The Joy Club member Mary Gorman explores the meanings of relationships and how a “relationship” doesn’t only pertain to romance…
Our relationships are the glue that connects us with life all around us. Often one hears the question being asked; are you in a relationship? The default is to think of a romantic connection. My training as a relationship therapist opened up the complexity of not only emotional relationships with others, but most importantly the relationship with myself; how I can kid myself, and how I can manipulate my relationship.
The longing as a child was to be loved, accepted, encouraged but we wouldn’t have thought of it as wanting or needing a relationship. Being connected to someone, whether that is a parent, sibling, friend, lover etc, each came with expectations; many different e.g. what you would expect from a mother would be different to a lover, friend or a sibling. I now recognise how complex relationships are and it is our expectations of the differences that let us down.
I was fifty when I began the journey into a relationship with myself. As a child growing up in Catholic Ireland there were very strong messages from the Church about the sin of pride. I don’t recall how young I was when this message became deeply embedded in my psyche. On the odd occasion, I would return from school and be feeling good as I had been given some recognition for my work. My mother’s response would be, you should never boast about yourself it will make Our Lady blush leading to the sin of pride. Of course that would have been the mantra she had heard growing up. I recognise now those early messages left me not wanting to think positively about myself.
When I began to explore myself through the internal dialogue I began to understand why I reacted so strongly against criticism but, even more importantly, was my critical tongue towards others. Peeling the layers off at times was painful but as I got closer to myself the understanding behind the behaviour was emerging. I subconsciously wanted affirmation from others and often felt challenged if they seemed to have many positive attributes I felt that I hadn’t. I began the journey of recognising my giftedness which we all have. This brought greater freedom as I could choose to change my reactions and become more comfortable with me. I am still learning new things about myself.
As I was writing about relationships I took a moment to glance outside. The leaves were gently blowing in the wind. A bird perched on a branch was quickly joined by another and a mating dance began. I was drawn to my relationship with nature, something, I only recognised during the many walks that I had taken alone during the first few months of lockdown. There was a blanket of silence covering the earth. The absence of vehicles on the road added very much to this as many worked from home. The pensioners, along with the vulnerable, were only allowed out once a day. This made these precious moments of freedom even more significant. The chattering of the birds enveloping me with wonder, I remember thinking, I would love to know what they are saying to each other.
Before this time I probably wouldn’t have noticed them as I would have been too busy worrying about work or family. The rustle of the leaves created a melody of different noises. The trees were often referred to in staff development with work. The oak would stand for strength and power. The willow tree stood for imagination and intuition. It was only out walking and taking time to draw in their giftedness that this teaching became an experience.
My early morning cuppa in my conservatory drew me closer to the plants in the garden. The beautiful poppies which open up from the slumber of darkness as the day’s tempo moves through time brought a sense of calmness and harmony into the rhythm of peace. In the evening the poppies closed their petals up as darkness descended. The word for this is nyctinasty and I had never heard or observed this phenomenon before. Developing this relationship with nature on a very personal journey felt liberating. We humans need to learn from nature in how to move freely, dance and be at one with oneself.
I believe that the more we develop our relationship with ourselves and understand our reactions and responses it helps us to understand what is happening in our other relationships. May 2023 be the year that you allow yourself to emerge and grow into the amazing person you are.
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