Cedric and the Black Dog - Part Two

Cedric and the Black Dog - Part Two

Black Dog 2

Cedric and his black dog is a vignette that describes the experience that a lot of blokes have with depression.

Often guys say that they are followed by a black dog, or they feel like they are at the bottom of a dark bottomless shaft, or that they are an actor trying to play themselves. These descriptions highlight that depression is a very individual, subjective experience. It’s impact or severity and how long the experience might last can vary. Yet, it is pervasive, sometimes debilitating, and its symptoms can affect your thoughts, your emotions, how you act and behave, as well as your relationships. However, with the right knowledge and support, overcoming depression is very possible.

The underlying cause of depression is not completely known. However, what is understood is that it’s not necessarily a single event or experience that causes depression, rather it is the combination of a number of contributing factors that lead to its development. Other contributing personal factors such as biological or genetic vulnerability, chronic stress, medical problems, and medications, social, lifestyle and relationship challenges may also trigger depression.

Research shows that women often experience depression more than men, however, men are less adept at recognizing symptoms. Often men underplay what’s happening to them, resulting in attempts to ignore feelings of sadness, shame, hopelessness or guilt. Typically, men will allow the underlying causes of the problem to develop over a prolonged period of time, until it becomes chronic. Often, men will attempt to mask the problem via masculine behaviors of aggression, anger, and loss of control.

Men also respond to the experience of depression through increased substance use such as drinking or drug use or engaging in high-risk activities such as drink driving. Men also isolate themselves more than women when depressed, and will immerse themselves into their work or interests. Subsequently, their relationships with loved ones, friends and colleagues start to deteriorate. The unfortunate irony with this behavior is that these relationships are often critical in overcoming the problem that they are experiencing.

Over prolonged periods of struggling with depression, men begin to experience physical and neurological symptoms. Depression is associated with cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke. “Many men were not aware that physical problems such as headaches, stomach problems, and chronic pain might actually be symptoms of depression.” Chronically recurring depressive episodes also impact the formation and regulation of emotions and memory due to neuroanatomical abnormalities. This includes the areas of the brain responsible for attention/working memory, executive function, and memory recall. Brain structure actually changes because of depression.

The greatest risk for men in relation to depression is the impact of suicide. Untreated chronic depression can sometimes lead to suicidal ideation and acts of self-harm. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men die by suicide three and a half times more often than women. A contributing factor to this number is due to the extreme methods in which men choose to take their lives. In the US, firearms account for almost 50% of all suicides. White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides and the rate of suicide is highest in middle age, white men in particular.

However, due to the greater social awareness surrounding depression and its treatment, men are nowadays more open to the idea of reaching out. They are open to the feedback from friends, loved-ones, and colleagues that they are not alone and that professional help is available. While men’s willingness to help themselves has started changing, more needs to be done. Continuing research into men’s physiology, interpersonal and intrapersonal psychology to identify effective gender specific treatment options is required. Such options will drastically help men cope emotionally and physically with chronic stress or acute adverse experiences.

The potential of decreasing the likelihood of developing depression involves proactively improving the quality of lifestyle factors. These factors include good sleep patterns, healthy eating, and nutrition, as well as regular exercise and self-care habits. Improved relationship connections, such as intimate or romantic, family, social or occupational are the foundation of reducing the likelihood of developing depression. Finally, further social advocacy is needed to facilitate men seeking help and to teach everyone to recognize the signs of depression in men.

If you recognize any of these symptoms, then consider connecting with a trained, licensed mental health care professional and start a conversation.

  • A desire to withdraw;
  • Losing interest in friends and activities you used to enjoy;
  • Difficulty concentrating on things;
  • Feeling down or irritated most of the day, nearly every day;
  • Significant change in weight or change in appetite;
  • Changes in sleep patterns;
  • Changes in activity, such as speech, thinking, movement;
  • Feeling jumpy or physically agitated;
  • Fatigue or loss of energy;
  • Negative and unrealistic thoughts about guilt or feeling worthlessness; and
  • Having thoughts of death, or suicide or have a plan for suicide.

