Our relationship with ourselves, and our relationships with others, have the potential to be both a source of great joy and fulfilment, and challenge and pain.
Some degree of difficulty is inevitable for all of us in our human relationships. Being human is messy and unpredictable! And we all face loss and conflict at different times in our lives.
With an understanding of the dynamics that play out in our experience, we can much more effectively navigate the challenges we face, and give ourselves more space to meet our own and others’ pain with love and compassion.
- Our relationships as a mirror
This is perhaps the most important and powerful understanding we can have – that our relationships with others are mirrors of our relationship with ourselves. And it is through these reflections that we can see where we stand in our own way in life, which means the essence of who we really are can more easily reveal itself to us. We may notice patterns in our relationships, that we have been living out the same relationship over and over again with different people, and it is empowering to acknowledge that is happening for us, rather than tous. We then stand in a place of empowerment where we can make personal choices that serve us, rather than seeing ourselves as a victim of others, or of “bad luck”.
- Our projections and how they interfere with connection
Projection is a defense mechanism whereby we project onto others what we find unacceptable in ourselves, and therefore disown. For example, a person who has a tendency to be unkind may accuse others of being unkind, whilst denying this in themselves. Most of us project to some extent, and most of the time, this happens unconsciously, without our awareness. Awareness of our projections and willingness to own the parts of ourselves that we project onto others moves us closer seeing ourselves as we really are and seeing others as they really are, and therefore enables us to meet ourselves and others more fully.
- The filters that create our reality and affect all our relationships
Our conditioning – the messages we have received about ourselves, others and life, especially when we were young – along with our past experiences – create filters through which we see the world. This means we are not seeing reality itself, but rather our own personal version of it, which therefore affects how we experience our relationships. Some of our filters (we could also say beliefs) can limit our capacity to clearly see and connect with ourselves and others. Having awareness of how our filters distort our reality in unhelpful ways can help us to free ourselves from these limitations.
- The Drama Triangle
This is a very common dynamic that can happen both within ourselves – between different part of us – and in our relationship with others. In this dynamic, we may find ourselves in the position of victim, persecutor or rescuer. Some of us may have a stronger tendency toward one of these positions than the other two, but usually the dynamic involves moving between all three positions. Awareness of how this dynamic can play out in our lives is the first step toward moving into a place of personal empowerment and greater harmony in our relationships.
- Attachment Styles
Attachment theory is a very useful model for understanding some key dynamics of human relationships, especially our own behavior and feelings, and those of our partner(s) in romantic relationships. Knowing our own attachment style tendencies can be extremely helpful for navigating our relationships, including the partner(s) we choose and how we relate with them.