How to Create Healing Relationships

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Recent research has taught us an extremely important lesson: good relationships are the most powerful healing mechanism of all. Even medications are much more effective if the patient has a good relationship with the physician.

The converse is also true: poor relationships cause illness. In fact, we are more prone to virus attack or even accidents if we have had an argument with a significant person in our life—our boss, child, spouse or friend. Depression which, we believe research demonstrates to be the greatest health problem of our time because it underlies so many other, is largely caused by relationships gone wrong in childhood. It can only be fully healed through good relationships.

Yet, in our convoluted society statistics show, 80% of all relationships fail. We’ve lost the art of connecting well to other people. Although the drive to form connections with others is innate, the “how-to” is learned. We learn relationship-forming when we are very young (under 6) from the ways our parents and other significant adults relate to us and to each other. We may unconsciously pick up their bad habits, such as criticism or emotional absence, and either do these things ourselves or gravitate toward those that do.

Yet you can learn to create fully healing, supportive relationships in all areas of your life. In fact, thousands have done so using our unique and powerful Uplift program techniques.

One key is to understand what a relationship really is: the mutual satisfaction of needs. A good, supportive relationship is one in which the needs met are functional. A poor relationship is one in which the needs met are dysfunctional or co-dependent. For instance, the need to receive regular praise is functional, but many of us actually invite criticism or choose friends or bosses who put us down. In dong so we ensure that our unconscious need for criticism, which was instilled in us in childhood, gets met.

You can identify your functional needs by making sure they meet four criteria:

  • They can be expressed in concrete terms
  • They are appropriate to the relationship
  • They involve action-words
  • They are doable by someone in the position of the person being asked

For example, you might say to your wife or husband “I need you to love me.” This may be a real need, but it’s expressed so generally that the other person has to guess what you mean. Generalizations create barriers to relationships and stymie healing. They also invite power-plays between people marked by accusations, such as “You should’ve known that’s not what I meant by ‘respect’! Can’t you get anything right?”

Instead, figure out what love means to you and give specifics, such as “I need you to give me a hug when you come home, to praise me to your friends and to tell me that you love me at least once a day.” The other person may or may not agree to meet these needs, but you’ve begun a genuine dialogue that can lead to a real deepening of the relationship.

Obviously, your needs should be appropriate to the relationship, and you’ll have different ones for different types of people in your life. At work, rather than exchanging meaningless banter or put-downs, let those around you know how they can enhance your sense of competence. This may mean telling you what you do right and, if they want something done differently, giving you specific instructions. Let your friends know what to do to help bolster your self-esteem, such as to call you once a week just to ask how you are, or to include you in activities with mutual acquaintances.

Remember to use action words, or verbs. No one can think, believe, want or understand on command. Rather, think what they would have to do or not do to show you that they thought, believed, etc. Instead of telling your boss, “I need you to understand that I have to take the day off to care for my sick child,” say “I need you to agree to my taking the day off for this reason, and to move our meeting to the following day.”

Finally, don’t worry if the specific person you’re giving a need to could or would meet your need, or you will start to censure yourself. Instead, consider whether a person in that position (a mate, boss, six-year-old, etc.) would be capable of doing so. Then stand up for your right to have the need met.

Often people tell us that they feel embarrassed to ask for their needs in the concrete terms we advocate. They say it makes them feel needy, weak, or embarrassed. They claim that the other person wouldn’t do what they ask. Finally they say that if the other person really cares about them they would know what is needed.

These are all excuses. Yes, asserting that you are an important person who deserves to have your needs met is a big step for most of us, and often goes against our childhood programming. But you can overcome your blocks to better relationships. And every time you do so, you add to the healing process. And every time someone agrees to meet a functional need and does so, they make another contribution to your healing. And the more you grow, the more you are able to welcome and encourage the support of people around you into your life. And the healthier and more optimistic you will become!

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