Scientific studies have consistently demonstrated how important our relational life is to our mental and physical health and overall well-being.
It is not primarily the quantity of relationships that determine our satisfaction, but the quality and depth of our relationships, as well as the degree of presence we can bring to our everyday interactions.
There are many relationship configurations. Often overlooked is our primary relationship with ourselves. Next, we have relationships with significant others, friendships, family, co-workers, relationships, pets, nature, and all of the people we come in contact with on a daily basis. All of these configurations are unique and they each have their own dynamic.
What makes for a rewarding relational life?
This is a big question, and it deserves much more than a few words, but the essential ingredient for a deep and rewarding relational life is: you! Are you able to show up in your relationships, and to speak your truth? Is your true self active and in the foreground in your interactions, or, do you feel that you have to be inauthentic in order to get your needs met, and to not "rock the boat"?
If your authentic presence can be expressed in relationships, your relationships will be full of intimacy, vitality, and meaning. Of course, the authentic presence of the other must also meet you in this honest ad vulnerable place. Your authenticity will attract, like a magnet, those around you who want to show up in this way, too.
When we express the truth in our relationships, our relationships will come alive. When we're rooted in the present moment, one of its many gifts is that we, and our relationships, feel more real and substantial.
How can we be authentic in our relationships?
The most important requirement is that we tell the truth both to ourselves, and to others in our relationships. This act of simply telling the truth is the means by which we engage our authenticity. The "truth" is nothing mysterious, but is the actual reality that is immediately in front of us: it is our actual experience of ourselves, the other, and the relationship. For us to tell the truth we must first be aware of what is happening inside of us: for example, our true needs, desires, impulses, curiosities, feelings, insecurities, sensations, wounds, reactions, and so on.
When we find clarity in what our experience is, we then have the opportunity to express and relay this clarity to whoever we are interacting with. It's a risk to be clear about our own experience due to the fact that it sometimes reveals a truth that is hard to see. It may also nudge us closer to seeing that we have to take a particular action. But it's a risk always worth taking, because if we decide to deny, dismiss, or minimize our truth, we will end up cutting ourselves off from our own authenticity, which will result in a feeling that we are not having the kind of relationships we want.
For the vast majority of us, our early conditioning from childhood thwarted our authentic self
This is because, to a greater or lesser degree, of perceiving the environment in some way to not be supportive of, or equipped to handle, our authentic self. The result of this the creation of a "false self". The need to create a false self, which is a self that is activated to psychologically (or sometimes physically) protect ourselves, is a brilliant, adaptive response of our biological organism to an inadequate environment. It was absolutely necessary for us to navigate our situation in this manner. Today, however, it will limit us because we will be operating from a mode of being that doesn't actually reflect who we really are, but rather who we needed to be in the past.
We might not know that it's safe today to bring our real self forward, because we never had our true self welcomed and celebrated. This is where so-called "corrective experiences" become an invaluable resource, which is something that therapy, with a trusted therapist, can help us with. A corrective experience is essentially the introduction of a new, positive experience that changes our perception of what relationships, and what the world, can be. We learn, "Oh. There are really people who genuinely appreciate and love me for who I am".
We shouldn't reveal our authenticity or vulnerability to those who we don't trust. The people we decide to let into our world must earn our trust, including a therapist. Therapists should also demonstrate their own authenticity, and capacity to be vulnerable, so that therapy becomes a collaborative process where honesty, transparency, and mutuality are core principles.
Authentic and genuine people exist and are seeking each others' presence!
Once we get a taste for true authentic relating, or continue to deepen our existing relational capacities, the satisfaction and fulfillment that we can experience are so profound that we can never go back to inauthentic relating. Our life will open up and expand in new and exciting ways, and opportunities for personal and relational growth will readily present themselves.