Are we teaching our young people about reality?
6th July 2018
At a time when the nation is either gripped by the World Cup or Love Island, I've been thinking about relationship culture and where it's heading. This week there was a debate on TV about whether young people should be taught in school about relationships and the focus seemed to be, let's teach them 'Men can never be loyal, you will get your heart broken, don't be naive and think someone is trustworthy and that promiscuity is considered cool.' It made me wonder about perceptions of relationship and that generally people are so afraid of it, especially as the divorce rate is so high and we are so addicted to displaying 'the perfect life.'
I'm an inclusive kind of a person, and I'm not one of these people who is going to rant about the shocking things that go on reality television because I like to think we are all responsible for how the culture evolves and I'm open to what's important to younger generations. I get that their relationships are often formed online which makes things about appearances and less about forming an emotional connection and that they are questioning monogamy and experimenting with their sexuality, a bit like they did in the 60's. As a therapist, I allow and include everything that clients bring and meet it with the spirit of curiosity, just as long as nobody is coming to any harm.
I was thinking about my younger clients and what messages do I want them to hear from me about relationships? Unfortunately, I hear a lot of tragic stories of families where there is very little connection, fun and safety. So, I think there is a need to really heal the heart of human relationships and give hope to our young people that to love is a journey worth taking.
So, in response to the question above…I encourage them to believe in love, the kind of love that ignites your being and makes you feel alive and expansive. Where would we be without that?! I encourage them to take the risk of falling in love and to know that every time their heart breaks it grows in resilience and fullness. I invite them to nurture firstly their relationship with themselves and to begin the journey of really exploring who they are as a human being and to notice and be curious about how they are in relationships. I think overall, I suggest to people that they are a lot more than their physical body and that having a six-pack perhaps isn’t as important as feeling healthy and enjoying the odd slice of cake!
I try to look at the kind of relationships that seem to work for them as opposed to the painful process of constantly trying to be something they are not. If they are drawn to ‘bad boys’ or ‘bad girls’ we look at how that serves them and try to make some of their unconscious processes more conscious. If I can support them to strengthen their sense of self and their personal boundaries, then I feel that foundation will serve them to express what is and isn’t right for them. I don’t try to caution or protect them from the inevitable pain of rejection, separation or isolation as I see these as all part of living life, but I try to meet those stories with empathy born out of experience. If they happen to be upset that ‘Adam on Love Island seems to be able to get away with a string of relationships where he says the same thing to every girl’ or ‘How is it that the most popular girl on Love Island is a former stripper?’ I will use that as the basis for a conversation finding out how they feel about that and what judgements they have about it. And I think whatever the culture presents, use it as a source for learning and inquiry. At the end of the day there are choices in relationships and there are consequences and in a way Love Island, whilst not 'the real world' does reflect some truths about our culture. Why is it that the only black contestant, who happens to be stunningly beautiful is the last one to be chosen by the male contestants? I think these are great and relevant conversations for us all to be having so that we can confront things that are often left unspoken and think about how we want to be in the world.
In therapy we look deeply into the shadow of relationships – the projections, the karmic lessons and ‘the work’ that has to be done internally and externally to make a relationship work. This is the kind of work I would do with people who are in a different stage of life and are perhaps ready to reflect and learn more deeply about themselves and what they want out of relationship. But overall the conversation that is often missing is that relationships are an opportunity for growth and learning. Everyone experiments when they are growing up, but very few actually really get the potential out of a relationship. People are drawn together for a reason and this is fertile ground for learning and healing. If you see a relationship as a place to learn then it becomes deeply rewarding even if it has to end one day. There is always a way of finding meaning from the most painful of relational challenges.
There are many ways to relate and levels of relating in our diverse world. Some people need to work on intimacy and sexuality, others need to break co-dependent patterns and reach interdependency. There are many who are yearning to relate more fully to themselves, to community, to the Earth and even to the Divine. For me the beauty of life is that all of these options belong and are valid. Relationship is beautiful with all its ups and downs, relationship is life. When you surrender to what your soul is here to learn, then everything that relationships throw at you becomes fascinating and it all belongs in your life. In other words - 'it's all good.'
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