Humans are relationship seeking
As human beings we are social animals and relationship seeking. This is encoded in us as part of our species’ survival strategy. As babies, we need to secure enough relationship with our primary caregivers to meet our survival needs. As humans of any age, we need positive and healthy relationships to thrive.
At a very basic level, this may go some way to explain why relationship difficulties can cause us such great pain and distress – subliminally they represent a threat to our ability to survive and thrive.
Relationship in this sense means much more than a romantic or intimate partnership. It extends to any relationship dynamics – with partners, children, parents, relatives, friends, neighbours, colleagues, bosses – the list goes on. Relationship difficulties can apply to any of these dynamics.
Erskine et al. have identified eight relational needs, which are universal and present at any stage of life.(1) The extent to which we can meet and receive these needs will impact enormously on any given relationship, and also on our felt sense of contentment and satisfaction. The converse is also true – our awareness of a relational need not being met can be experienced as yearning, emptiness, frustration, disappointment or a deep loneliness. The fallout or knock-on effect of relational needs not being met is often wrapped up in the issues that are brought up in therapy, either implicitly or explicitly.
Gaining awareness, resolving difficulties
It may be that you are consciously struggling with a particular relationship. This may be a current, on-going relationship, or a past relationship, which is continuing to cause you upset or a sense of unfinished business. Exploring and understanding the reciprocal nature of relational needs and the impact they have on our well-being can be enormously helpful in resolving both past and present relationship difficulties.
If you would like to know more about relational needs, to explore them in a safe and professional setting, and to discover how they might be impacting on your own relationships, contact Loraine.
Loraine is a Certified Integrative Psychotherapist with the International Integrative Psychotherapy Association (IIPA), of which Richard Erskine is a founder member (link). She has trained in this relational model of psychotherapy and regularly attends IIPA conferences.
(1) Erskine, R.G., Moursund, J.P., Trautmann,R.L. (1999) Beyond Empathy: A Therapy of Contact-in-Relationship. Abingdon: Routledge.