If you are struggling with any of these experiences, or are concerned about someone who is, then I invite you to have a conversation. Call me on (512) 470-6976 or schedule a free 20 min consultation to explore your options for help.

- Simon

Information and Resources on Men's depression:

Heads Up Guys: https://headsupguys.org/mens-depression/

Help Guide: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-in-men.htm

Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression/what-causes-depression

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): https://www.nami.org

Anxiety and Depression Association of America: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression

Cedric and the Black Dog – Part One

Cedric and the Black Dog – Part One

Black Dog 1.jpg

My name is Cedric and I have a black dog that follows me everywhere.

It’s not my dog. I don’t know where it came from, but it plodded its way into my house years ago, unannounced, uninvited, and the damn thing won’t leave. I’m not a dog person, so I don’t know why he chose me. In fact, I don’t like pets at all, but I’m sadly getting used to its presence. I refuse to give it a name, because I don’t want us to become friends. My hope is if I ignore it, it will wander off and find a new owner.

This dog accompanies throughout my entire day. It’s sitting there at the edge of my bed when I wake each morning. As much as I want to stay here under the covers in the hope that it will wander off, I know the moment I wake, it will be there staring at me with its dark black sullen eyes. It’s not a friendly dog. There’s no wagging tail, no lapping tongue here. It’s no fun. It doesn’t want to play, or go outside. It doesn’t like to do anything, other than mope around. This sad creature just nuzzles at me, constantly vying for attention, which I feel compelled to offer. What on earth does this useless, pathetic creature want?

This black dog is very territorial. It doesn’t like any of my friends or my family, and it certainly doesn’t get along with my boss. Keeping this a secret at work is causing me to drop the ball constantly. Occasionally, it growls at those around me with its deep throaty, guttural sound. I’ve seen it raise its hackles, and snare its sharp teeth to protect me. From time to time, it destroys my furniture and chews up my possessions. I don’t know where it acquired a taste for that. I know it means business and I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t have any intention of putting up with anyone’s shit.

It’s odd that no one has mentioned that they’ve seen me with this dog, well, at least I don’t think they have. I’m pretty sure that my family doesn’t realize that this thing constantly accompanies us, even when we take the kids to the movies. When the family’s around, it curls its tail under and sits in the corner of the room. I know, because I can see it sitting there in the corner of my eye. It’s distracting. When they leave, this black dog returns to my side. I’ve even woken from a nap, with it sitting on my chest. Do you know how hard it is to breath with a massive dog sitting on you? I thought I was going to have a damn heart attack.

I know that it’s just a matter of time until someone’s going to complain. I find myself staying at work longer, so that it can hide undetected in my office. When I’m at home, I stay alone in the garage with it for hours at end. My family shouldn’t have to put up with this uninvited guest the way I do. Sadly, that makes me feel guilty. I’ll sit there surrounded by my yard equipment, and I’ll put back a few quiet beers. When this happens, the big black dog wanders off for a while, no doubt to pester someone else. When I wake up in the morning, the damn thing’s back.

I’m not sure what to do. I honestly have no clue and I’m pretty sure that this black dog is getting bigger. Maybe I’m paying too much attention to it, but it’s presence is starting to worry me. I’m concerned that I’ll be caught out harboring this unwanted guest, before I can figure something out. I’d like to talk to someone, anyone, however I have responsibilities and I can’t let my family down. The sight of this creature makes me sick to my stomach and as a result, I can’t think straight. I can tell that this dog finds all the things that I used to enjoy doing, well, boring and dull. I look forward to those peaceful moments at night, when everyone’s asleep. I just sit there, wide awake, thinking. Thoughts just rolling around without any resolution. Just me and this this damn black dog. Someone must have trained it well.

Cedric and the Black Dog - Part Two

What the hell am I going to call this? The nature of Ambivalence.

What the hell am I going to call this? The nature of Ambivalence.

Simon Niblock, Men Couples & Family Therapy

We’ve all experienced that moment where we find ourselves at a crossroads. Which direction do we go? We weigh the options, pros and cons when faced with this choice, struggling to make a decision.

