vulnerable he is.
He touched and fascinated her intellectually and as a person, he made her feel like a whole woman. His marital status and work situation were good reasons for giving him time. She never imagined she could be in such a relationship with someone of that age, but it seemed genuine. She loves him; he loves her. Life is magical-as long as she doesn't make any demands on him of any sort.
Only...he doesn't keep his promises and wraps her up in silence for longer and longer periods of time. He says he can't stand her pleas to leave his wife. He cancels several meetings and doesn't contact her for weeks. They reunite and the sex is incredible. Yes, they will live together forever. Then 23 hours after their last meeting she receives a text-message. He can't do this. And he is truly sorry if he "unwittingly may have led her to think otherwise."

Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms (BPD)

Dissociation and paranoia is the ninth and final DSM-IV borderline trait. Dissociation is periods of feeling removed from reality. An example includes performing actions without fully connecting to them (running on automatic. This usually happens during periods of extreme stress.
Describing this sensation, one BP says, "Sometimes I feel like a robot going through the motions. Nothing seems real - my eyes cloud over and it's like there's a movie going on all around me. When I come back, people tell me that I did or said certain things that I can't remember.
Robert O Friedel, MD., says in "Borderline Personality Disorder Demystified (Marlowe & Company: 2004) p. 13

Research shows that people with BPD are more likely to expect others to behave badly toward them than people who do not have the disorder. When exposed to stress (usually criticism), or imagined or real fear of abandonment, when under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or when treated with certain classes of stimulants such as amphetamine, or with certain antidepressants, some [BPs] become very suspicious and have difficulty thinking rationally. Brief episodes of paranoid thinking may occur, when they falsely believe that others are plotting harm against them. These episodes may last from several hours to several days, or even longer.
The person with BPD especially sees negative intent as it revolves around infidelity and fear of abandonment, and loss of control. (Narcissists can also be jealous and fear losing control, but it has more to do with maintaining supply sources.)
Of course this, in turn, affects the suspected family members. They become angry and emotional at being unjustly accused, second guess themselves, and eventually do start thinking about leaving (something called "projective identification").
One woman was so afraid of her boyfriend getting in touch with other women that she demanded that he leave his cell phone on the bedroom dresser when he had to go to the bathroom.  Contacts with anyone of the opposite sex may be forbidden, and partners become so enmeshed in the relationship that it doesn't occur to them they can say "no." They are too busy struggling to keep their spouse happy for themselves and the sake of the kids. Once again, if the spouse becomes upset, the partner figures it's their fault and keeps trying (and failing) to secure the BP's/NP's trust.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Italy unearths huge Roman barracks during Rome metro dig

Excavation work for a new metro line in Rome has unearthed a huge Roman barracks from the 2nd Century AD when Emperor Hadrian was in power.
View of mosaics in Amba Aradam ruins, 16 May 16
The find is so impressive that Italy plans to create Rome's first "archaeological station" at Amba Aradam, on the city's third metro line.
The new station is being built while archaeologists brush dirt away from artefacts and mosaics 9m (30ft) below street level.
The ruins cover 900sq m (9,700sq ft).

The site, thought to have housed Hadrian's Praetorian Guard, includes a 100m hallway with 39 rooms.
 
View of human bones at Amba Aradam site, 16 May 16
Amba Aradam lies near an important metro interchange at the Colosseum, called Fori Imperiali/Colosseo. The new station, on Metro Line C, is scheduled to open in 2020.
The head of archaeology in the Colosseum area, Francesco Prosperetti, said work on the metro would not be delayed although there would have to be changes to the station's design.
Amba Aradam is named after an Italian Fascist victory against Emperor Haile Selassie's Ethiopian troops in 1936, in the Abyssinian war.
An Italian Culture Ministry official called the unearthing of the Roman Praetorian Guard barracks "exceptional".
The Praetorian Guard was created by Rome's first emperor, Augustus, and served as the emperors' bodyguards and private military force.
Rossella Rea, quoted by the Associated Press news agency, said it was near four other Roman barracks, so "we can characterise this area as a military neighbourhood".

