Understanding Yourself to Better Understand Others
Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation
by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.
Sometimes when you have strife with other people, the problem is not so much that you do not understand them, as you do not understand yourself. In his book “Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation,” Dr. Daniel J. Siegel discusses the importance of looking inward to better understand your approach to relationships.
What are some of the factors that might cause you difficulty in your relationships? A lot of it has to do with what you expect or require from others. Growing up those closest to you teach you, often unconsciously, how to engage with, or seek affection from other people. If the relationships with these people are problematic, it sets you up to perpetuate these faulty methods of interacting with others. This is why Siegel is so adamant that people look inward to understand their interrelational problems. You cannot fix others, but you can make an effort to fix yourself.
Psalms frequently reiterates the theme of meditating on the word of the Lord as a method of self-examination. Consider the example of Psalm 119:59, “I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to your testimonies.” Use this precept as a guide as you consider your own approach to relationships, and what that reveals about you.
How to Assess Your Relationship Styles
- What are some sources of insecurity in your relationships?
–This can help you understand what disappointments you have come to expect from past partners. Ask yourself why these issues cause you concern, and how realistic they actually are.
- Do you ever find yourself intentionally sabotaging relationships?
–Sometimes people find satisfaction in ending something they expect to fail because it feels less like a failure if it ends on their terms. Nevertheless, just because you expect something to fail, doesn’t mean that it necessarily will. Ask yourself why you expect this relationship to go wrong, and what might be done to encourage its success.
- Do you find yourself in the same situation over and over?
–Repeatedly finding yourself in the same kind of unhealthy relationship is often an attempt by proxy to fix an unhealthy relationship that happened in the past. Say your father was emotionally withholding, through adulthood you may pursue relationships with emotionally distant men in an attempt to prove you can secure love from reluctant sources. The purpose here is to accept that you cannot change the past by repeating it in the future, and figuring out how to make the best of it going forward.
Improving your ability to relate to others improves your personal wellbeing. As Hebrews reminds us, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (10:24-25 NKJV) Humans are essentially “pack animals.” We long to belong. And learning how to create healthy networks with others where we are supported, nurtured, and valued is one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves. As Siegel writes, “The study of positive psychology suggests that being involved in something larger than a personal self creates a sense of meaning and well-being– an essential part of the experience of ‘happiness.’” (259)
Christian Counseling for Unhealthy Relationships
If you find yourself struggling to form healthy relationships with others, consider getting in touch with a professional Christian counselor. Self-analysis is nearly impossible without qualified help. A professional Christian counselor will use biblical principles and therapeutic techniques to help you understand where you go wrong in your relationships with others, and how to correct those tendencies. They will help you to help yourself to better understand yourself, and relate to others.
“Just Me,” courtesy of Dee Ashley, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Couple Sitting Together on Bridge,” courtesy of Image Catalog, FCC Public Domain (CC0) Unsplash.com