Our normal decision-making process just doesn’t seem to accommodate the situation that we face. We wax and wane, we procrastinate and on occasions, we avoid making a decision altogether. What’s even more confusing and anxiety provoking is when we notice that the way we’re behaving doesn’t align with the way that we think, our values, or our desired intentions.

We know that it’s in our best interest to do something different, but for the life of us, we cannot figure out what it is. Things simply feel discombobulated, and it begins to gnaw at us. This confusion ripples out and affects the way we interact with the world around us, including our relationships. This internal struggle, this confused state is best described as ambivalence, and it is a universal human condition.

Ambivalence is a state of simultaneous, conflicting values, needs, beliefs or feelings towards a particular scenario, person or object. It is a natural human trait to experience ambivalence. Whether it’s buying a new car or trying to determine what to wear to a job interview, a certain amount of ambivalence in our everyday life is healthy. We experience these moments simply because we are creatures of deliberation, critique, and exploration. Ambivalence is the experience that lends to our need to critically evaluate the benefits and consequences of given predicament.

We relate to ambivalence in a wide spectrum of experiences. For some individuals, identifying a source of internal conflict is relatively easy, and are able to articulate the struggles without too much difficulty. Others may simply sense that something feels misaligned, yet it can be troublesome, and right down confusing connecting with an underlying cause. Some experiences of ambivalence can be inherently unconscious. We just feel like something’s misaligned, and we can’t work out how to move forward. The effects of ambivalence can vary widely across individuals and situations.

What is important to distinguish is ambivalence is not the same as indifference. Indifference is described as a lack of sympathy, interest or concern. When it comes to forming a decision or making a choice, indifference can be mistaken as ambivalence. Just because someone is struggling to go to the gym to exercise, doesn’t mean they don’t care about their health. An individual may struggle to reach a meaningful conclusion, yet this suspension does not insinuate an indifference or a lack of desire to do something different.

The challenge with ambivalence is when it becomes chronic. Similar to being bogged down in cement, chronic ambivalence interferes with our ability to move forward, make decisions and implement change, resulting in feelings of fear, confusion, frustration, and anger. It is often experienced as familiar, repeated pattern and cycle of internal conflict, never realizing a true sense of resolution or reaching a natural conclusion. Chronic ambivalence can feel like a very real psychological obstacle.

Ambivalence leads to inconsistency in our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors which causes a disruption of congruence. Internal incongruence is experienced as stress, tension and uncertainty. ‘Psychologically uncomfortable ambivalence, also known as cognitive dissonance, can lead to avoidance, procrastination, or to deliberate attempts to resolve the ambivalence’ (Heregeld, Pligt, de Liver, 2009). This is often represented as thinking or saying one thing and then behaving in a completely conflicting manner.

Ambivalence may present itself within a relationship when opposing values, needs, beliefs or feelings are not effectively expressed or negotiated. While the foundation of most relationships consists of contrasting personal differences, discomfort may be experienced when ambivalence is avoided or unresolved. Couples often describe a lack of communication or conflict are in fact referencing an underlying cause of ambivalence. Furthermore, the discomfort or conflict that ambivalence creates is often exacerbated when an impasse occurs or an ultimatum is presented as a reaction between partners.

Overcoming ambivalence within ourselves or within our relationships is very possible. The challenge however that we often face when exploring our sense of ambivalence is the thought that we may have to, at some stage, make a deliberate conscious choice. Yes, it’s all about weighing the options and making a choice. Making a decision can represent a true dilemma for some individuals, as the act of making a choice implies that we then limit ourselves to the option which we have selected, thereby renouncing all other possibilities.

Often it is the fear of consequence, the unknown or the path least taken, that causes chronic ambivalence. We often reprimand ourselves by attempting to construe an ideal choice. Despite our intellectual debates, logical arguments and practical motives behind our decisions, the fear of making an incorrect decision and the fear of harboring regret, stop us from making any positive forward movement. Yet, by not making a decision, we remain stationary, never appreciate the potential of change or realizing the potential of an opportunity.