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Six Clues to Character

The traits that shape us remain fairly stable over time, making them the closest thing we have to a crystal ball. Whether you wish to take an inventory of yourself, gauge the suitability of a partner, glimpse what a friendship might hold, or preview a child's trajectory, here are six key candidates for your attention.
By Hara Estroff Marano
Image of a young woman's face
Seconds after Tamara was ushered into his office, Michael knew she was right for the creative staff of the advertising team he ran. Within a year, they were not only a productive duo professionally, they were dating. She soon jumped to another agency largely so they could live together openly. A year later, they were married and enacting their plan to start a boutique agency together. Business grew comfortably although not spectacularly—until the recession hit. Having observed from a master how to initiate client contact, Tamara went into overdrive. Michael, unflappable as ever, admired her indefatigability.
The harder she worked, the more Michael's praise got under Tamara's skin; she grew to hate being viewed as indefatigable. Over the last half of 2008, she says, "anxiety began shredding me." Good as he was as a life partner, she came to realize, Michael lacked "the gut-fire" for business; a downturn was the clearest time to see it but the worst time to accept it. Desperate to keep her whole life from falling apart, she quietly contacted a consultant. The plan: Close the agency, look for separate jobs or freelance arrangements, and keep the marriage. Could she live with that?
It's taken over two rocky years for the shame, the anger, and the disappointment to subside. Tamara would happily erase the entire entrepreneurial episode. "I should have paid more attention to Michael's approach to work," she now says. "Yes, he has a great reputation, but there were signs he just wasn't driven. He's very confident, but he doesn't have that competitive edge. He never hid his nature. I partly blame myself; we could have avoided a few nasty years."
Does any one of us know who our lovers, our friends, our business partners, our children—and even we ourselves— will become, especially when tossed into a new set of circumstances? Most future forecasting is stunningly off the mark. Typically, it assumes too many discontinuities from the present. But psychology knows that the future grows out of the past, and both tend to be built on observable aspects of character and behavior. It's possible to extrapolate from today to tomorrow—if you know what to pay attention to.
Even with children, development is not a mystery, says Susan Engel, a psychologist at Williams College. "It's a crystal ball. You just have to know how to read it." The trickiest part may be finding—or deliberately creating—situations most likely to elicit the traits you want to observe in action.
The important signs of a person's path into the future inhabit six broad domains, says Engel: intelligence, drive, sociability, capacity for intimacy, happiness, and goodness. All six elements show up early in life and don't change much over its course. As outlined in her recent book, Red Flags or Red Herrings? Predicting Who Your Child Will Become, the six can be seen as an index of what really matters in life.
Some are traits, more or less wired into personality—such as basic level of interest in others. But some have a considerable skills component—for example, how we explain the events of our lives. A small shift in attributional style, for example, will have an outsize effect on a person's motivation and propensity to happiness. Sociability may be a basic component of personality, but it's still possible to influence its expression by learning how to approach others.
image of a young woman with a white painted faceMuch as we may recognize the importance of each domain for foretelling the future, still we have trouble knowing exactly what to look for. Tone is one of the big distracters. Being low-key, for example, does not preclude happiness, as some people assume. Nor does winning prizes in school predict later success. But it turns out that many of the attributes that most influence us, that create that je ne sais quoi known as character, are fairly stable over time. As a result, we can scrutinize them at any one point and project them into the future.

Intelligence: The Biggest Boon
Of all the attributes to consider in another person, intelligence is probably at the top of the list. Since it is the most stable quality over time, and primarily a product of genetic endowment—although stimulating environments allow it to blossom—it is almost as reliable a guide in children as it is in adults. More than any other trait, it is the great declarer of possibility, an indicator of the likelihood of doing well in life.
Try to define intelligence and you'll have one of psychology's longest-running fights on your hands. This much can be said with impunity: It encompasses the ability and speed of processing information.
It allows for, although makes no guarantee of, deeper understanding of life, experiences, and other people. It underlies the ability to deal with complexity.
As cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman sees it, there are two major types of intelligence—controlled and spontaneous. They operate differently and confer distinct advantages. At the top of the hierarchy is the capacity for conscious, deliberate, abstract thinking, which is what is generally measured on intelligence tests. "Conscious intelligence reflects the capacity of working memory and executive functioning, skills requiring focus and related to cognitive control," he explains. It is goal-directed and draws on a limited pool of attentional resources.
Sharing equal billing with general understanding, argues Kaufman, is spontaneous intelligence, which provides mental dexterity. Spontaneous cognitive processes involve the ability to acquire information automatically. They are associated with implicit learning, the incidental acquisition of a complex pattern, says Kaufman, a visiting scholar at New York University and coauthor of the forthcoming Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence. Call it the cognitive unconscious. "It's the ability to be open to possibilities that may not be obviously relevant to the task at hand"—like having a sudden creative insight without deliberately working on a problem.
Neither component of intelligence is more important than the other, but what is crucial is the ability to flexibly switch between modes of cognition as a task demands. "It is important sometimes to defocus. It allows for novel on-the-spot problem-solving," says Kaufman. Cognitive flexibility is knowing when to completely deactivate focused intelligence. He notes that the highest levels of creativity most likely require the ability for both modes of intelligence and the flexibility to switch thought strategies.

