Monday, July 23, 2018

Smile, It’s Monday: Your Weekly Wake-up Call to Build Meaningful Relationships

A friend is someone who knows 
all about you and still loves you.
--- Elbert Hubbard

It can be very painful when a good friend, a family member or our intimate partner distances from us. 

The more we can detach from this process—the ever-fluctuating social distance in each of our relationships—and recognize it as a theme on our social stage, the more we become what the psychologist Donald Winnicott refers to as a “container” for the emotions of others.

As a container, we provide a micro-environment, a safe space in which we “hold” the emotions of the other person and allow them to experience these emotions more completely.

Sometimes my three-year-old son speaks harshly to me about not wanting me around and just desiring to be with his mother. I try not to react.

Why? He needs to experience both the exhilaration and the anxiety associated with his independence without confusing his emotions with other emotions I would add to the mixture by reacting strongly to his words.

When I instead act as a container for his negative emotions, he is subsequently able to experience other emotions of love and caring—which, fortunately, he also expresses to me.

The same is true for our friends, family members, or intimate partner: the more we can “hold” their emotions that signal a desire for social distance, the more we enable them to feel the emotions they need to experience to evolve as human beings.

Once they gain this experience, they are likely to bridge the social distance and desire to be close to us again.

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Anthony Silard is the president of The Center for Social Leadership, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC and the author of the Simon & Schuster book The Connection: Link Your Passion, Purpose, and Actions to Make a Difference in the World. To receive Smile, It's Monday every other week, enter your email here (1-step only). To support The Center for Social Leadership's Young Leaders Program for disadvantaged youth either directly or through Amazon.com purchases, click here.

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