What is a Reparative Relationship?

Human Connection

We are hardwired to seek out human connection throughout our lives. At all stages of life, we seek out connectivity with others, and sometimes these relationships are healthy, while other times they are not. As infants, we seek out the care of others in order to survive physically, and as we grow older, we seek out connection with others in order to survive and thrive mentally and emotionally.

Study after study has reported that those who feel loved, valued, appreciated, and connected live longer than those who report feeling lonely. But it is not just those that are lonely that are suffering. we can all suffer from relationships gone wrong, from those that have influence or power over us, from those that love us but don't know how to show it.

Relationships with others are one of the hardest things to get right, in my opinion, simply because human being are unpredictable. We are each a product of all human interactions that we have ever experienced, from the one-off meetings with others to the parents that raised us and the friends that helped us grow. So combining that with another person's history of human interactions, whether a friend, partner, teacher, colleague, etc. is bound to be messy at times.

When Things Go Wrong ... Or Not

Sometimes, we can pinpoint the exact moment that our opinion of our self changed; perhaps a phrase, an insult, a compliment, sparked something within us. Sometimes we can hold a particular person or relationship to blame; the parent that demanded perfect, the parent that expected nothing, the boyfriend that controlled us too much, or the girlfriend that broke our trust. Sometimes, we cannot see that anything was wrong. And this is sometimes the hardest hurdle to jump.

There is no such thing as a perfect childhood. Even though our parents might try their best to do everything for us, to provide us with the best that money can buy. A child whose parents were accepting, allowed their child to experiment, allowed their child to decide what activities they took part in and when they wanted to quit, may grow up to be an adult who lacks self-discipline, who sees their parents as not expecting much of them, who wishes their parents had pushed them harder.

A child whose parents pushed them to excel, whose families expected them to succeed, a child who was told that they could do anything in life may feel constantly anxious in adulthood that they have let their parents down, that their parents expected better of them, that they are a disappointment.

Of course, these patterns won't always persist. Many children grow up in happy homes and are perfectly content with their lives as they are. But it is those that aren't that often end up in a therapist's office.

What Reparative Relationships Can Do

A therapeutic relationship often ends up being a reparative relationship. At least, this is the aim of the therapist. A reparative relationship is one that, purely by being in the relationship, can heal the wounds of past relationships.

Very often, it is something that isn't talked about within the therapy sessions, it is just something that happens.

The therapist becomes somebody stable, reliable, trustworthy, understanding, and compassionate. The therapist becomes someone that the client might start to feel safe with. The therapist has no judgement or expectations of the client, other than that the client can heal. The therapist might even become someone that the client starts to compare other relationships to.

For the client whose parents were quite erratic, the steadiness of the sessions, the repetitiveness of the weekly meetings and the boundaries of the session times can become something that the client learns to rely on, enjoy, and trust in.

For the client whose parents were judgemental, strict, or demanding, the safety and non-judgemental relationship created between the therapist and the client can become freeing, liberating, and exciting to the client.

There are many ways that the therapeutic relationship can repair the damage of the past, without words. Often what is said in therapy sessions is not the therapy itself. It is the environment, the relationship, and the building trust that starts to shift something within the client.

As always, if you would like to book an initial counselling session with me, please email me at amylaunder.counselling@gmail.com

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