Melissa Allen

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Why so much focus on relationships?

So I say that I am a Psychologist who “works with individuals, couples and families to strengthen their relationship with themselves and those they love” but why are relationships my focus?
Well when I really examine life in its barest form, as humans we are mammals – pack animals, tribal animals. We exist and thrive in healthy relationships. We don’t fare well without them.

When we are in healthy relationship with ourselves we are attuned to what our body, mind and spirit needs.  What the hell does that mean?
Well, when we are in relationship with our own physical body, we actually notice the body signs that signal to us our basic human needs. We notice our hunger pangs, our yawns, our body sensations and pains and make healthy decisions to nurture ourselves with sleep, shelter and food (and whatever else – massage, warm baths etc) until we feel satiated and nurtured.

When we are in deep connection with our own emotional body we notice and acknowledge our own feelings and thoughts (whether it’s happiness, anger, excitement, fear, sadness, disgust or shock) and we give ourselves time and attention, self compassion and self care to feel supported through all these states and understand them. When we are in healthy relationship with ourselves, we allow the vulnerable parts to be there in the same way that an attentive parent may mindfully tune in and respond to a child in whatever discombobulated state they are in.
In doing so, we say to ourselves “I see my feelings, it’s ok that I feel that, and I’ll stay with this feeling until it passes OR What can I do to support myself to be with this feeling and nourish myself?”

When we are aware of and in connection with our spiritual needs (I use the term “spiritual” very loosely here to indicate the stuff of life that gives us a sense of purpose and meaning) similarly we work at becoming aware of our core values and living aligned with those values. This means seeking out and engaging ourselves with activities, people and places that fill us with a sense of meaning and purpose.
Mental (and physical) health issues can arise when we aren’t listening to or cannot tolerate what our physical, emotional or spiritual body is telling us.

This same formula extends to our relationships with others.
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When it comes to being in relationship with others, conflict often arises between people when the relational needs aren’t being addressed or acknowledged. We may each have unmet needs and challenges with communicating those needs in productive ways. We may not have the “emotional literacy” to share our feelings and needs with ourselves let alone with someone else! We may not have a road map (from the family we were born into) that equips us with the tools for healthy connection and communication.

While that may well be the case, the fact is we live in relationship to others and the health of these relationships impact us immensely.
We are each connected to a network of people and together we form a finely balanced system.
The way the system operates can be illustrated clearly by just looking at how the parts of a hanging mobile over a baby’s cot function. Each part of the mobile is connected to each other part even though they are individual elements in and of themselves. Similarly, each human is interconnected and influential in the lives of the others in the system even though we are distinct and separate identities.

When there is a change in one member, the whole system repositions itself around it. Similarly, when you bump or influence just one piece of a baby’s hanging mobile, the whole mobile gets impacted and needs time to reset and rebalance around the movement of just one piece.
Every person is so intricately connected to others. No one exists in isolation. Every relationship is impactful – and changes in just one person, forces powerful shifts in the whole relational system of the people connected to them.

By definition, being in healthy, intimate, authentic relationship with oneself and those we are connected to really inspires wellness. It’s really where it all starts. This breeds more opportunity for wellness within our families and our communities.
This is why relationships are my focus. It is such potent and important work. I feel honoured to do it with you.

Warmly on Wednesday,

Mel

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