A few weeks ago, Krishan and I were reflecting on what’s made our first 6 months of marriage ‘successful’. We’ve had no major ruffles, even though we’ve both been going through some very challenging times! The secret is – we focus on creating a ‘helping’ relationship. We focus on ourselves, not taking things personally, having compassion – and not ‘fixing’ the other person. There’s so much freedom and empowerment in that.
I love the way Carl Rogers, a famous classical Humanist psychologist, puts it:
How Can I Create A Helping Relationship?
- Can I be in some way which will be perceived by the other persons as trustworthy, as dependable or consistent in some deep sense.
I have come to recognize that being trustworthy does not demand that I be rigidly consistent but that I be dependably real. The term “congruent” is one I have used to describe the way I would like to be. By this, I mean that whatever feeling or attitude I am experiencing would be matched by my awareness of the attitude. When this is true, then I am a unified or integrated person in that moment, and hence I can be whatever I deeply am. This is a reality which I find others experience as dependable.
- Can I be expressive enough as a person that what I am will be communicated unambiguously?I believe that most of my failures to achieve a helping relationship can be traced to unsatisfactory answers to these two questions. When I am experiencing a attitude of annoyance toward another person but am unaware of it, then my communication contains contradictory messages. My words are giving one message, but I am also in subtle ways communicating the annoyance I feel and this confuses the other person and makes him distrustful, though he may be unaware of what is causing him the difficulty.
One way of putting this which may seem strange to you is that if I can form a helping relationship to myself – if I can be sensitively aware of and acceptant toward my own feelings – then the likelihood is great that I can form a helping relationship towards another.
- Can I let myself experience positive attitudes toward another person-attitudes of warmth, caring, liking, interest, and respect?It is not easy. I find in myself and feel that I often see in others, a certain amount of fear of these feelings. We are afraid that if we allow ourselves to freely experience the positive feelings toward another they may trap us. They may lead to demands on us or we may be disappointed in our trust, and the outcomes we fear. So as a reaction, we tend to build up distance between others – aloofness and “professional” attitude, an impersonal relationship.
- Can I be strong enough as a person to be separate from the other? Can I be a sturdy respecter of my own feelings, my own needs, as well as his?Can I own and, if need be, express my own feelings as something belonging to me and separate from his feelings? Am I strong enough in my own separateness that I will not be downcast by his depression, frightened by his fear, nor engulfed by his dependency? Is my inner self hardy enough to realize that I am not destroyed by his anger, taken over by his need for dependence, nor enslaved by his love, but that I exist separate from him with feelings and rights of my own? When I can freely feel his strength of being a separate person, then I find that I can let myself go much more deeply in understanding and accepting him because I am not fearful of losing myself.
- Am I secure enough within myself to permit him his separateness? Can I permit him to be what he is-honest or deceitful, infantile or adult, despairing, or over-confident?Can I give him the freedom to be? Alternatively, do I feel that he should follow my advice, remain somewhat dependent on me, or mold him after me?
- Can I let myself enter the world of his feelings and personal meanings and see these as he does? Can I step into his private world so completely that I lose all desire to evaluate or judge it?Can I enter it so sensitively those I can move about it freely, without trampling on meanings, which are precious to him. Can I sense it so accurately that I can catch not only the meaning of his experience which are obvious to him, but those meanings which are only implicit, which he sees only dimly or as confusion? Can I extend this understanding without limit?
- Can I receive him as he is? Can I communicate this attitude?Or can I only receive him conditionally acceptant of some aspects of his feelings and silently or openly disapproving of other aspects? It has been my experience that when my attitude is conditional, then he cannot change or grow in those respects in which I cannot fully receive him. And when – afterward and sometimes too late – I try and discover why I have been unable to accept him in every respect, I usually discover that it is because I have been frightened or threatened in myself by some aspect of his feelings. If I am to be more helpful, then I must myself grow and accept myself in these respects.
- Can I act with sufficient sensitivity in the relationship that my behavior will not be perceived as a threat?
- Can I free him from the threat of external evaluation?The more I can keep a relationship free of judgment and evaluation, the more this will permit the other person to reach the point where he recognizes that the locus of evaluation, the center of responsibility, lies within himself. The meaning and value of his experience is in the last analysis something, which is up to him, and no amount of external judgment can alter this. So, I should like to work toward a relationship in which I am not, even in my own feelings, evaluating him. This I believe can set him free to be a self-responsible person.
- Can I meet this other individual as a person who is in the process of becoming, or will I bound by his past and by my past?If, in my encounter with him, I am dealing with him as an immature child, a ignorant student, a neurotic personality, or a psychopath, each of these concepts of mine limits what he can be in the relationship.