Applying the Principles of Health Relationships

As you read these blog posts, please do your very best to temporarily suspend your reflex to find things to disagree with (speaking from experience, I have a very strong disagreement-reflex). That is not to say every reader needs to agree with me. That would be ridiculous, and according to the post that follows, completely counter productive. Instead this is about us practicing the principles of healthy relationship.


Consider how different the political dialog between Republicans and Democrats would be with just one simple change: that they listen first for -- and respond to -- what they agree with before moving on to disagreement.



A sign on my office wall reads, “It is useless to be judgmental of judgmental people.” This one, like all of my therapeutic one-liners, is not there just to enlighten my clients. It is there first to remind me of my own tendency toward arrogance. I frequently need to be reminded that fundamentalism is not just a word to describe people who don’t think like I do. Any of us can fall into the trap of fundamentalist thinking. In fact, I have a good friend whom I call a fundamentalist hippie. You know, “peace and love, you idiot.”


This kind of “I’ve got the answers and you don’t” arrogance is troubling enough at the level of personal relationships, but becomes treacherous for us all in the bigger context of national politics and even global relationships. And a fundamentalist hippie is no more helpful than a fundamentalist warmonger when the challenge is to solve our nation’s problems.


Whether the context is a personal relationship or something much bigger like the dysfunctional relationship between our two primary political parties or global relationships between nations, the dynamics are the same. The same psychological principles that apply to you and me apply to the world at large. This is an excellent time for us all to be reminded of this. It is always an excellent time for us all to be reminded of this.


Let’s consider a few sound principles of healthy relationship that we tend to believe at the level of personal relationship, but tend to forget or deny in the larger context of national politics and global relationships.


1. Seldom, if ever, is one person always right about everything.


2. It is as important, if not more so, to listen to what others are saying than it is to insist that you be heard.


3. Black and white, all or none thinking is restrictive to problem solving and is often dangerous to the point of destroying potentially healthy relationships.


4. Violence begets violence. (This does not refer only to physical violence.)


5. Diversity is positive and energizing to relationships. Insistence on conformity is controlling and damaging to relationships.


6. Rigidity or fundamentalism creates breaks in relationships. Tolerance and flexibility facilitate healing.


7. Focusing on who to blame does not lead to solutions. Focusing on what each of us is responsible for does lead to solutions. Accepting responsibility is much more effective than assigning blame.


8. An attitude of reciprocity is pivotal to establishing and maintaining healthy relationships.


9. Battles can be won, but problems will not be solved from adversarial positions.


10. Without genuine empathy there will be no healthy relationship.



I don’t claim to have risen beyond my own fundamentalist and arrogant thinking, but I am making progress, and I am committed to working toward that very worthy goal, because I believe that the changes that are needed in our nation and in our world must begin with the basic building block of community: the individual.



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