Welcome to the first part in our Understanding Relationships series! First, we start with accepting the need for relationships. Human beings are social creatures, we need contact with other humans to feel nourished. We are biologically wired for connection. If we don’t get enough contact, we can get depressed and isolated and it impacts us psychologically and physically. We know that loneliness increases the likelihood of dying younger and that the brains of young children who don’t get enough human attunement do not develop well. Loneliness and isolation is not just about how many people are around us but about the quality of contact we have with others.
I have been a Psychotherapist for 25 years and have seen the power of attuned relationships on clients, colleagues and counselling students. Research shows effective counselling is not about theory but about the quality of the relationship. A counselling relationship is a very authentic emotionally intimate relationship where someone feels heard, understood and accounted for.
When running therapy groups one of the most powerful things is to see people realising that they are not alone – that others have doubts, fears, frustrations and similar struggles to them.
In our lives generally, we can tend to put on a false front, a defence, a socially acceptable façade which keeps us and others at a distance, this is not good for us or others.
Human beings have a great capacity to impact each other positively and negatively. We can increase or decrease the likelihood of successful nourishing relationships with others if we choose to.
Studies have found that spending time with people increases our quality of life AND our longevity – even if we don’t like the people. Of course, it’s better if we do though, and better if we have authentic nourishing relationships in our lives
We all have a range of relationships in our life – personal, professional, family, neighbours, duty relationships. Often, we don’t give ourselves choice and sometimes we don’t have a choice if we want to live in our house, keep our job etc.
Accepting the need for relationships with others which are fluid, they are not constant – either in terms of length of relationship or in terms of quality. They will not always be consistently good – why would they be? We don’t expect anything else in our life to be consistently good. Relationships change, grow, development, end and go through rocky patches at times only to be rediscovered.