I believe interpersonal relationships form our biggest reservoir of potential in terms of spiritual growth, mental health, and therefore physical wellbeing as a result. A new friend, ‘letting go of’ or resolving a negative relationship, choosing to express your true feelings about something – these can all be life-changing events. When we relate to people, our beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, thoughts and feelings all become flexible to change – and could be stimulated, challenged or reinforced depending on the other person. The intensity of such changes of course depends on the nature of the relationship – but even the smallest changes can create ripples that have an ongoing effect. Significant relationships are vast areas in themselves in terms of the positive or destructively negative effects they can have. But I want to focus on the seemingly insignificant ones – because they can hide potentially great thriving friendships that you’d never have expected. In a time of economic hardship, its relevant to remember that great relationships are free and far more useful and powerful than anything you could buy.
Unfortunately, it seems a lot of relationships aren’t particularly strong, or emotionally honest. We often rely on emails, texts, social networking sites to communicate, as a way to feel ‘included’ or receive attention. Our social lives can exist as precarious and fragile as those little glass structures that they used to make in Fraggle Rock, to come tumbling down the moment you hit a dark patch or a true inner crisis. Sometimes if and when you start talking about feelings, insecurities, anxieties or personal goals you might find its more than people are used to dealing with. I recently asked some friends how well they know other friends, and asked some random questions e.g. “how does so-and-so feel about their life at the moment?” “What are their goals?” and the common answer was “I have no idea!” followed by a strange awakening, and excitement to get to know their friends better. Behind our happy facades, materialistic lives, ipods and mobiles, I have a sneeking suspicion that many people yearn to be able to truly express themselves within open, honest relationships, and to be truly known and understood. But having the courage to do so can only come about from becoming more in touch with yourself, more self-aware, to begin with.
Here is a quote from Carl Rogers, a psychotherapist: “I find I am more effective when I can listen acceptantly to myself, and can be myself. We cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come about unnoticed. Another result which seems to grow out of being myself is that relationships then become real. Real relationships have an exciting way of being vital and meaningful. If I can accept the fact that I am annoyed at or bored by this client or this student, then I am also much more likely to be able to accept his feelings in response. Real relationships tend to change rather than remain static” (from On Becoming a Person).
I’m not going to present any exercises or ideas for exploring or enhancing your potential relationships with people in your life – even if you just start thinking about it then thats great.