We often hear how important family is to our health and well-being, especially when we are ill or depressed. However, what do you do when you find that a family member only brings heartache and stress into your life?
Archive for the ‘Personal Growth’ Category
Empathy is the glue that bonds people in an intimate relationship. When there is an empathic connection, people feel understood, they feel seen. Empathy is not the only way for people to bond, but it is necessary for an intimate connection. Bonding over a common activity or common experience may foster a connection just as doing something for someone else might engender gratitude or appreciation. But in order for there to be intimacy, empathy is required.
Human beings are an odd lot. We are easily embarrassed, we are seldom content, we always want more of something, we often feel that someone else is better than ourselves, and we often wish we were someone else. I doubt that a cow ever wished it were a giraffe. I cannot imagine an elephant wishing it were a tiger. Animals seems to be content with who they are. They simply strive to be the best that they can be. Human beings, however, often wish they were someone else. They wish they were prettier, taller, shorter, younger, older, richer, smarter, faster; they seem constantly comparing themselves with someone else and come up short.
I remember reading the classic work of Victor Frankl, MD, the psychiatrist who, after spending six years as a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camps, wrote Man’s Search for Meaning. In it, Dr. Frankl comments that many of the prisoners fell into a state of despair upon realizing that may never be free again. Their sense of helplessness and hopelessness was so overwhelming that they began smoking the cigarettes that were used as a medium of exchange to obtain small amounts of additional rations from their captives. They had simply given up. Others, like Frankl, maintained their sense of identity, their sense of hope and possibility, and were able to find meaning for themselves even under horrendous circumstances.
When I was a graduate student in clinical psychology in the 1960s, psychologists were practicing along the lines of the medical model where the focus was on the treatment of diseases. During that period, the renown psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger, founder of the world famous Menninger’s Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, published a groundbreaking book entitled The Vital Balance, in which he proposed that mental health practitioners should put more emphasis of strengthening the healthy parts of an individual’s personality rather than exclusive focus on the psychopathology. This was a marked departure from the then current emphasis. Around the same time, Dr. Abraham Maslow, a psychology professor at Brandeis University and founder of the human potentials movement, in is book, Toward a Psychology of Being, decried the emphasis on psychopathology and stressed the importance of emphasizing the potential for self-actualization inherent in all people.