Focusing on resolving ambivalence requires deliberate and conscious self-exploration. Acknowledging what conflicting values, needs, beliefs or feelings are present is an ideal starting point. Understanding that no decision will ever be ideal and that every option will have its challenges and benefits. Next is to identify what fear we associate with the consequences of both the conflicting arguments, as well as the choice of maintaining the status quo. Yes, not doing anything is an active choice.

Recognizing and acknowledging our personal traits that can help overcome ambivalence is important. Personal traits or characteristics may include resourcefulness, adaptability, optimism, confidence, risk-taking, tolerance for ambiguity and initiative. ‘Research shows that certain personality traits may impact an individual’s likelihood of experiencing [or managing] ambivalence’ (Heregeld, Pligt, de Liver, 2009). These personality traits form the foundation of readiness for change.

It is often a matter of determining which value, need, belief or feeling that we find ourselves prioritizing above its counterpart, that allows us to make a decision. In decision making, regardless of what compass we adopt (think matters of the heart versus the mind), when we choose according in a manner that is congruent within ourselves, then the effects of our ambivalence are diminished.

Most importantly, take your time in making a decision. Seek counsel if you feel it is necessary, especially if you experience confusion, ongoing procrastination or even risky behavior. Offer yourself some self-compassion by recognizing that your ambivalence serves a valid and important purpose. It serves as a sign. Explore the possibility that fear may be associated with your experiences and recognize that your choices, both perfect or flawed are the most valuable lessons that you can make for yourselves.

Here are some options on how to overcome ambivalence.

1.     Set some time aside for yourself to explore your dilemma. Journal your ambivalent feelings, thoughts or fears and the various scenarios in which they occur.

2.     Remind yourself that no situation is absolutely perfect and that all potential scenarios have strengths and weaknesses. Acknowledge and honor your ambivalent feelings. Be compassionate towards yourself.

3.     Take your time to make a decision. Seek guidance if needed. Remind yourself that no situation is 100% perfect and that all potential scenarios have their strengths and weaknesses.

4.     Determine your readiness for change. Identify and connect with your personal traits that support positive, well-defined change.

5.     Make a choice that is congruent with yourself and stand behind your decision.

6.     Assess your progress. Make changes if your choices no longer serve you, or if ambivalence ensues.

Cheers, Simon

References

Engle, D.E., Arkowitz, H. (2006). “Ambivalence in psychotherapy. Facilitating readiness to change” Guilford Publications Inc. New York, NY.

Hersh, T.R. (2017) Ambivalence. Retrieved from: http://www.psychological-observations.com/key-concepts/ambivalence

Leslie, I. (2017) Ambivalence is awesome. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/06/ambivalence_conflicted_feelings_cause_discomfort_and_creativity.html

Van Heregeld, F., van der Plight, J., de Liver, Y. (2009). "The agony of ambivalence and ways to resolve it: Introducing the MAID model". Personality and Social Psychology Review. 13 (1): 45–61. PMID 19144904. doi:10.1177/10888683083245

Why Do Some Friendships Last A Lifetime?

Why Do Some Friendships Last A Lifetime?

Have you ever stopped to consider why some friendships transcend space and time and can last a lifetime, yet others seem to have an expiry date and fizzle out?

Friendship is an incredibly rich experience that connects us with the world around us. The connection that friendship fosters, allows us to grow and evolve as we travel through all stages of our lives. Our friends influence us, and we influence them - hopefully in positive, fruitful and meaningful ways.

From the second that we step foot onto the playground on our first day of school, we learn the importance of establishing friendships. Our friendships often hold more significance in our lives, sometimes, on occasions, more than our own biological families.

We absorb everything from our friends - our language, our mannerisms, ideas, values, and principles, as well as the odd questionable fashion decision. As we grow much of our personality builds from the characteristics and qualities of our friendships.

In terms of cognitive and social development, it is considered that much of our personality throughout all stages of our life is mirrored, and absorbed from our compadres. “Smarter friends make us smarter; more social friends make us more outgoing; healthy friends make us more health conscious. Who they are [our friends] becomes part of us” (Fishman, 2015).

