When considering creating satisfying relationships with oneself and others, I find the knowledge of how relationships work to be of the utmost importance. During my training to become a certified relationship therapist for couples and dyads at the Centre de Relation d’Aide de Montréal, I truly came to understand to what extent this knowledge is a powerful and effective tool. Fortunately, the vast majority of people are able to develop this skill through rational intelligence. This requires, however, that a person chooses to use their self-knowledge to improve their behaviour in a relationship, rather than using it to defend themselves from unpleasant emotions triggered in a relationship. With emphasis on self-worth, in this article I will explore how a relationship therapist can, with their relationship expertise, guide clients to regain power over their lives. By developing self-awareness through CNDA (creative non-directive approach), the client follows the creative change process of Colette Portelance which guides them to make beneficial choices for themselves.
Unsatisfactory functioning occurs when a person reacts to a trigger by adopting a behaviour that is inappropriate to a situation. Awareness of how we function, and especially when triggered by an unsatisfactory situation, is the starting point for wellness, because it is an opportunity to make the choice to react differently. Evidently, changing the way we function requires time, perseverance, self-love, consistency and conscious effort. Functioning is created within relationships and changes within relationships. I would like to share an example from my practice of a client who began changing their functioning.
For confidentiality, I will call this patient Paul. Paul is experiencing distress in the relationship with his daughter. He believes that in order to be loved, he must give without limits. When his daughter, who struggles with a drinking and gambling addiction, calls to ask for money, he agrees to her requests so that he will not lose her love. On several occasions, he has paid his daughter’s debts and helped her find housing. Paul is financially responsible and agreeing to his daughter’s requests causes him financial anxiety. In addition, his daughter’s daily calls about her difficulties cause him to experience stress to the point of interfering with his sleep and affecting his physical health.
Through consultation, Paul has become aware of the discomforts he is experiencing in his relationship with his daughter as well as his inability to help her change. Therapy has helped him become aware of the fear of losing his daughter to suicide if he sets limits. Over time, Paul has come to understand that his functioning, trying to save his daughter for fear of losing her, was causing his own health problems because he was not listening to his own needs and limits. This realization taught him how to begin transforming this unsatisfactory dynamic in order to attain self-respect. His first step was to stop lending money. He informed his daughter in writing that he wished to distance himself from her in order to take care of his health. By writing, Paul was able to fully express his message to his daughter. He reassured his daughter that he loved her and he had to prioritise himself.
In therapy, Paul realised to what extent he was suffering by not satisfying his needs. Paul greatly desired love. I would like to share a defining moment during our last session which demonstrates that Paul is now able to satisfy his need for love by opening his heart. He replaced the functioning which caused suffering with behaviour that makes him feel better because it satisfies his need for love.
I was very moved when Paul, in tears, told me that he had experienced a great absence of love in his life, for in fact 50 years. What touched me the most was witnessing Paul open his heart and give himself what he needed. He was now able to love himself, which brought me great joy because with an open heart, Paul was able to receive my sincere love. Paul managed to accept and heal his lack of love. I am always deeply moved when I witness a person recognise their self-worth. Self-worth is my speciality hence of great importance to me.
I feel immense appreciation to be practising this profession and great appreciation towards Ms. Colette Portelance, founder of the Centre de Relation d’Aide de Montréal.
Unravelling unsatisfactory relational functioning is accomplished string by string, like untangling a ball of yarn before knitting. I am speaking to you, dear reader. In particular, to those currently experiencing a difficult situation with a loved one. Please know that I have the utmost compassion for you if you are in a similar situation. Perhaps you are feeling alone, helpless and powerless? I strongly encourage you to take immediate action, there are resources and support available to help you take the first step. An exterior resource may be a person (friend, family member, neighbour, therapist, etc.), knowledge / learning (via books, video, internet) or financial. An inner resource could be your resilience, patience, determination and courage. Using these resources, how could you initiate concrete change or take a new direction? As in Paul’s experience, is it a matter of stepping back to take care of yourself or to talk about your situation with someone you trust? Do you need to set a boundary with someone? I wish you success in your quest for well-being.