Relationships are the heartbeat of our lives. How do I know this? When they are not working as we desire or when our investments seem to not yield the outcome that we anticipate, our worlds are often shaken.
Recently I had a client whom I only had the opportunity to speak with on one occasion. She shared with me she had taken the bold step to shut others out of her life for the past few months because she was disappointed with the inactions of a very close friend who was “refusing to get her life in order.” My client felt her friend’s stance was too much to handle and, coupled with being disappointed by a multitude of other people, she believed her best recourse was to disconnect from everyone and turn inwards to be her own strength and support system. She was adamant that this decision was for the best, that she loved the space she was in, and that it was imperative that she remained on this pathway for a while. And yet, here she was sitting in my virtual office. She was numb, frustrated, and preoccupied with the failings of another human being. I believe she may have made the decision to return to her former therapist when I mentioned how difficult it is to exist outside of community.
The truth is we are born to not only survive but to thrive within the context of relationships. In May 2016 report dubbed, “Relationships in the 21st Century”, the United Kingdom’s Mental Health Foundation shared quite explicitly on the important value that relationships add to our lives; including the impact, they have on the very foundation of our mental and emotional well-being. According to the report,
Extensive evidence shows that having good-quality relationships can help us to live longer and happier lives with fewer mental health problems. Having close, positive relationships can give us a purpose and a sense of belonging. Loneliness and isolation remain the key predictors for poor psychological and physical health. Having a lack of good relationships and long-term feelings of loneliness have been shown by a range of studies to be associated with higher rates of mortality, poor physical health outcomes, and lower life satisfaction.
So if relationships are intrinsic to the human experience, what makes adequately fostering them, engaging them, and maintaining them so arduous?
Having worked with clients in this arena for the past six years, and even more extensively with couples for the past four, I am inclined to believe that one of the greatest threats to relationship building is our own internal or intra-personal conflict. Most of us are so affixed at resolving conflict, fixing relationships external to us that we keep missing the truth, that our capacity to show up fully and authentically with others is squarely contingent on both our ability and willingness to do so with self, first.
There are a few culprits that I have found to be invariable relationship wreckers that we hardly ever give credence to, as they function exclusively at the subconscious level. One of them has to do with our core beliefs. I often joke with clients when I share with them concerning this concept, that it is synonymous to our skeletal frame. No one, barring orthopedic specialists, wakes up each morning thinking about the bone structures of humans, and yet, in the absence of our skeletal system, we all would cease to exist.
So what then are core beliefs?
Core beliefs refer to the deeply-held beliefs we hold about ourselves, whether right or wrong. They are often formulated during childhood by how we were socialized and reinforced by our experiences as we grow older. Core beliefs influence the way we view ourselves, how we interpret our experiences, the perspectives we hold of ourselves in relation to others, and the manner in which we show up in relationship with others. The best analogy I could give of core beliefs is the lenses through which we view life. Imagine two individuals, each donning a pair of transparent glasses and darkly tinted glasses, respectively. Both are looking at the same scenery and are required to give a report of their observations. Though both are likely to share similar observations, the details will be different. Invariably the person wearing the transparent pair of glasses would be able to provide more details and a different perspective based on his capacity to see clearer.
How we view ourselves can significantly put limits on our ability to function well in relationships. If we perpetually see and think of ourselves as incompetent, unattractive, ugly, boring, not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, weak-minded, too fat, too short, too skinny, too ugly, unworthy, undeserving, abnormal, a bad person, stupid, and unlovable, what real chance do we have of showing up fully in any relationship with another individual? How we think about ourselves ultimately affects how we feel about ourselves and it is from this place where decisions are often made.
What I have adopted as part of my counseling repertoire to addressing relationship conflict is a two-pronged approach; one that not only addresses the emergent issue between the individuals, but also the core beliefs held by each individual within the relationship. By identifying, assessing, and addressing your own negative core beliefs, you give yourself a better opportunity to show up as a healthier you in relationship with you first and then with others. It is important that you explore the source of these thoughts, how long they have been around and what continues to maintain them, the patterns they continue to give rise to in your relationships (check your relationship history and note what has led to previous break-ups, distancing or conflict), and how they continue to make building and maintaining healthy relationships a difficult process.
It is also important that you make a note of these negative core beliefs and adopt a strategy for debunking and replacing them with healthier views of yourself. Reading pertinent books, listening to podcasts and videos, journaling your thoughts, embracing affirmations, and even praying and applying scriptures concerning those areas you find yourself struggling in, are a few effective steps you can begin taking today to promote your own change. If speaking with a professional to help you work through some of these concerns will prove beneficial, I would certainly encourage it.
About The Guest Blogger
Georgia A. Bryce is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Professional Development Coach and owner of the private practice, Building Families According To Pattern, LLC, located in Hollywood, Florida. She provides therapeutic support to children and families, couples and individuals, as well as, wrap-around care for recovering alcoholics and substance abusers. Ms. Bryce is a passionate advocate for raising mental health awareness among stakeholders.