THE HEALING POTENTIAL IN RELATIONSHIPS
Below is an opportunity to explore Kori's perspective and orientation regarding the challenges and gifts relationships provide.
The Nature of Relationships
As humans, we are needy. Kind of a cringey idea for anyone that has bought into our cultural ideal of absolute autonomy. While it is true that we are all individuals, we are individuals that need each other. Relationships are an essential part of being human. Unique to the human species is a ridiculously long development cycle that makes us dependent on the adults in our lives for survival for almost two decades!
Most obviously, we need these adults to physically survive, but humans are more complex than even that. We also have emotional guidance systems and complex brains with instinctual, conscious, and unconscious operating modes. So we don’t just have physical needs but emotional/relational ones. This high degree of dependence makes us vulnerable to the whims of our caretakers, and we look for cues that we are securely attached. If we don’t experience those cues, we are ingenious at finding other ways to affirm attachment and ensure our survival.
These ingenious survival strategies are also called coping strategies because we are attempting to “cope” with the insecurity of our needs not being met. They are suboptimal at best, but they give us a sense of control in an otherwise helpless position. Unfortunately, most adults eventually discover that these same coping strategies suck for building fulfilling adult relationships.
The Inevitable Failure of Parenting
The Humanity of It All
One reason our childhood strategies fail is that the parent-child relationship inherently contains an unequal power dynamic that is unhealthy and undesirable in adult relationships. The parent-child relationship is not, or at least should not be, held as an equal partnership. Parenting is a one-way street of nurturance and dependency. Healthy parents are not dependent on their children for survival, sustenance, fulfillment, or affection. That is not to say they don’t enjoy some serious cuddles or appreciation, but they do not rely on their children as their sole source.
Most clients in counseling have some form or degree of insecure attachment issues. They arrive at therapy because of hopelessness, frustration, helplessness, stuckness, and/or otherwise painful and unfulfilling relationships. They struggle with over-dependency or under-dependency; over-responsibility and under-responsibility; rigidity and hyper-flexibility; all of these learned responses for dealing with the pain of unmet needs as babes.
Before we fall into the endless narrative of parent-blame, the truth is failure is inherent in the job. All parents will fail their children in one way or another. The sooner we make peace with this, the sooner we can get on with learning how to love our fellow humans who will also inevitably fail and how we can help them fail us less.
Parents will fail because they were also raised by humans who failed in some way and, like their parents before them, developed child-level ways of dealing with the pain of their parent's failures. It's all so human!
Each child comes into this world as a unique human with a whole private inner world all of their own. This private internal world forms without the developmental milestone of reasoning that happens around 5 years old… in other words, we just make up a bunch of stuff about the world and why things are happening. Then this becomes the lens through which we see and perceive ourselves, our relationships, and the world around us. Wild right?!? It also explains why so much of what and how we see is whackadoodle, even if we get lucky, and it works out sometimes.
Back to this notion of a private inner life… inside each of us is a wholly subjective world that no one, I mean NO ONE, can know. Thank God, right?!? Ha! Two crucial consequences come from this: 1) we can't know anything about another person's inner world unless they tell us, and the same is true in reverse, 2) we often assume other people's inner worlds are a lot like ours, and we assume ours is right. Ever feel confused by how another person sees a situation? That's likely because you assumed the way you see it is THE way to see it.
Revisiting the inevitable failure in parenting, unless our children communicate what they need, who they are, and how they feel, it's just a crap shoot that we'll actually meet them there. Okay, ready for the next cruel joke… when children do try to tell us what they need, who they are, and what they feel, we often try to talk them out of it, minimize them, or otherwise disregard what they tell us. This is especially true if what they share is uncomfortable or challenges our worldview in any way. Oy vey!
These beautiful creative, wounded children grow up into adults that still don’t know what to do with their unmet needs, have funky ways of trying to get them met, and perhaps even feel confused about what those needs are and if it’s okay to have them. As a result, the counseling process frequently involves unlearning child-derived coping strategies, overcoming confusion, accepting our neediness, learning how to communicate our needs, and healthy ways to comfort ourselves when they can’t be met. At its essence, Inner Resources counseling teaches how to Love and be Loved by other humans. Ready to begin YOUR unlearning, learning, and healing journey? Click here to get started with your free Introductory Session.