Staying connected to ourselves and others.
This is the task of being human. The ability to be separate and connected at the same time. How do I consider my needs whilst taking into account the needs of another? How do I balance what may be conflicting necessities?
When we set out in the word we are completely dependent, we cannot distinguish between a self and another. It is all one, that is why our primary attachment relationship is so developmentally important-the messages that are conveyed to us through the care we receive are incorporated into the structure of self that we build as we grow.
As we reach adolescence the purpose is to move away from family and to establish our own identity. This can be a complicated manoeuvre as our initial attachment history may not have laid clear enough foundations to allow the pathway to autonomy be constructed.
The complex process of adolescence can throw up great turbulence and may not be completed fully if our attachment history is not secure. I have often reflected through my own therapeutic experience and in my practice that I meet adults who are may be emotionally stuck in a younger self, meaning that the developmental task is incomplete. This often leads to relationships that are enmeshed or people feeling entirely isolated. This is what I mean about the ability to be separate and yet connect. The balance is often askew.
All relationships in our adult lives reflect in some way our formative attachment experiences and inform how we feel we are viewed, the dynamic we are attracted to, how we get our needs met, or don’t.
Intimate relationships are the ones where our developmental deficits are most apparent and where a very significant amount of healing can take place if we allow it. If we can stay present to our own need whilst at the same time being keenly attuned to the need of the other then we form the very strong foundation for a healthy and fulfilling relationship. Listening is the key… to ourselves and the other.
Another way of looking at it is how we form a balance between our care-giving and care-seeking dynamic. In order for a sense of meaning in a relationship there must be reciprocity; I must equally be able to support someone and let them support me. This can be a great challenge within a relationship and one that can also contribute to keeping us out of relationships altogether.