This is a time of year when relationships can get strained. It can happen for a variety of reasons. It may be that we are thrust together as a family with the pressure that we ‘should’ be happy and joyful and we’re disappointed that it doesn’t turn out as we ‘expected’ (See January 16, 2011). It may be that merely being together for a longer period of time than usual allows any irritations normally overlooked to become unbearable. Perhaps we then vent our frustration with sometimes disastrous effect. It’s not only family relationships that sometimes falter and it may not happen only at Christmas and New Year. Relationships with work colleagues, bosses and our friends can sometimes become difficult. Perhaps we can’t work out why it is happening. We might look for reasons or excuses or we might ‘blame’ the person with whom we are having difficulty relating. If we resort to the latter we are putting our self in the position of victim. We are saying they are doing something to me which I don’t like. It’s their fault! We absolve our self of all responsibility. The bad news is that, at best, this will be only fifty per cent correct. We need to acknowledge and accept our responsibility in the situation.

How do we so that? Where do we start? Well we first need to look at the primary relationship – the one we have with our self. Sounds stupid? Well it isn’t. It’s the one relationship we are most likely to take for granted and unless we’ve spent time on introspection – done a bit of ‘naval gazing’ – we won’t understand. We perhaps assume that it’s something we can’t do anything about. We might even have the attitude – ‘This is the way I am – if you don’t like it you can lump it!’ or, perhaps, ‘My father/mother was like this and so was his father/mother before him/her. If it was good enough for them it’s good enough for me’! One wonders how their spouses felt about it. Perhaps they kept quiet and live(d) in fear of upsetting them or perhaps not. We also need to look at how like our parents we are. Can you hear one or other of your parents as you speak to your children? Are you repeating the behaviours of your parents? Perhaps you are ‘parental’ towards other adults. (See Blog June 24 2011) It’s OK if our behaviours are positive and in our own best interest but we need to be aware of the possibility of our passing on negative behaviours (See ‘Mirror Image’ Blog 11/09/10 and Philip Larkin’s Poem – ‘This be the Verse’ We need to gain an understanding of our self and raise our self awareness. Being defensive about our behaviour when it is challenged is often a knee jerk reaction and an indication that we have insecurity about it. We’re perhaps not sure our self about it. In which case we need to check it out and get an understanding of it. We then have a choice. If it’s in our best interest we can adopt it as our own rather than something we’ve ‘inherited’ from one or other of our parents, but if it isn’t we can dump it. Either way whenever we are challenged in a similar way again we will respond with confidence and in a positive manner.

We have been influenced so much by our parents initially and then by other significant adults, organisations media etc.. We are all different – even children of the same parents. Do you have brothers and sisters? Are they older, younger, are you the oldest or youngest or somewhere in between? Were you an only child? Each will have quite different perspectives of their parents and, as a result, life in general. Were your parents able to express their love and affection towards you? How was it expressed? Were there plenty of hugs and kisses or were you left to your own devices? Perhaps your parents had difficulty in expressing emotion and gave you material things as a substitute. Did you feel loved? Did you feel valued and appreciated? Did you get what you needed? We need to be realistic about the parenting we experienced, to be honest about it, not in order to beat our parents up but to recognise that they were doing the best they could knowing what they knew. Then, we need to recognise the aspects of our experiences which could have been better or with which we could have done without. It is impossible for parents to give their children everything they need so it is important to recognise what you didn’t get but would have liked to have had. It’s not too late you can now give it to yourself and to your children. You can learn to love, appreciate and value yourself.

The better we understand our self the better we understand others. As a result there will be changes and then we may be amazed to see that others whom we know well or meet also appear to change. It may be that they appear to change because we now see them differently or it may be that they change their attitude towards us in response to the ‘new me’ or, it may be a combination of both. Whatever our perspective of life it will change and the horizon will broaden. This concept isn’t new, Socrates the Greek philosopher (c. 469 BC – 399 BC) spoke of the concept of ‘knowing oneself’. If you are interested in finding out more you can find a very clear and simple explanation at –