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04/22/2011

Psychology's "how to" guide to relationships

Strangers_on_a_Train_-_Romance Human beings are social creatures, and so it’s no surprise that when we’re not trying to get in relationships we’re managing relationships, and when we’re not managing relationships we’re complaining to our friends about how we need to be in one. 

What is surprising is that for all the time, energy, and thought we put into our relationships, most of us are not very good at getting them right. 

Admit it. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. 

An article in Psychology Today, entitled A Message of Hope for Anyone Seeking a Relationship, looks looks at three core constructs that form the basis of all growth facilitating relationships.

Here’s a glimpse of what relationship guru Ken Page suggests:

1)    Lead With Your Gifts: Each of us has a set of “core gifts.” It’s the deepest place within our being; where passion, generosity and love abide. It is in reclaiming these gifts that we begin to associate and attract people who value and treasure the greatest parts of ourselves.

2)    Discover Your Own Intimacy Lessons: Put aside the “shouldacouldawoulda” list. Instead, open yourself up to insights, be mindful about behaviors that imbalance your daily living. Follow any imbalances or red flags you discover, and lovingly allow them to be transformed into pearls of wisdom; things that with attention can transform and allow for greater intimacy in relationships.

3)    Only Choose Inspiration: In relationships, choose to be with people who attract you through their inspiration, in goodness and in value. Pitch the negative emotions in relationships, real love and fulfillment results from inspiration—surround yourself with people that bring you energy, dynamism, and passion. Settle for nothing less.

That’s a great start, but humanistic psychology has even more advice about how to find, and manage, meaningful relationships. 

In the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, authors Motschnig-Pitrik and Barrett-Lennard suggest that we form relationships because they help us “actualize” ourselves, and that effective relationships are driven by a tendency to “co-actualize” each other – help each other become the people we want to be. 

The idea of co-actualization occurs in well-functioning relationships and leads to fulfillment, further development, expansion of experience, and an enigmatic passionate energy exchange. Relationships eriven by the co-actualizing tendency have some of the following characteristics: congruency, regard, saliency and empathic attunement. 

What does that mean on a concrete level?  Carl Rogers, father of the client-centered therapy movement in humanistic psychology, spoke to these attributes being part of any healthy growth-facilitating relationship; and offered advice for how to express them.

1)    Congruency: This involves removing the veil and façade from your character. Be truly who you are in each and every relationship; despite fear of betrayal, acceptance or proper etiquette. Simply put, who you are on the inside is what you want to show on the outside.

2)    Empathy: In relationships, work toward truly understanding the world of the other. Immerse yourself in the experiences and descriptions of the other person’s life—as if you had experienced it; while refraining from making it your own.

3)    Regard: Always embody an altruistic warm, caring and compassionate demeanor toward the other. Care for the other person without condition or requirement. Your regard for the other should never depend on their behavior—care for them as a fellow human being who has worth at all times.

This is great advice for any relationship, but be sure to actualize you and the ultimate relationship to – the one you have with yourself.

 -- Liz Schreiber

Posted at 01:00 PM in

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