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Mental Health Awareness Month: Recognizing Patterns of Relating

Mental Health Awareness month lands in the month of May. A month commonly known for its major holiday of Mothers’ Day being celebrated by many. Noticing early relationship patterns with caregivers in infancy and childhood influencing behavior later in life has always been an important concept in psychotherapy. We often underestimate the power of the past in how we manage and see things in the present. One of the best ways to improve our mental health is to increase the quality of our relationships with people we interact with. One of the best ways to improve relationships with others is to increase self-awareness of what this relationship does for us based on similar relationships in the past. This can be done by asking ourselves a few questions. 

The first is: What has my relationship been like with my early caregivers growing up? Were your parent(s) absentee most of the time? Were they abusive or neglectful in any way? Answering these questions will help us determine the nature of what we tend to seek in relationships in the present. We often treat and view other people as other people from the past that have been or would be important to us. In psychodynamic psychology this is called transference. The more we recognize transference, the more we are able to set better boundaries in our relationships where they need to be. 

The second question is: How well can I place myself in other peoples’ shoes? This may sound cliche, but too many times people fall into trouble in their relationships with different people due to them not being empathetic of the other. Being able to stop yourself and ask “how will what I’m about to say or do affect them?” or “how did I feel when someone has done or said this to me in the past?” Answering these questions will help us become more self-aware in the moment we are in an interaction with someone. 

The third and final question would be: How is my relationship with myself? You might be wondering why this is asked if this is about us relating to other people. In order for us to relate to others optimally we have to take time in self-reflection to see how we are taking care of ourselves. Are we meeting the needs only we can provide for ourselves or are we too dependent on other people? Do we like ourselves? If not, what are some things we can do to change? A

Author: Josiah Woods

May 2024

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