Cultivating Joy In Our Relationships

As we around the world have to get used to an ever-changing landscape of daily life, one aspect of what comes sharply into focus in how relationships tend to need some readjustment.  For most of us, we have settled into routines in our relationships; that could be with our partners, spouses, children, friends and anyone else that we love.  With any relationship, at any time, it is easy to take it for granted and expend less energy on maintaining connection.  This is oftentimes not even an issue, until something happens.  Something like a pandemic, betrayal, loss of life or even just minor inconveniences.  We forget to add a component of intention into our relationships and this causes them to suffer, we get irritated with our spouses when they are working from home, our children don’t pick up their socks or toys during times when they are on school holidays.  Little annoyances can turn into big feuds and hurt feelings and resentments become the norm.

During times like these, finding joy is not just a good idea it is essential; especially in our close relationships.  And to find joy, you have to cultivate it, tend to it and ensure that joy and subsequently love, grow.  We can reconnect with one another and ourselves by taking small steps daily to develop this greater sense of joy. 

Be kind and thoughtful:  Instead of an inward focus on ourselves, being able to focus our attention outward and acknowledge our loved ones helps to make us feel more connected to them.A simple “thank you” or checking in with someone is a simple way to be both kind and thoughtful.

Let go of blame: In our close relationships, we often will become frustrated with our spouses, our children, our parents even our friends when they fall short of our expectations.  Sometimes we want to find fault with others to alleviate our own sense of frustration and anger.  Blame is anger, accountability encourages acceptance and connection.  So when feeling like you want to blame a loved one for something, stop and think about what you are feeling, share that.  This will create connection and allow for more authentic connection in your relationships. 

 Practice Gratitude: During times when we are stuck together in close quarters, have been devastated by loss or are simply mustering every last bit of patience in our day, it can be helpful to take a pause and be thankful for our loved ones.  Even when we are hurt or challenged by their actions, finding gratitude for having them in your life can shift the perspective so that a little clarity can enter.

Written by:
Sanaa Lundgren
Counsellor & Collaborative Family Practitioner
MS Soc (Counselling

Philosophy and Psychotherapy

It is easy to forget that psychotherapy and counselling were once very much the business of philosophers. They also have religious and medical roots, but understanding yourself and how best to live your life was the business of Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, Epicurus and Aristotle. Like many other branches of knowledge, psychotherapy has grown up and become a separate discipline. But some therapists remain closely attached to their
philosophical roots, especially existential psychotherapists.

Philosophy as practiced in many universities in the West and around the world has also narrowed itself, becoming more academic and not much concerned with how people can best live their lives. But this is just one philosophical tradition. What of Indian, Chinese, Japanese and other world philosophical traditions? Have they also become remote from the
concerns of people about how to live?

It was very refreshing to see a new book (2018) “How the World Thinks” by Julian Baggini, introducing western readers to a much wider range of philosophical traditions, and trying to see whether they have anything to teach each other. All philosophical traditions, western included, look back to their founding fathers for key ideas and principles, and in varying
degrees explain and reinterpret their ‘revelations’, in the Indian Vedas, Confucius’s Analects, Buddhist sutras, the Quran, and more. Baggini surveys modern interpretations of these ideas from around the world, and tries to reconcile them: are they talking about the same issues, do they reach similar conclusions? Who is right?

His approach is always polite; he wants to find out what his own western tradition has missed; how different are we in our beliefs? When I discussed the book with a group of people mainly brought up in a western philosophical tradition we were perhaps a little disappointed by his reluctance to say to other philosophers, “You are wrong.” But perhaps that is because, as Baggini suggests, we come from a “truth-seeking” tradition, rather than a “way-seeking” one. We want true beliefs about ourselves and the world (parallel to the western scientific tradition) from philosophy, rather than models of behaviour which will help us to lead better lives. Buddhists, Confucians, Daoists and Hindus are perhaps more interested in what we should think and do to escape from suffering, or karma, and achieve salvation, or unity with nature. Baggini suggests the western tradition has become too narrow.

Baggini’s book is perhaps part of a change in the western philosophical tradition, in which the concern with leading a good life returns to its proper place. Alain de Botton and many others now encourage us to think how our beliefs about ourselves and the world are an essential part of who we are and how we should live. Truth remains vital but so too does ‘the way’, ‘telos’ (our purposes and goals) and practice.

Written by:
Dr. Tim Bunn
Consultant Educational Psychologist
SACAC Counselling