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Psychotherapy

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

Big Boys Don't Cry...

Big Boys Don't Cry...

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We all know that when you throw down the gauntlet, most guys are up for a challenge…

Are you ready to tackle the next ‘Tough Mudder’ in record time?
Sure! Let me show you who’s boss!
Ready to dismantle the kitchen garbage disposal, blindfolded, with dinner guests about to arrive?
Easy mate, I can do that, while still juggling the BBQ!
How about changing the nappy of your child, while in an airplane toilet stall at 30 thousand feet, while experiencing turbulence?  
Come on, that’s old school dad stuff! Would you like me to land the plane too?
How about coming to therapy?
You’re bloody joking right?!
So… we struck a nerve.

Why the adverse reaction? Why do some men suddenly develop a phobia when presented with the idea of seeing a psychotherapist? In my professional opinion, I suspect there are three reasons.

1. Society has expectations that men must be independent, bulletproof, and have the world in the palm of their hands.

2. Men are not taught the language of verbal, emotional expression.

3. The counseling and psychotherapy profession has not fully accommodated the therapeutic needs of men.

Because of these reasons, many men are willing to sit in their pain, while hoping they can push through it, using the same old tired tactics. Most of this is an attempt to show the world that they have both the answers and solutions and that they will fix themselves by the end of the business day.

Let’s explore these reasons a bit further…

Society has done a wonderful job in shaping how men should view themselves. Men are labeled in so many different ways these days, whether it’s trending or not, the story that many guys portray isn’t necessarily their own. Think of labels like ‘metrosexual’, ‘lumbersexual’, ‘retrosexual’, ‘technosexual’ and even ‘spornosexual’. Many of these social narratives are placed heavily on men’s shoulders right from a young age. These labels are created to reinforce our expectations of men and how they should think and behave towards themselves towards women, with their children and other men. 

If society says that men must think of themselves as untouchable and indestructible - then naturally men aren’t going to seek help when they really need it.

The stigma of reaching out for help is both internalized (there’s no way that I will admit that something is wrong) and externalized (he better not fall off his horse and crash). That is an incredibly powerful force in shaping our ideas about masculinity and how we think about ourselves.

As a consequence, many men are never taught (or even expected) to be able to openly express themselves or experience their emotions.

When men are asked to ‘express themselves’ they come up short. Because they haven’t had any real training in this, they don’t necessarily have the right type of vocabulary to communicate what’s really going on inside. Now, that’s real pressure. In many circumstances, this is viewed as avoidance or resistance, and some men are portrayed as ‘emotionally void’ or even just ‘bumbling idiots’. It’s not a case of unwillingness but a simple lack of capability.

Subsequently, men struggle to express what’s really happening behind the kimono and the cycle of shame and despair is perpetuated; their needs get buried deeper, problems never get resolved and their relationships suffer.

What can we do to help men, help themselves?

Offering gender-specific services, practices, and environments that honor the diverse needs of men is a practical way of engaging more men in therapy. 

Services that address the typecasting or labeling that has commonly deterred them, using language that suits men's thinking will help minimize the uncertainty and misconceptions of therapy and open the door to endless possibilities. Hopefully, men can then come out of the trenches and live authentically without fear of reprisal or isolation. If men were confident that this was available to them, then more might actually be willing to engage in services that create a meaningful, healing experience.

If you think your man is hurting and needs help, or if you’re a bloke who has known for some time that things aren’t 100% right, then call me on 512-470-6976 for a free phone consultation.

Arohanui, Simon

Simon Niblock is an Austin TX based, Marriage and Family Therapy Associate who is dedicated to helping men, couples and families find peace, direction and meaning within their relationships.

Call Simon on 512-470-6976 to book an appointment today.

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