Strengthening Relationships & Building Connection
An extended overseas trip has provided ample opportunity to nurture and strengthen long-standing relationships with family and friends and to build new connections through shared experiences.
“If you think you are enlightened, go and spend a week with your family”
We are social beings and the relationships we share with others are integral to our sense of self, mental health, and wellbeing. Our connection with others can be protective, or a contributing factor, to our mental health. Human relationships can be both where problems derive from and how they are solved.
Maintaining the health of our relationships is no easy task and relationships within families can bring particular challenges and opportunities. Nobody can push our buttons or trigger a reaction in us quite like our family can. When we think we have mastered our emotions, our family can show us the areas we still need to work on. Within family groups we can inherit not only physical characteristics like hair colour and face shape, but also ways of expressing our emotions, communicating our needs, how we function in relationships, and the coping mechanisms we adopt. As children, whilst our brain is still developing, we absorb everything from our caregivers. We aren’t fully conscious and so we accept this without question and our egocentric state means we believe everything is happening to us and because of us and so we internalise what is happening around us.
Adult Attachment and Emotional Maturity
As adults, it takes conscious effort to reach emotional maturity and a true understanding of ourselves. With this maturity will come an understanding other people’s behaviour is not our responsibility but rather a reflection of how they are feeling about themselves. Each person in a relationship is a constellation factors that influence in a variety of different ways, including:
- Experiences from life and past relationships
- Fears and insecurities
- Attachment style
- Emotional regulation skills
“ The attachments we form as children serve to ensure our survival and create the connections we need as social beings. As adults, we can connect to others without putting the pressure of our survival and safety onto them, but only once we realise this….”
It is hardly surprising we encounter difficulties from time to time and can struggle to redefine our relationship with our family as we each grow and develop in our relationship with our self. When we honour our differences and see each other for the complex interplay of all of these elements we are more likely to moderate our expectations of peace and harmony.
Show Up, Be Authentic
In addition to sharing significant celebrations with family, time spent living with a group of travellers thrown together in a confined space revealed the magic of social dynamics in a whole different environment. Growth in these new relationships emerged from shared experiences that lay just beyond our comfort zone. The willingness of this group of people to show up, be vulnerable, face fears, and grow through personal experience was powerful. Some of our group experienced severe sea sickness and yet chose to holiday on a small boat; some disliked the cold and yet travelled to the Arctic winter; another was claustrophobic but managed the confines of a cabin below deck; and someone identifying as an introvert committed to six days onboard with little respite from people!
Relationships are enriched by authenticity – the willingness of people to show up and reveal themselves. Rather than shrinking or hiding their true selves, this group of individuals displayed a security in letting themselves and their vulnerabilities be seen. These qualities lie at the heart of deeper, more meaningful connections.
“Don’t shrink, don’t puff up, show up and let yourself be seen” Brené Brown
Foundation for Change
Relationships are the foundation for change. The relationships we share in our childhood and adulthood have the power to elicit positive change. Sometimes it takes the love, care or attention of just one person to help another change for the better. As we learn more about the brain and body, we learn more about the importance of relationships. The most critical parts of development happen in relationship – resilience, independence, courage, emotional regulation. This is because the foundation for all of these is safety. Safety first, then growth comes next. A therapeutic relationship has the capacity to help us modify neural systems and enhance emotional regulation.
Belonging, connection, and good relational health, are protective factors for our mental health. They are also foundational to the therapy, coaching, and experiences offered at Positive Moves Wellbeing. Perhaps you’ll join me in strengthening this aspect of your life in 2020. I look forward to connecting.
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