Friendship offers frequent boosts of happiness and joy, as well enhancing your sense of purpose and belonging. Positive friendships reduce stress and anxiety and improve your feelings of strength and self-esteem. When times are tough, they help cope with trauma and loss, while decreasing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

How we establish a friendship is often as unique as the person we connect with. As eloquently stated by C.S Lewis, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!” What is equally unique is the nature in which relationships evolve or dissolve over time.

So, if we’re able to experience such a significant connection with a friend in the beginning, then why do some relationships continue to enrich our lives, while others slowly fizzle out?

Unlike our relationships with parents or siblings, our friendships are especially unique because they are completely voluntary in nature. Nothing binds us within a friendship and we make an active, conscious choice to establish them.

However, as we are drawn to a friendship because of the lack of formal structure that we experience in family or romantic relationships, the ‘voluntary nature of friendship makes it subject to life's whims in a way other relationships aren't’ (Beck, 2015).

Like any other relationship, friendships need active, conscious effort to keep them flourishing. “Whether people hold onto their old friends or grow apart seems to come down to dedication and communication” (Beck, 2015). When mutual reciprocation of needs and expectations are offered in a friendship, it is very possible for it to thrive, even when time and distance is present.

Research has found that people need to feel like they are getting as much out of the friendship as they are putting in, and that that equity can predict a friendship’s continued success. This means that if the right conditions are fostered, ‘long distance’ or ‘time challenged’ relationships can pick up where they left off with incredible fluidity.

These are the moments when, after years of not seeing each other in person, your able to enjoy a four-hour marathon meal, with accompanying conversation (as well as decent wine) and feel like only an hour and a half has past.

Yet, life dramatically shapes and tests our friendships. From our adolescent years where friendships are the core of our universe, across the lifespan to our retirement years, our ability to establish and preserve friends changes dramatically. The number of friends that we have starts to decline around the age of twenty-five.

There are a plethora of reasons why friendships fizzle out, some key reasons include various life events that distract us as well as failing to nurture our relationships. Other influences include changes in personal values or worldviews over time that challenge the compatibility and subsequent reciprocation between friends.

So, I invite you to take a moment to reflect on the friendships that you have in your life. Some friendships might be chugging along happily on their path, others might need some tender love and attention, others might need to start a new chapter. Determine what’s required to foster their continued success? What’s necessary for them to survive life’s varied chapters, or even transcend space and time itself?

- Simon

References:

Fishman, T. (2015). Don't underestimate the power of friendship. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/06/07/friendship-science-human-needs-column/26633027/

Beck, J. (2015). How Friendships Change in Adulthood. Retrieved from: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/10/how-friendships-change-over-time-in-adulthood/411466/

Bhattacharya, K., Ghosh, A., Minivans, D., Dunbar, R. I. M., & Kaski, K. (2016). Sex differences in social focus across the life cycle in humans. Royal Society Open Science, 3(4), 160097. http://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.160097

Men at Work: The changing relationship between men and their work.

Men at Work: The changing relationship between men and their work.

In a previous career of mine, a work colleague described what his influential and high paying job meant to him.

He said, “Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my job. I’ve been doing it for almost 30 years and I’m extremely grateful of what it has provided. But, it’s not my true passion.”

I was somewhat surprised by his comment. Here was an accomplished leader and businessman, who was highly respected as one of the best in his field saying that he felt ‘OK’ about his job. This guy knew his stuff, he knew people, he was respected, he was a shaker and a mover.

He elaborated, “What this job provides me is the opportunity to get up early each morning and walk out from my house onto the beach and go for a surf. It also provides me with the means to go anywhere in the world on a yearly surfing trip with my son. That’s why I’ve worked so hard, for as long as I have. That’s why I honestly do what I do”.

He continued to say that it really didn’t matter what job he did, as long as it provided him with the means to achieve the things that were really important to him. To him, his identity as a man and as a father did not hinge on what his job was, or the direction of his career path.

