The extent to which the relationships we form become stable and satisfying vs. addictive and destructive is largely determined by our own personal development through a maturity continuum from codependence to independence to interdependence.
In essence, this article will answer four questions:
- What are the characteristics of the three stages of the maturity continuum?
- Why are they important with respect to our own individual effectiveness?
- Why are they important with respect to the effectiveness of the relationships we form with others? - With particular emphasis on romantic relationships.
- What can I do to progress through the maturity continuum to maximise my personal and interpersonal effectiveness?
Co-dependence (0+0=0)Co-dependent relationships arise when two people form a relationship with each other primarily because neither feels that he or she can “stand alone.” Rather than working on ourselves to cultivate a source of good feelings that is drawn from within (self-esteem) we slip into a state where our sense of self becomes dependant on external (or egoic) factors outside of our locus of control. In this case the need for a partner to provide us with validation, attention or good emotions.
Co-dependent relationships are like 0+0=0. There is virtually no contribution to the relationship from either partner and each partner relies on their counterpart to fill a void from within themselves...
We’ve spent years learning how to read and write and years learning how to speak. But what about listening?
What education or training have we had that enables us to really understand another human being from their own frame of reference, rather than from our own? Or to listen with the intent to understand, rather than with the intent to reply?
Instead, we listen by filtering everything through our own paradigms. We rush in to share our life story, to fix things up with advice or with a neat solution that worked for us but may not necessarily pertain to others.
“Oh, I know exactly how you feel!” we say after cutting them short, “I went through the same thing. Let me tell you about my experience…”
Understand First, Then Be UnderstoodThe single most important principle in the field of interpersonal relations is this: ‘understand first, then be understood’. If you want to interact effectively with me or to influence me, you first need to understand me.
It’s the equivalent of a doctor trying to prescribe treatment without taking the time to really understand the problem first to make an accurate diagnosis. In the same way that you wouldn’t have confidence in his prescription, how can you expect me to take what you have to say seriously when you always cut me short?
If you look at any of the problems you currently face in your relationships, they can always be boiled down to a failure to effectively apply this natural law of interpersonal communication in some way...
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
The recent discovery of a group of neurons in the frontal lobes of the brain have shown that humans are capable of literally adopting another person’s point of view. These mirror neurons allow us to sense and experience another person’s actions, feelings and intentions, irrespective of the words or body language being displayed.
Initial Breakthrough with MonkeysThe initial breakthrough in the discovery of mirror neurons came in the 1980s, when neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolatti, of the University of Parma was exploring the functions of ordinary motor command neurons, using monkeys as subjects. His team monitored the response in the frontal lobes of their brains upon performing a series of tasks, such as reaching for a peanut or banana.
They quickly noticed something surprising - as they picked up a peanut to hand to the monkey, the motor command neurons in the monkey would fire. These were the same motor command neurons that would fire when the monkey itself grasped the peanut...
~ Reinhold Niebuhr (The Serenity Prayer)
In the now infamous study conducted by Dr. Walter Calvert, it was found that only 8% of the things people worried about were actual legitimate matters of concern. The rest comprised of things that either never happened (40%), had already happened (30%) or things that were in some way already out of their control (22%).
While you could argue that adopting an over-pessimistic attitude may give you the motivation to take right action and contribute to the 40% statistic, there is definitely no benefit to be gained from worrying about things outside of your control – and astonishingly these account for over half (30% + 22%) of the things people worried about in the study. That’s a lot of wasted energy that could have been used for something they can control.
In general, someone with a healthy locus of control will only concern themselves with things which they are capable of influencing.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that are outside of our control that many of us tend to struggle accepting the most - and how we can start directing them in a more psychologically healthy way...
-Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Take the following examples:
- We constantly strive towards the ideal body so that we can look and feel good.
- We work towards financial freedom to do or have what we want.
- We try to meet and attract higher quality partners and improve our relationships to form deeper, more authentic connections.
Wrong. These things are not required for happiness. In fact, we would like to propose that happiness is an innate, default state that can be brought to the surface at any moment - regardless of how much (or how little) we have of these things.
Happiness as an Innate, Default StateMany people reading this will be thinking:
“If happiness is already a default state, then why are so many people unhappy? And why does my life suck?”
[quote]…many of us have spent much of our lives learning to be unhappy. We do this by buying into a mental model that is deeply flawed...
There are two mediums through which we can learn something new: first-hand experience and second-hand experience. Touching the stove when you were little and getting burned is an example of learning from first-hand experience. Your science teacher explaining that you cannot jump off a tall building and survive is an example of learning through second-hand experience.
For obvious reasons, learning from second hand experiences is very important. Imagine what it would be like trying to find out for yourself that swimming with a Great White shark would result in you losing your head. Or figuring out for yourself which mushrooms are good to eat and which ones are poisonous (or which ones make you think you can fly!)
Not only does second-hand experience protect us from the dangers of learning first hand, but it also saves us a lot of time.
Social conditioning, however, commonly results in us putting too much trust in second-hand experiences. Many widely accepted social norms are not in our best interest, contradictory and were often created completely arbitrarily. An overreliance on second hand experience kills innovation and reduces efficiency.
Many people walk through life in a walking daze, working and paying taxes and blindly accepting authority as the truth. Before they know it they’ve spent their entire lives as a slave to society allowing their upbringing, the education system, work, the media and advertising to make all their decisions for them (often completely unconsciously) - instead of evaluating things critically to make their own decisions based on their own independent thinking.
What Are Some of the Ways We Have Been Socially Conditioned in Dating?Dating is heavily influenced by social conditioning. The movies we watch in particular implant ideas and we accept that is how things work. Many of these ideas are ludicrous!
Here are just a few that come to mind...
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