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Healing Through Relationships

April 5, 2011

Today on Calvary Comments, we’d like to introduce the unique perspective of a new guest blogger who plays an integral role at Calvary. Therapist Angela Fowler-Hurtado, LICSW, LCSW, meets with women at Calvary twice each week.

For women who come to Calvary with histories of abuse and trauma, developing meaningful relationships with their case manager, therapist, and even other residents, is often an important part of the healing process. The intimate size of Calvary’s programs encourages this essential building block to independence and stable, healthy living. Read on for Angela’s take on what makes these relationships so important:

Relationships are so complex.  Not just relationships with significant others or close family members but even the connections we form with friends, people at work, or people who become part of our lives for a time.  For better or worse, we are relational beings.

In the early years of life we are utterly and completely dependent on our caretakers for survival.  Throughout childhood we join with siblings and peers in play.  In adulthood, we often become part of various communities through work, social settings and intimate relationships.  Research has shown that when we have safe, healthy relationships in our lives, our general well-being is better.

But what about the challenging aspects of relationships?  They are certainly not always easy and none seem to be free of the potential to experience frustration, confusion, or pain.  If relationships are natural to us, why can they be so difficult?

In all kinds of relationships we tend to bring expectations: expectations for how we will be treated and whether or not others are safe.  These expectations begin to form in our earliest years and are adapted and molded throughout our lives based on the experiences we have with others.  When we have experienced love, encouragement and patience from others, we tend to expect these things again.  When we have been mistreated, hurt, or betrayed, we may have difficulty trusting others and may expect to be hurt again.

As a psychotherapist, I find that the deepest wounds people carry are those that are relational in nature, experiences of being abused, betrayed, rejected or neglected.  These wounds tend to make it extremely difficult to trust again.  A person who has experienced any of these things can often seem irrational, reactive, anxious and difficult.  Others around this person can feel frustrated or annoyed when their attempts to connect are not fully received.

But rather than give up or react in our own frustration, I find it can be most helpful to try to remember that each person brings the complexity of their past and present into every interaction, to even the simplest of relationships.  I may not know what experiences another person is carrying with them, but I do know that we all benefit from safe, positive relationships with others.  So, if I can take a breath and find a small amount of patience, I can extend the love and encouragement that every single one of us needs, the essence of safe relationship.  I may even unknowingly help another person along their journey of healing by extending to them a positive relational experience to carry with them into the next stage of their life.

To learn more about Angela’s work, visit www.thespacebetweencounseling.com.

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