Here is a guest piece, written by licensed marriage and family therapist Shannon Strull. You can learn more about her by visiting Shannon’s page on our website.
I believe relationships are our richest resource for happiness and spiritual growth. I believe it is in relation to others that we discover who we are. We begin life in symbiosis, while in the womb we are nourished and protected, all without any effort on our part. The moment the umbilical cord is severed, we begin our remarkable journey toward independence. Although we are designed to grow to be self-sufficient, we are also created to seek loving connection with others. These connections can be as vital to our well being as oxygen to our lungs. This pull and push of togetherness versus autonomy is where many of us experience so much pain, especially when we shamefully isolate ourselves: E.g., “I can do it by myself”, or “no one would ever understand.” In families or couples it sometimes looks like “we solve our own problems” or “we don’t go outside our marriage for help.”
Our earliest relationships are so important to our growth and future wellbeing. They provide us with information about who we are and who we might become. There are many theories about how our early childhood experiences can shape us for life. Does that mean that those of us who experienced neglect or abuse in childhood can never be happy, healthy loving adults? I think not.
The happiest people I know have three things in common, (1) they all have faith that they were created by a being/higher power that loves them unconditionally; (2) they practice an “attitude of gratitude;” and (3) they take responsibility for finding their own happiness.
What is an attitude of gratitude? It is training our minds to look for and appreciate the blessings in our life. I recently saw the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” and while it is not for everyone (rated “R” and rather gritty and graphic) I came away with a profound sense of gratitude for the standard of living we enjoy in America and am especially appreciative of how our society provides for neglected and orphaned children.
When we take responsibility for our own happiness, it means no one can bring us down with their bad mood. This requires establishing healthy boundaries that allow for us to empathize with others while staying within our own skin and choosing our own thoughts and mood.
I could write a book about this and there would still be much left to be discussed. So, if you wish to explore your current spiritual/emotional well being or you are seeking change in your relationships, please feel free to schedule an appointment with me. I practice brief, solution focused therapy which can produce results in as few as six sessions.
As we begin 2009 with a new President and the opportunity to set new personal goals for ourselves, I wish for all of us: a profound sense of gratitude for what we already have, for a renewed sense of hope for our future as a nation and may we never stop seeking those loving connections that we are created for.