R.N., C.T.S.T.A., 1/18/11
As adults, we think we're so much more
sophisticated than infants. But that can be
our downfall in building healthy relationships. We can end up with things being overly
complicated, over-analyzed, too highly refined until we've taken the juice, the goodies
right out of the relationship. Then it becomes dry and boring—exactly the opposite of the
fun, nourishing and supportive relationship we want.
Infants have everything to teach us in that
regard. They remind us that all successful relationships are built using the same tasks and
methods ithey use. And, infants have to be successful at engaging others - their lives depend on
Straight out of the womb, what's the first thing infants do to engage
people? In short, they are present. For the first several hours after they arrive in the world of
air, they are alert, searching for eye contact, listening, paying attention to their
That's a primary clue to building a successful relationship. In adult
terms, to put it bluntly, we need to "show up!"
Is this just some cute idea? Absolutely not. Whether you're building
a new relationship or evaluating one, consider how you and the other person show up in the
relationship. Are you present? Not just in body, but in mind and spirit? Do you have times when you
totally pay attention to the other person in the same, totally-present way a newborn pays
You can do this and still keep your boundaries and do other things.
It's not necessary to provide this kind of attention 24 hours a day. In fact, bouts of quality
attention - even though they're short - can go a very long way to creating loving feelings with
each other. There's no better way to say "I love you" or 'I care about you" than to give your
complete attention to the other person at least some of the time.
In fact, failure to do so is a major source of friction and fights in
partnerships and marriages. Indeed, correcting this one little thing contributes in a major way
toward transforming that pain and upset into a loving, mutually satisfying and secure connection
with each other.
This principle is also just as significant
in any other kind of relationship: employer-employee relationships, or in teacher-student
You can manage this showing- up- and- being -present even during
times in your life when your schedule is packed. For it to accomplish its purpose however, just be
sure to really be present and pay full attention with all your being when you do it.
And even during times when you can't pull that off, you can
communicate the desire to be present with the other person. You can say you want to be with them
and make a plan for doing it. And then, to state the obvious, when it's time to carry out the plan,
show up and do it!
It sends the most important relationship message of all: that you
want to be in it! It says "I am invested in this relationship with you." And, just as soon as they
start taking in air, that's the very first message infants send to engage their caregivers in
actively relating to them.
These were developed by Pamela Levin,
R.N. from her experiences with just-born babies, children and adults of all ages and in a variety
of countries around the world. She is a Certified Teaching and Supervising Transactional Analyst in
practice over 40 years.
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