Writer, producer and coach Kathrin Seitz and Marc Felix, a Camden psychotherapist and student of shamanism, are exploring this winter the phenomenon of relationships –- what they are and what they mean for the human experience. In March, they will hold a daylong workshop to invite relationship into lives and enhance the relationships one has. As part of this winter project, they also will venture forth with the broader Midcoast community with this periodic column, to investigate the idea of relationship, that heavily nuanced word in the English language that implies much but is so hard to define.

Lily from Friendship (really!) asks: Isn’t friendship one of the most significant kinds of relationship?

Marc’s answer

“You can always tell who’s a real friend because when you’ve made a fool of yourself he or she doesn’t think you’ve done a permanent job!” goes the wonderful proverb. Where would we be without our friends? Who accepts, supports and encourages us? Who can we be vulnerable with? Who can we be ourselves with? It’s our friends who do all this and more.

Marlene Dietrich said: It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.

Haven’t we all had to call up a friend at 4 a.m.? This is why I strongly suggest you have friends in every time zone.

You don’t have to be a psychologist to know that friends are necessary for our mental health. Research has proven that we recover more rapidly from trauma and that we live longer when we have friends. We know that children with friends do better in school.

My friends give me the honest feedback that keeps me on track in my life. It’s my friends who tell me about mistakes I’m making that I’m blind to.

This weekend I’m going to visit a friend I haven’t seen in almost two years, but the passage of time doesn’t matter because the bond of true friendship lives outside of conventional time.

When I first heard this question about friends I thought of the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” as a good example of friendship. I’ve heard that Robert Redford and Paul Newman were friends in real life as well. I also thought of the television series “Friends,” which ran for 10 years.

Plato and Aristotle thought that friendship could only be between people of the same sex, and some people still have that view. But I have women friends who are as close and valuable as my men friends.

There are best friends, close friends and casual friends. The closer a friend is, the more of a treasure they are. Don’t ever take friends for granted. Like every other kind of relationship, friendships need maintenance and nourishment.

I don’t know who said it, but here’s my favorite saying about friendship: A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and sings it to you when you’ve forgotten it.

Kathrin’s answer

My friends are important to me. We explore the world, and figure out our response to it by talking to each other. Friends help me find the off button for my brain, which tends to work overtime.

Our friends safeguard our memories, and when you’ve had as long a life as I have, the list of friends grows long as well. I have friends from childhood, Ciba and Rozzie. We went on adventures, played jacks, went to Girl Scout camp and flew up from Brownies to Girl Scouts together. We knew each other’s parents and siblings. All three of us spent junior year abroad and celebrated Christmas and my birthday in Rome with my parents who were on sabbatical from their teaching jobs. We keep our collective childhoods alive. And hold the memories of our parents and friends who have passed on.

I met Linda, Susan and Helen in New York City during my Salad Years. We dressed up, danced, drank and pursued our careers together. Dated, got married, divorced. Then came motherhood and New Mexico and California. Close friends from those days were mothers of my son’s friends, like Coleen and Lora, and teachers, like Claire, Alex’s photography teacher. On a trip to Washington, D.C. this week, I will reconnect with Jill and Sally, intimate buddies from Santa Fe during the years of raising Alex.

I was lucky enough to be able to introduce friends from all these stages of my life to one another at my wedding to Richard. I have a photo of Rozzie, sitting next to my Camden friend Marilyn while in the corner on the stairs sits Robert, a friend for 40 years, next to my son Alex and his girlfriend Holly next to Lucinda a friend from Camden next to Colleen from California. This photo reflects the story of my life and one of my strongest impulses, which is to connect people I love one to another. What could be more fun? More fulfilling? More enriching?

“Bienveillance” is a French word that applies to friendship. It is impossible to translate but, loosely translated, it means “good watching over” or “to watch over well.” Our friends watch over us, even when we are not near them; they hold us in their hearts; they show up at important events, and laugh at our jokes. They do not judge us or limit us, but rather shower us with loving kindness or, as a friend of mine would say, living kindness. Our lives reflect this kindness.

Marc Felix holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and has been a psychotherapist in private practice for more than 30 years. His work radically shifted after completing a two-decade shamanic apprenticeship with an Apache medicine chief. His current work is body, mind and spirit healing of individuals and couples.

Kathrin Seitz has more than 30 years experience in the publishing, television and film businesses in both New York City and Los Angeles. She has been teaching Method Writing for more than six years in New York City, Newport, R.I., Maine and Florida. While working in the entertainment business, Seitz trained and worked as a lay analyst.  She took several years of courses, reading all the important psychoanalytic literature, and worked with patients in a supervised setting for four years. Visit kathrinseitz.com.