How to Reconnect

We live, learn, and grow in relation to others. At the same time we experience ourselves and the world primarily through the lens of being a separate self. We strive to develop and express our own subjective viewpoint via our own unique sensitivities and perceptions, but we do not do this in isolation. We need others to reflect our experience in order to develop and maintain a strong sense of self.

We are often unaware of the tensions generated by this paradox, i.e., of simultaneously holding the boundaries of a separate self within a relational field. To develop and stabilize our emerging selves, we need to be able to sustain a strong sense of connection to others, and be able to re-connect after inevitable disruptions. How we represent and negotiate these tensions defines our unique way of experiencing our lives in relation to others.

Challenges to Connection

It is often difficult to hold onto a sense of connection when we do not receive what we need from others. We can feel negated when our needs or desires are not recognized. Our tendency is to immediately negate the other person.

Developing our interdependence and a sense of mutuality in our relationships helps to maintain a sense of connection that can survive the inevitable disruptions. A relationship that has developed its sense of mutuality supports each member in holding their separateness without disconnecting during a disruption.

Tolerating Differences

It is hard to get a perspective on how much we need others to reflect our thoughts and feelings. It is one of the reasons that differences can cause so much reactivity. When people disagree with us or are angry, we lose them as suppliers of our relational needs.

We can learn to tolerate differences when we can temporarily suspend our need for reflection or any other needs we have from others. Recognizing our own needs helps us to contain them ourselves. It is then possible to either express them and get them met in the relationship, or find alternative ways of meeting them. A stable self can maintain its cohesiveness in the face of difference, by being aware of relational needs.

Reconnecting

Clarifying and expressing what we are feeling and what we are needing from the other person is the first step in reconnecting. The second step is becoming aware that connecting to our own needs in relation to the other person connects us to ourselves as well as to the other person.

One way of getting conscious of our relational needs is to ask ourselves what we want from the other person, i.e., what do we want them to understand about what is going on. In this way we bring ourselves into awareness of our relational needs.

Expressing what we need brings us into connection with our own self and with the other person. Obviously we do not always get what we ask for, but expressing what we are feeling and what we need reconnects us.

Conclusion

In a mature relational experience we can feel in connection with the other person and still be aware of our own separate boundaries, i.e., our own thoughts and feelings. Feeling disconnected means losing a sense of contact with the other person, or with ourselves. As we develop skills in holding the tension between our separate self and our feelings of connection, we learn how to experience separateness and difference without disconnecting.

Copyright 2015 TruceWorks