Our new President-Elect talks a lot about “bringing us together as a nation.” That implies that we know how to relate to one another in a unifying manner. However, most of us are not very skilled at creating enriching relationships.
Many of us take pride in our sense of independence. We believe ourselves to be separate from others. We often use our sense of "being different" as a protection against being disappointed, hurt or abandoned. We believe "my needs are different, so I don’t belong" in a group, community or network. Sometimes we feel we don’t belong even in our own families.
If we grew up in frightening, hostile or troubled families, we begin to withdraw from others in our family. We seek emotional safety by mentally dividing the human species into two different categories…me and everybody else. In our minds and in our behavior, we isolate ourselves from others. We decide we are special and everyone else is different, inferior or even dangerous. Herein lies the root of racism. We fear and fail to recognize we are of one species…human.
Buddha once said, "In separateness lies the world’s greatest misery." Theologian Paul Tillich wrote, "Sin is separateness." Therapist Wayne Muller writes, "As we close ourselves inward, we create a sphere of safety that becomes smaller and smaller until it has room enough only for ourselves, removed from anything or anyone who could ever love us, from anyone who would touch, caress, or heal us."
When we habitually isolate ourselves from others, our relationships become psychologically bankrupt, empty of any kind of emotional richness. Such relationships die, and their deaths seem to prove to the "loner" that he or she is indeed different, separate and alone.
How can we enrich our relationships? First, we need to recognize, whether we like it or not, that we are all interdependent. We are each individuals, yes. Nevertheless, we depend on others for food, shelter, transportation, clothing, music, entertainment, need fulfillment, even life and breath. Each of us is woven into a delicate fabric of interdependence.
After we realize our interconnectedness, we need to make what Stephen Covey calls "emotional deposits" into those relationships. We need to balance our relationship accounts by not withdrawing more than we deposit.
Covey, in his book, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, describes five types of emotional deposits and their counterparts, emotional withdrawals. The first is Kindness vs. Unkindness. Every act of kindness is a nourishment to a relationship. Every unkind act is a poison.
The second is: Keeping Promises vs. Breaking Promises. Trust is based upon promises kept. Relationships break when trust is violated through broken promises.
The third is: Honoring Expectations vs. Violating Expectations. Healthy relationships are based upon mutual expectations. We need to respect the expectations we have of ourselves, and honor the expectations others have of us. When we violate others’ expectations, the relationship becomes weakened.
The fourth emotional deposit is Loyalty. Its counterpart is Duplicity. Loyalty is exemplified when we speak well of others when they are not present. Duplicity (being "two-faced") for example, is when we speak well of others when they are present, and negatively about them when they are absent. Friendships thrive with loyalty, die with duplicity.
The final emotional deposit/withdrawal to relationships is Apologizing vs. Pride. Recognize we all make mistakes. When you or another makes mistakes, apologizing sincerely and forgiving completely is a huge emotional deposit. If we are so insecure and pride-full, we never apologize, we make an equally huge emotional withdrawal from the relationship.
Daily practice of making emotional deposits in all your relationships will make you one very rich person. Your life will become filled with emotional health, abundance and delight. And without fear, perhaps you will contribute to "unifying us as a nation."
Copyright © 2009 Lloyd J. Thomas PhD. All Rights Reserved.