Guidelines for Healing Relationships
By Bob Murray, PhD
Truly supportive relationships bring out the best in us, and creating a "tribe" of supportive people around you is the key to healing mood disorders, emotional problems and childhood trauma.
So how do you know whether your connections to others are healing, those--based on your real emotional needs--or problematic, reflecting your difficult or abusive childhood?
Eight Danger Signs
- You feel criticized or whatever you do for the other person, it's never enough.
- You argue about things that don't matter.
- You don't share the same worldview or belief system.
- You feel guilty a lot of the time.
- You feel afraid to ask for what you really want.
- You quarrel over who does what.
- Nothing seems to change, even after you've talked about issues.
- You feel pessimistic or hopeless about you and/or the relationship.
If some or all of the above ring true to you, it's time to give your relationships a makeover.
Five Healing Actions
- Never criticize or accept criticism. There is no such thing as "constructive criticism:" Like abuse, criticism is always about power.
- Instead of talking about what one of you did wrong, work out concretely what you need the other person to do or not to do. Be sure not to use generalizations like "I need you to love me," but specific actions such as "I need you to hug me when I come home." Stated in this way, your needs help to set boundaries and, if agreed to, become the "rules" of the relationship.
- Talk together often about your beliefs and goals and find out what you have in common.
- Assign each of you clear roles and be very specific about who does what when.
- Develop a set of bonding rituals that are particular to the relationship.
Every time you use one of these tools you are telling your brain that you are a worthwhile person. And, in a short time, you'll have a relationship network that supports you in ways a real tribe was meant to.
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About the Author
Dr Bob Murray is a widely published psychologist and expert on emotional health and optimal relationships. Together with his wife and long-term collaborator Alicia Fortinberry, he is founder of the highly successful Uplift Program, and author of Raising an Optimistic Child (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and Creating Optimism (McGraw-Hill, 2004).
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