When I talk about relationships, I always include the one we have with ourselves. Sounds a bit strange doesn’t it? Well, if this feels a little confusing and you have never thought about things that way, then I hope this blog will help.
I believe that the relationship we have with ourselves has to be the most important one in our lives. I mean we spend all of our lives with ourselves. It’s the one constant. For me, it is the building blocks and foundations for everything else that follows. But it’s importance is not often realised and I think a lot of the time it is overlooked or dismissed.
Taking care of ourselves can often be viewed as selfish, either by us or by other people. This could bring up guilt when we take time out for ourselves. We are busy wives, mums, daughters, friends, always taking care of others, but when was the last time you took care of yourself?
When we take the time to know ourselves we tend to then know why we think and behave like we do. We know why people or situations push our buttons and we get those wonderful AHA! moments when at last the fog lifts and things gradually become clearer. If we are lucky, people may tell us explicitly how they perceive us, but whooooaaaa this may come as a shock! We may feel angry or hurt when that certain ‘thing’ is not something that we are proud of….‘I’m not like that!’ we may say. Other times people do not tell us and we are confused when relationships go wrong or people move away.
When we know ourselves we recognise when situations or characteristics in other people may generate a reaction within us. I’m not saying these go away, they just become manageable.
The theory behind my belief
So, take John Bowlby for example (another one of my fave’s), he was the father of Attachment Theory. His findings became so important in improving child care provisions and parenting, so in my view it is something that really holds some clout.
He believed that babies form early attachments with caregivers and these were the blueprint for their future life long relationships. Part of his theory was concerned with what he called ‘The Internal Working Model’, which is really the only part I am going to cover here.
So, what is the internal working model?
Mr Bowlby says that this begins to form in early infancy, when the child reacts to the responses from it’s caregivers. It’s rather like an internal picture of what a relationship actually means to us. We all have different ones based on our early interactions. So, it has three elements to it, a model of the self, a model of others and a model of the relationship between self and others. Do you feel maybe you are not worthy of love, or scared that your partner doesn’t love you as much as you love them? Or are romantic relationships just not your thing and you’d rather keep your distance? All these things may not be working for you in relationships right now.
It is called an internal working model because it can change and develop, depending on the relationships we make further on in our lives. So, that’s good news!! Because with some knowledge of self, how we react and how we feel inside, there is then the option of making our relationships healthier.
So, I guess this is getting to know our ‘self’ a bit better. Which is a brilliant thing. Why? Well, it gives us some self-control, knowledge and more importantly – options. However, as we gain this knowledge we may not like what we find….and that’s ok! I guess what I would say is be kind to yourself here! It’s not about ‘I shouldn’t have done that’, it’s about ‘that happened and now I know why, it may not happen again’. The road can be difficult and some things may be painful to acknowledge. These ‘things’ we discover may have helped us in the past and because they have been so good they have now become ingrained. Although right now they are not so helpful. So, with an understanding of ‘self’ we can choose other healthier ways of coping. We can react actively, not passively. We will no longer be a slave to ourselves.
How can I care for my ‘self’
Apart from the understanding part, there is the practical self-care. There are various ways to do this. Some may work for you and some may not. A few I like are:
Therapeutic activities – maybe you like long walks and being surrounded by nature, or maybe mindfulness is your thing. One I quite like is walking barefoot, especially in the sand – it has the feeling of grounding me to the earth.
Be social – meet up with friends, make time for that cup of coffee, that good old fashioned chin wag and that slice of cake!
Physical activity – it is well known now that being physical releases lots of happy hormones and makes us generally feel alive! So, grab those running/walking shoes, take a few tunes with you and head out the door!
Write it down – writing down our thoughts and feelings gets them out of our brains and onto that piece of paper. It helps us with clarity, bit like a dumping ground!
Counselling is a great way to become more self-aware. Sometimes we just don’t see things and a counsellor can help their clients to access their inner world. The client is free from judgement during the process. Hopefully the client will become more comfortable with the new insights and more able to cope going forward.
If this is something that you feel you would like to do, then please get in touch.