His comments have stuck with me for all these years. It offered a new and very refreshing perspective towards the relationship between men and their work. It highlighted for me, that as important as men view their work, there is a lot of value in recognizing that a man’s job can be a valuable part of their masculine identity; without it being their entire identity. That men have options on how they view themselves, without placing all their eggs in one basket.

A common theme described by men is the significant amount of personal meaning that they derive from their work. “Men traditionally derive a huge amount of self-esteem and gender identity, and personal happiness from their work, even more so than other environments such as their home life or social interactions” (Galinsky, 2011). However, the idea of extending their identity beyond their job, has the potential to offer an enormous amount of relief for men.

Think about the last time you met someone new for the first time. What was the first question that you ask, or were asked?

“So, tell me, what do you do…”?

This is one of those all too common, but loaded questions we ask in social environments. Asking this question satisfies our need for social comparison, but more importantly, our reply allows us to reinforce our identity - if we associate ourselves with the work we do. However, the traditional narrative of a man’s identity being tied up in their job is changing. Not unlike my own discovery while talking to my colleague, a lot of men are asking the question, ‘is there more to me than what I do as a job?’

The author, Alain de Botton, stated that “we spend most of our waking lives at work - in occupations most often chosen by our inexperienced younger selves. And yet we rarely ask ourselves how we got there or what our jobs mean to us”. His book, ‘The pleasures and sorrows of work’ explores why people do what they do. How many men, find enjoyment in their work, but often have no idea how on earth they got there?

There are a lot of men that derive tremendous happiness and satisfaction from their work. The sense of purpose, challenge, the ability to provide, a sense of inclusion and belonging and structure, not to mention the creation of bonds with other men. These are all important elements that contribute to a sense of masculinity and self.

Yet, men are now starting to realize this redefined sense of self in other ways. What they are discovering is a masculine identity that is equally enriched beyond their current thoughts of what work means to them. For example, the number of men who are changing the balance between workforce and family roles or discovering meaning and purpose in life via alternate pursuits or interests.

It is absolutely realistic for a man to question the narrative of ‘a job maketh a man’. In exploring new and exciting ingredients in life, a man can rewrite his story that contains greater meaning and depth. A man’s job is simply one of many amazing elements of who he is - and who he can be. 

Cheers, Simon

Do You Know What You Need?

Do You Know What You Need?

Simon Niblock, Men Couples & Family Therapy

If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there. - Lewis Carroll.

I had been working with a young bloke, (let's call him Alex), for several months, when he mentioned that he had been having difficulty making a decision about a promotion that he had been offered. Alex described that he'd been successful throughout most of his career and that the company that he was working for was extremely supportive. Furthermore, he was highly respected by his boss and his peers. He felt like he had everything going for him, however, he was troubled by his lack of ‘mojo' when he thought about this new opportunity.

 So, I asked him. "Alex, can I ask? What is it that you need?

Alex: "What is it that I need?".

After a long pause…

Alex: "Damn, I don't know, Honestly, I really don't know. I've never asked myself that… you know… I've just done what I thought I wanted at the time or did what I thought I should out of obligation or loyalty… but what I need… that's a tough one".

We spent the rest of the conversation exploring Alex's needs. We took the time to separate his needs as opposed to his wants and unpacked the meaning and association of each need that he had identified. Eventually, we ended up identifying a couple of very significant needs for himself. A week later Alex stated that he had a very clear understanding of his preferred path forward. As a result, he was able to make a very deliberate and authentic decision. Alex reclaimed his mojo.

The quote above by Lewis Carroll highlights that when we haven't taken the time to explore what our needs are and what they mean to us, we might just find ourselves on a path that contradicts who we really are.

Identifying our needs is the first important step to creating meaningful relationships, rich experiences, and purpose in our pursuits.

Our needs are unique to who we are as individuals. Needs come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes (see the list below) and that they constantly evolve throughout our lives. Needs range from basic existence needs (physiological and safety needs) to relational needs (intimate and social relationships and external esteem) to more complex personal growth needs (Internal esteem and self-actualization).