Clues to Intelligence:

"Pay attention to how a person thinks," advises Engel. "Listen to how he or she develops an argument." Barry Lubetkin, a clinical psychologist in New York, advises noting how systematically someone weighs pros and cons of a dilemma and how clearly the person can define and state a problem. "Look for someone who has clarity, whosethoughts have edges."
Also, make sure a person knows the difference between how he feels about something and what he thinks about it. "Confusing feeling and reason is a huge problem," Engel finds. Another measure of intelligence is how quickly a person takes in new information and especially how fully and quickly they grasp complex situations. The ability to generate multiple solutions to a problem through brainstorming, Lubetkin says, is another marker of intelligence, especially the spontaneous variety. Closely related is the ability to discard calcified ways of doing things.
Evolutionary psychologists, in particular, regard the ability to generate humor as a robust sign of intelligence, as it reflects a complex array of cognitive skills, from language use to abstract thinking, involving the capacity to take a novel perspective on information.

Drive: The Goals You Set

Everyone defines it differently, but is there a person alive who doesn't want to succeed? Engel emphasizes doing well at something you love. That's a nice ideal; for some people, it's more a financial calculation. And still others want public attention or recognition, even celebrity in the mix. Two key variables to focus on, then, are how a person defines it and how—or even whether—someone is willing to work for it.
There's effort and there's effort, says Engel. There is a quality beyond working doggedly—some call it surgency—in which the energy of hard work is accompanied by vibrancy and a sense of pleasure. Others call it passion; either way, it fuels perseverance. It's the fire at the heart of motivation. "Drive," Lubetkin says, "is the engine of accomplishment. It allows a person to achieve whatever goals they set in life." And yet, persistence also begets passion. Further, both of them are made possible only by a sense of optimism.
It was on the perseverance-passion spectrum that Michael and Tamara encountered the difference that undid their work partnership. Tamara says she still doesn't understand Michael's failure to be energized by difficulty. But she knows she'd never put herself again in a situation that might require it.
Researchers find that the drive that leads to success maps closely with the Big Five personality trait of conscientiousness—being prepared, organized, and able to control impulses. There are additional markers of the capacity for success. And some underpin the ability to take risks that result in that special off-the-grid brand of accomplishment, innovation.
Going beyond routine paths, Lubetkin points out, requires a certain independence of thought and the capacity to operate independent of others' opinions. There's no time frame for what he calls "building a bank of self-trust." But its most noticeable feature might be the ability to put faith in one's own decisions. Intelligence, he notes, should not be taken as an indicator of such an ability.

Clues to Drive:

"how does a person talk about the problems in his or her life?" asks Lubetkin. "What do they say when they are met with a barrier? You want to hear they believe in the importance of effort and that they are worthy of it. You want to see that they assess themselves in a healthy way. That includes recognizing the randomness of life. An unhealthy person rages against ill luck."

