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Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Bravery of Relationship

People are messy.
When I'm asked about my theoretical foundation for therapy, that's my answer.  I'm not being trite.  People are messy, they do the best they can, and they show up with all their strengths and weaknesses if they do truly show up. And by them, I of course mean us.  All of us.

Psychologist David Snartch, an author of some really interesting books on relationship, talks about the tension between our desire for intimacy and our ability to tolerate it.  We want to be known, then flinch at the nakedness that involves.  It's hard to both preserve our tender egos and reveal our tender souls.  Thus relationship become the crucible where self becomes fully formed.  But crucibles are fiery and dangerous by nature, and in fear we withdraw to protect.

"A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for", said William Shedd.   By taking the risk to stay present even when we fear our whole self will not be loved, we can reach depths in relationship that unavailable in solitude.  By taking the time to show our throats when we are scared and to deeply listen when we are tender, our hearts and souls can grow.

There is a reason for metaphors referring to the bonds of relationship.  Ties that bind us can provide safety even as they engender responsibility and discomfort.  We get connection, and it does come at the cost of staying seen and close.  Sometimes that can feel like too much.  But there is nothing like sharing a history with someone who has been there for you, warts and all; someone who has seen you at your worst and still remembers your best.  All of it is truly a difficult bargain.   We can try to be a rock, but we long for water, and relationship can slake our thirst.  Our job is to tolerate the discomfort of being whole with another.  I think the payoffs are worth it.


Anonymous said...

zing! A most timely post as I struggle to understand the apparent demise of a friendship of over 20 years. I will sit with your words and invite them to guide me. Thank you, Jana.

Jana Svoboda, LCSW said...

I read once that sometimes we hang on to friendships long after they serve us. I think for the most part the opposite is true as much-- we stop serving them or working on them and lose them prematurely. But all we can do is our part-- let our hopes and needs and appreciation be known, ask questions, try. Sometimes it's not our stuff at all, even though the other thinks so. I remember a woman telling me about ending a friendship when her friend had a child. To support her decision she made up all kinds of things and highlighted others about why this made sense. She knows this only in retrospect. It was only after some time and distance she realized her decision was really about her own pain re infertility. She also understood what she had lost in that friend. So-- of course--it's complicated. Sometimes we do need to take a break, sometimes we just need to be a lot more honest with ourselves about our behavior, or with the other about what isn't working, and sometimes we just have to scrutinize our assumptions. Even with all that, we only get half-say about whether it works out. Wishing you a peaceful heart,

Mitey Mite said...

This truly is an elegant, compelling, beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it.