"A human need, or, more accurately, the object of a human need is something which a human being must have to live a recognizably human life." An important consideration is a difference between a need and want. "A want, or more accurately, the object of a want, is something which one desires to have, or the notion of preference" (Garett, 2004).

For example, an employer states "I ‘need' my employees to respect me and tell me when they need my help". This is an example of a want or a preference rather than a need. What is more aligned to the concept of a need is: "Being a trusted, efficient and relevant leader is an important need of mine".

When we are aware of our needs, it becomes easier to move towards their fulfillment. We learn to align our cognitions, emotions, and behaviors to effectively achieve them. Communicating our needs in an honest, open manner is critical. Recognizing an unfulfilled need is surprisingly relatively simple task – if we're being honest with ourselves we experience harmony with ourselves and positive connection with others. When we experience impasses or conflicts within our relationships or experience heightened emotions such as anxiety, anger or fear - it is typically an indicator that a need is not being satisfied.

Because of the heightened emotions that are connected to unfulfilled needs, it can be difficult to convey them to the people who we feel matter to us the most. We often fear what may (or may not) occur if we expressed our needs. While it does take courage to express our needs, it is also our responsibility to ourselves and to others to try.

So, how do we fulfill our needs?

  1. Recognize that having needs is not selfish, weak or dependent. It takes strength, to be honest, and attuned to our needs.
  2. Create space to explore, acknowledge and celebrate your needs. It takes time to connect with what's important to us. Give yourself permission to dig deep and when you find what you're looking for, honor yourself.
  3. Communicate your needs to yourself and to others. Convey your needs in a respectful, empathic manner that recognizes that others have needs too. Acknowledge similarities in needs and celebrate differences. Offer to help others fulfill theirs.
  4. Nurture and evolve your needs. Think of this as a life long journey. Attend to your needs as they develop.

To help explore your needs, take a few moments to reflect on the list below. This list is not all-inclusive, but it offers some ideas to get the creative ‘needs' flowing. 

If you struggle with fulfilling your needs or have difficulty communicating your needs with those in your life, then let's start a conversation. Click on the link below and schedule a free 20 min consultation. Who knows where it might lead you.

Cheers, Simon

References:

Carroll, L (No Date). Retrieved from Brainy Quotes: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/lewiscarro165865.html

Garrett, J. (2004) Needs, Wants, Interests, Motives. Retrieved from: http://people.wku.edu/jan.garrett/ethics/needs.htm

McClelland, D. (1961) The achieving society. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Need_theory

NEEDS

Appreciation

  • Acknowledgement
  • To be seen
  • To be known
  • To be heard

Honesty

  • Integrity
  • Authenticity
  • Wholeness
  • Fairness

Connections/Relations

  • Belonging
  • Friendship
  • Companionship
  • Respect
  • Support
  • Trust
  • Cooperation
  • Mutuality

Purpose

  • Competence
  • Contribution
  • Meaning
  • Growth
  • Learning
  • Challenge
  • Work
  • Discovery
  • Order/Structure
  • Efficiency

Play

  • Expression
  • Passion
  • Sexuality
  • Creativity

Mental

  • Clarity
  • Information
  • Stimulation
  • Awareness
  • Focus

Autonomy

  • Freedom
  • Choice
  • Independence

Empathy

  • Consideration
  • Compassion
  • Connection
  • Communication
  • Reassurance
  • Love
  • Warmth
  • Intimacy
  • Companionship
  • Acceptance

Nurturing

  • Touch
  • Affection
  • Caring
  • Preservation of life
  • Bonding
  • Comfort

Sustenance

  • Security
  • Safety
  • Food/Water/Shelter
  • Health
  • Rest/Sleep

Celebration

  • Honor
  • Aliveness
  • Spontaneity
  • Mourning
  • Humor

Union

  • Connection with something greater
  • Ritual
  • Healing
  • Harmony
  • Inspiration
  • Peace
  • Faith
  • Joy
  • Balance
  • Grounding
  • Serenity
  • Hope

The Importance of Relationships

The Importance of Relationships

The Importance of Relationships

As human beings, we are born with an innate biological and neurological need to establish connects or bonds with other human beings.