Happiness: The Capacity For Finding Satisfaction
There's a great deal of cultural confusion about what happiness is and how to achieve it. Psychologists and philosophers find that happiness derives from having a sense of purpose and feeling useful. But a culture of consumption like ours puts forth highly seductive messages suggesting happiness comes from enjoying a string of positive events or a life of ease or acquiring things, known as hedonic happiness. Exploring a person's beliefs about happiness is likely to reveal not only how they might approach it but how likely they are to find it. Anyone who seeks it in acquisitions will be doomed to disappointment; hedonic pleasures have limited staying power.
Neuroscience has something important to say on the matter—primarily that happiness isn't something you can pursue directly. It's a byproduct of other things, most notably working toward meaningful goals. In the brain, maximum positive feelings are generated, and negative feelings turned off, not after reaching a goal but in the approach to a challenging goal, one you're not 100 percent certain you can reach, one where you have to muster all your resources and stretch. It's in that last final sprint toward it that people feel most happy. There is no happiness without challenge, risk, and growth.
Happiness may be a feeling but, over the past 50 years, psychologists have come to see that in large measure it is a reflection of how we think. Cognitive behavioral therapy is founded on the fact that we consistently engage in automatic patterns of thinking about experience, of which we are generally unaware, that pitch us into positive or negative mood states. Underlying a propensity to depression are not merely encounters with adversity but assumptions about the experience and beliefs about oneself that are in fact distortions of reality.
Further, the beliefs are typically expressed in the attributions we all make about the causes of events. Among the most common, says Lubetkin, is the tendency to selectively filter information—to focus exclusively on negative details of a situation while ignoring or minimizing its positive aspects. Equally destructive is catastrophizing, assuming the direst outcome from one negative event. The conclusions people draw from their everyday experiences often find their way into expression and are a major indicator of the degree to which they are unwittingly erecting barriers to their own happiness.

Clues to Happiness:

How realistic is someone about personal weaknesses? And just how willing is someone to act in ways aligned with his or her beliefs and values, even at the risk of criticism?
Happiness comes not from a magical power to escape setbacks but the ability to rebound from them, also known as resilience. How does someone interpret experience? A tendency to attribute all setbacks to fate can cripple will. Believing everything is under one's control likewise distorts reality and is a setup for misery.

Goodness: The Legacy Of Mama Madoff
Engel wants you to know about Bernie Madoff's mother. "Goodness comes from somewhere," says the Williams psychologist, "and so does badness. People model themselves on those around them." The greatest swindler in history wasn't the only cheat in his family. When he was growing up, his mother had her own financial brokerage firm. Eventually, she was investigated by the SEC for failing to file financial reports. Before they could revoke her registration, Engel recounts, she withdrew it. "She might have been defrauding customers, sneaking past the regulatory commission, or cheating the government, and if so, there would be a good chance it was rubbing off on Bernie."
glass mosaic of a young woman's faceSome aspects of morality are generated from within, and some from without—for example, the degree to which a person believes that ends justify any means. "I am certain that Bernie Madoff did not get the kind of influence in his childhood that how you do things is more important than whether you succeed," Engel says.
Empathy shows up early in life and it endures. How motivated is someone to care when you are hurt? How mindful is a person toward your goals?Empathy is laudable by itself, but it has enormous social utility. It is a source of restraint against the abuse and exploitation of others— yes, you.
There are people—often, leaders— who get good at faking empathy although they are at heart ruthless, Lubetkin warns. "Internally they feel little concern. But they can charm enough so that there are few consequences to their ruthless behavior."
The capacity for empathy is necessary for goodness but not sufficient. Another sign of morality is the willingness to help another. The capacity for moral reasoning is distinct from moral behavior. Brain imaging studies show that moral reasoning is influenced by how "hot" a situation is, Engel explains. "What we think of as right depends to some extent on how involved our feelings are."
It's accessing the ability to think about the perspective of another—as distinct from feeling what another is feeling—that is linked to benevolent actions. Like so much in life, thinking about the feelings of others hinges on emotion regulation. A person who can control his own emotions (especially negative ones like anger and anxiety) without denying them will be able to tolerate others' upsets, not prompted to run from them—and able to help.

Clues to Goodness:

Knowing how someone thinks about moral issues is useful, but it's not always enough to indicate how they will behave in difficult circumstances. And for that, says Engel, you have to know how someone calms him or herself—indeed, whether they can. The ability underlies more than moral capacity. It's a prerequisite for good decision-making in every domain of experience.

