Neighborliness is the act of free people respecting and helping each other. It requires free will and conscious activity. Neighborliness is an economic, social, and spiritual concept. While neighborliness can be a one-way effort it is by definition a social act because there is an actor and a receiver. More often, neighborliness is a two-way exchange of services, goods, or positive energies between peoples exercising their free will for mutual benefit. When that mutual exchange of goods or energies occurs, humanity benefits because each actor is improved and thus, in a better position to transmit positive energy elsewhere.
What are the psychological requirements and ramifications of neighborliness? One needs to embrace his own capacity to be helpful to others and he needs to be able to accept help from others. Each of these capacities is more difficult than it sounds because it opens one up for vulnerability. Giving and receiving are risky. So, being a neighbor requires a basic psychological centeredness that protects the ego from too much anxiety.
Often, folks that struggle with neighborliness are either fearful of abandonment or engulfment – being left behind or being smothered. It takes a modicum of differentiation to be able to tolerate the closeness that neighborliness offers. Differentiation is also known as the psychological freedom to give and take without fear. So, neighborliness is a social action that requires a psychological capacity.
Some people grow up in situations that foster good differentiation and others are not so lucky. It takes some work for those in the latter group to develop a better capacity for neighborliness and unfortunately as an American community we are doing a poor job at helping folks develop this capacity in their daily interactions with the developmental landscape. So, it may take some intentionality for some people to build a better relational capacity. But those efforts to build stronger psychological muscles will pay dividends for individuals and communities.