Relationships are our feedback loop for change

Relationships are our feedback loop for change November 17, 2014

All of our relationships have constructed our view of ourselves and how we make sense of our world from the day we were born onward. As children and adults we all crave connection and communion with others as a basic need. We all experience stress and negative events in our lives, often at the hands of our relationships. We all learn how to cope and communicate through our relationships in positive and negative ways. Understanding this, it should be no surprise that our relationships are our feedback loop. When we have strong emotional reactions toward others, this is a signal to the self that there is something to learn about ourselves within that particular relationship. Most often the learning has to do with our behaviors (or someone else’s) or how we cope (or do not cope) or what we accept (or do not accept) and usually these learnings connect to how we communicate (or do not communicate). No wonder one of the most significant causes of divorce can be deduced from any of the above to poor communication or lack thereof.

The relationship process and our personal journey begins by way of Nature and Nurture. We are born hard wired with certain personality traits and genetics. We are also born into certain environmental factors that impact us such as how we were parented, our family dynamics, birth order, socio-economic status, education, etc… During our childhood and adolescents Nature and Nurture combine and we process information about ourselves through our experiences with others, along with the variety of environmental factors. We make interpretations, judgments, form beliefs, and expectations before we have the developmental ability to discern. We tend to gain feedback or validation for those beliefs and expectations on a consistent basis through our relationships which reinforces the original beliefs and expectations that may or may not be serving our greater good. By the way, did you know the brain is not fully developed until the age of 25? I know I thought I knew everything by the time I was 25 but I surely know now that I did not. Due to these facts, our unconscious can run on default mode with “0-25 programing”, unless we bring the signals of our strong emotions to our consciousness for reassessment. So, what might be right for some, might not be right for others seems very clear here due to the variety of how a person might learn to be in their world. However, the processes by which our experiences occur are the same for everyone. Might be time for some reassessing if you have a relationship of any kind that is steeped in negativity or discontent.

To take the idea of feedback loops a bit further in our relationships, where there is a strong emotion, whether positive or negative, there is resonance in the other person in one of two ways. Ever hear the phrase –like attracts like or opposites attract? Both are true! We like people who are like us for validation and comradery. We also tend to attract people who are our opposite, in some ways, for the purposes of learning and balancing our emotions or judgments. Keep in mind balancing emotions does not necessarily mean they have to be extreme in order to benefit from balancing. A new way to look at emotions is to consider them to be on a spectrum of sameness with differing degrees, think of a thermometer, with love (warmer in feeling) on one end and hate (cooler in feeling) on the opposite end, or happiness (warmer in feeling) and sadness (cooler in feeling) to it’s opposite. The goal being to integrate and balance the opposites within our conscious and unconscious minds, which happens to be the central developmental process according to Analytic Psychologist Carl Jung. Said another way, the goal is to find the more balanced temperature or emotional degree that leads us to feeling more content.

With regard to our significant other, two people can expect to have been brought together to help each other on their path toward self-growth or what I call personal evolution. This can mean one hundred different things with one hundred different outcomes in the realms of likeness or opposites; none-the-less there is a reason for the strong emotional signals and it’s not just about one person’s learning integration and balancing of opposites. It is both individuals learning within the couple. Personal evolution remains an individual journey but when a couple recognizes this and makes adjustments they can grow closer together as opposed to growing further apart. Even if the outcome is a compromise or amicable divorce there is still personal evolution occurring.

How we make meanings and interpretations either supports us or creates distress. A fair amount of our meanings and interpretations were formed when we were children or adolescents and lacked the finer tuned sense of discernment that hopefully comes with age. By the time we are 25 we’ve already made a lot of meanings and interpretations that may be trivial or not be suited to who we are, or want to be, today yet causing us discontent. Our emotions need not just expression, but balancing and acceptance for our greater good and personal evolution. Otherwise we are left with painful repetitious patterns of behaviors, poor coping, or communication among a series of relationships with each reminding us what we are supposed to be learning but not taking in and adjusting within ourselves. No one is exempt from the human experience of behaviors, relationships, and emotional processing. Ignorance does not change this fact. We are not stuck. We can learn to choose and make new meanings and interpretations. We can form new beliefs and expectations. We can adjust our behaviors, coping, and our communication for our greater benefit. Lessons in life are inescapable and there is a price to pay if we remain closed to learning from others about ourselves through our relationship feedback loop.

Aaron Foster

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