We are essentially the sum of the quality of our relationships with others. We are not hard-wired to be detached, free-floating islands, however, we can often find ourselves experiencing moments of utter isolation, even when we are surrounded by others.

We acknowledge that humans are social creatures and that establishing positive and reciprocal relationships are critical elements to our overall sense of wellbeing. As individuals, we are happier and healthier when we develop healthy bonds with others throughout all stages of our life.

Why are relationships important to us?

As eloquently described by Balfour and Vincent (2012) ‘The evidence now is clear: the quality of our relationships has profound implications from our earliest years, for the emotional, cognitive, and physical development of our children, to our latest years, in old age, affecting the likelihood of hospitalization, the rate of progression of disease in dementia, and even some mortality rates. In these materialistic times, we can say with some certainty that the apparent nebulous world of our close attachments to our partners [and relationships] has the most material, measurable consequence for our lives’.

The quality of our relationships and connections with others, such as our parents, siblings, romantic partners, friends, colleagues, mentors, and tribes, have the potential to directly influence our ability to create a prosperous, healthy and meaningful world for ourselves. Quality relationships assist us in dealing with life’s challenges and pain.

Human beings need connection and relationships when they are afraid, anxious, or unsure of themselves and want to compare their feelings with those of others. Relationships help people to confirm and validate thoughts, feelings and experiences as well as creating a foundation of self-esteem and self-worth.

What happens when we lack positive relationships in our lives?

In our technology-pervasive world that we find ourselves living in, a lot of us have seen a dramatic shift in our ability to connect. The world almost seems smaller. The elements of distance and time are no longer barriers to communicate and the volume of social connections has significantly increased.

Then why do so many people nowadays feel alone or isolated? It’s due to the quality of our connections or relationships. Not all relationships are meaningful, nor do they satisfy our most basics needs or yearnings for connection. Some relationships can be harmful, considerably impacting our health, our well-being and sense of self-worth.

How can we establish positive and nurturing relationships?

Relationships are fluid, evolving entities and they require ongoing care and attention. Comparable to the idea of self-care, we need to care for and nurture the relationships that in turn, support and nurture us. This reciprocal relationship takes time, patience and energy. Developing quality relationships also entails some basic proficiency in connecting with others and being open to the experience. Here are some interpersonal elements to consider when creating healthy bonds with others.

  • Define your relationship needs: what is a positive, reciprocal relationship to you?
  • Identify, establish and manage healthy boundaries.
  • Accept and celebrate differences in others.
  • Offer compassion and express gratitude.
  • Create space and time to connect.
  • Listen and be present.
  • Forgive and offer exoneration.
  • Develop effective communication skills.
  • Be open to offering and receiving constructive feedback.
  • Learn to trust and respect others.
  • Be open to the experience of connecting.
  • Manage conflict quickly and considerately when it arises.
  • Be real - as Oscar Wilde cited, ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken’.  

Practical Exercise

Take a few minutes this next week to write down a short list of some of the more important relationships in your life.

Think of a relationship with another person who consistently recognizes you, acknowledges you and endorses your feelings and ideas? How important is this relationship to you?

Next, write down a short list of the relationships you would like to nurture. Take mental stock of why each of these are important and how you would like to enrich the relationship.

Over the next 4-6 weeks, connect with each person. After this period, sit back and reflect on how your life has been enriched.

If you would like to learn more about forming positive and reciprocal relationships then let's connect. Book a free 20-minute consultation below and let's start a conversation.

Cheers, Simon

Simon Niblock, MA is an Austin TX based, Marriage and Family Therapy Associate who is dedicated to helping men, couples and families find peace, direction, and meaning in their relationships. Click on the button below to book a consultation.

References:

Balfour, A., Morgan, M., & Vincent, C. (2012). How Couple Relationships Shape our World Clinical Practice, Research, and Policy Perspectives. London: Karnack Books.

Web, L. (2013) Developing positive relationships. Retrieved from https://trainingmag.com/content/8-tips-developing-positive-relationships

Flickr image by: Farhad Sadykov