Friendship: The Capacity For Reciprocity

Friendship is both an arena with its own intrinsic rewards—happiness is prime among them—and a proving ground for intimacy. Relationships with peers hinge on equality and reciprocity—one reason, researchers believe, they are so inherently satisfying. And a perfect window into character. Says Lubetkin: "Friendship allows you to grow. Knowing there is a support system encourages you to take more chances and move toward greater success."
An enormous body of literature on children and adults attests that what people like in others is kindness and assertiveness—the sense that someone will be available to help in a time of need and has the ability to stand up for oneself. An adult who has few peer relationships may be unkind, unable to relate to others, or too self-involved.
Endurance is an important measure of friendship quality. "The ability to build a history with someone tells me about the value they place on loyalty, and how sustainable they are through the ups and downs of experience," says Lubetkin. "A long-term friendship signals a person is able to tolerate human foibles—including yours. Having been accepted fully by someone besides parents registers deep inside a person."
Signs of sociability are readily observable—the existence of a broad circle of associates one calls on from time to time and a smaller circle of one or two close friends one can call on at any time and to whom one can reveal one's inner landscape. Having at least one good friend, research shows, is a buffer against many of life's ills.
The capacity for friendship has two broad aspects. One is a level of sociability, mostly a matter of temperament. Level of interest in others is one thing; knowing how to interact with them is another, more in the domain of skills. Social skills—how to read signals, understanding the intentions of others, how to approach others—can to some degree be acquired by way of coaching, especially among children.
Not every person has the same level of sociability. Some people are very comfortable spending time alone and frequently prefer to. One measure of a person's character is how much solitude they desire—but it's just as important to know whether they can create a social life when they want it.
Interaction style tends to be stable over the lifetime, says Engel. A peek into the past is likely to reveal something about the future. A person who comes from a family where everyone was heard and each child had some say, is likely to be attuned to what others are thinking, while knowing how to assert his own needs.

Clues to Friendship:

Here's what the capacity for friendship looks like in action: asking about others, making someone feel welcome, making suggestions for joint activities, sharing (but not dumping) information about oneself.
It's important to assess the nature of a person's friendships. Are they purely voluntary or are they based on exchange of some kind, such as money, or consistently marked by inequality such as dominance or submission?
Perhaps the strongest signal of problems in the friendship realm is the existence of cutoffs. A string of ex-friendships is a sign of rigidity, indicator of an inability to tolerate conflict or stress in relationships or work out their complexities.

Intimacy: The Capacity for Vulnerability and Trust

Consider intimacy an important source of balance, the ultimate leavening in life, the deepest source of comfort. And because it is the root of psychic security, it is a firm foundation for approaching the new and a wellspring of willingness to engage in exploration of life. Gauge someone's capacity for intimacy and you will understand something about their ability to trust another human being, reveal vulnerability, make a commitment of any kind, and regulate distress as well.
On this psychologists agree: The first relationship is the basis for all others. The nature of one's emotional attachment in the family of origin establishes not only the ability to achieve a sense of connection but the degree of security in later relationships. Attachment to a consistently responsive caregiver in infancy is nature's first coping system.
The desire and ability to listen to another—sometimes the most essential need in a close relationship, particularly during times of distress—is a quality easy to discern. Its equally important—but often overlooked—companion skill is the ability to communicate that one's partner is being heard. "By itself it's a key social intelligence skill," observes Lubetkin. And the better the communication, the more satisfaction people feel.
There's an ineluctable mix of vulnerability and reciprocity at the heart of intimacy, and it declares itself. You can openly observe whether a person runs for emotional distance or disengages during difficult moments.
Given the depth of vulnerability that distinguishes intimate relationships, the capacity for intimacy couldn't exist without the willingness to trust another human being. In fact, no human enterprise can operate soundly in the absence of trust; the alternative of constant wariness creates an atmosphere of unceasing suspicion. Trust, of course, rests on the very foundation of predictability. Isn't this where we came in?

Clues to Intimacy:

"No matter how much you need to know it, you can't ask a person head-on whether he feels loved," says Lubetkin. "You need the details."
His recommendation to people on the verge of commitment: Make a drive-by visit to the old family manse. It's virtually guaranteed to stimulate recall of early relationships with great emotional immediacy. Ask your prospective partner to take you on a tour of her childhood home, and ask a few questions. "Tell me about the kitchen. What kinds of conversation went on? What was the family room like? Tell me about where you slept; what was your bedroom like? Was it yours? Could you take your private thoughts into it? Did you have comforting bedtime rituals?"
Even a person whose early experience was less than ideal will reveal in tone and attitude—anger, wistfulness, regret—whether they've declared a truce with history.