February 15, 2024

Why Relationships are Crucial in the Pursuit of Happiness

Relationships are fundamental to our existence, well-being, and self-awareness. Read about how relationships can bring us greater happiness.

Christina Mengert

Why Relationships are Crucial in the Pursuit of Happiness

Exploring Human Relationships

Life is, as the philosopher Krishnamurti once described it, “a movement in relationship.” There is no life, he insists, without relationship. This is true on the most fundamental level.

Our cells in relationship create tissue.

Our tissues in relationship create organs.

Our organs in relationship create our living bodies and minds.

Our bodies and minds in relationship create families and societies. 

So it’s no wonder that relationships are so incredibly important to us!

“Loving is as natural to human beings as breathing,” Dr. Nigel Lester, psychiatrist and Director of Mental Health at PALM Health, says. “The more we can do it, the better we feel.” In fact, in psychological studies, when people report what brings their lives the most satisfaction, loving relationships is the most common response. 

So clearly, experiences of love are linked—even essential—to sustainable well-being. The more love we have in our lives, the happier we are.

This isn’t to say that having many relationships or any particular relationship will always lead to well-being, because we know relationships can also be a source of significant stress as well. When we struggle or grapple with conflict in our relationships, as we all know, it can have a negative emotional impact. It’s really the quality and health of the relationships that we have, the love we experience in those relationships, that has the most bearing on our well-being.

We know, then, that it’s important—vital, even—to have healthy, loving relationships in our lives, so why is it often so difficult? There are many factors at play in these challenges, including our personality profile (as measured and described by the Temperament and Character Inventory, or the TCI, developed by Dr. C. Robert Cloninger and used by Anthropedia coaches). 

Understanding our temperament can be tremendously helpful in understanding what drives us emotionally, which in turn can give us insight into how we are relating to a partner, friend, child, etc.

If we, for example, are highly Reward Dependent—that is, if we are unconsciously driven to seek emotional reward through communication or interaction with others—then we might find ourselves wanting something emotionally from someone that they don’t understand because they are not temperamentally wired the same way. So having some awareness of our unconscious emotional drives can give us significant insight into how we are relating to others (and how they might be relating to us as well).

Dr. Kevin Cloninger, Executive Director of Anthropedia, notes that the outlook plays an important role in our relationships as well. Our outlook, as described in Anthropedia’s Know Yourself series, is an unconscious mental backdrop that influences our perception

There’s much that could be said about the outlook, but for now, we can say that because our perceptions are filtered through our outlooks, determining not just how we see but sometimes even what we see, it plays a fundamental role in our relationships. And since everyone has a different outlook, we sometimes see things quite differently, including each other.

Krishnamurti, who spent a lifetime thinking about the human condition, defines relationship as “a mirror through which we see ourselves as we are." Dr. Kevin Cloninger elaborates on this idea, noting that the closer the relationship, the more invested we are in what the other person sees in us, whether good or not-so-good. 

As we all know, in the mirror of our relationships, we sometimes get feedback that we find unpleasant or uncomfortable. Maybe we don’t listen well or are self-preoccupied, or perhaps we are too dependent or clingy, or we emotionally withdraw when we are stressed.

It’s often through our relationships that we are forced to confront aspects of ourselves that we don’t like, or want to change, or that can even be hurtful to others– which is both a blessing and a curse. 

It would be very pleasant to move through our lives with the belief that we are perfect, or generally (always!) right, or at least doing and saying things that would make sense to any reasonable person (ahem). In other words, it would be lovely to live our lives in a highly pleasant illusion. So it can feel like a curse when our relationships reveal that illusion to us, and force us to confront uncomfortable realities about ourselves. 

But really, it’s a blessing, because it is through relationship that we come to know ourselves as we truly are, which gives us the extraordinary opportunity to change so as to live a more coherent, self-aware life. 

In fact, we can only truly love when we live in the reality of relationship, rather than illusion. In this reality, we can adapt and change so as to cultivate as much love as possible, which is a profound blessing, and what ultimately leads us to greater sustainable well-being.

So how can Anthropedia coaching help us in our relationships?

1. Through the Know Yourself series, a coach can help us become more self-aware, understand our temperament and character (through the TCI), and change behaviors or dynamics that are no longer serving us in our relationships.

2. A coach helps us grow in awareness of, and then holds us accountable to, the changes we want to make in our lives, and is a constant support in that journey of transformation.

3. A coach holds a space of hope for us, and that hope is another essential component of well-being. 

Dr. Lester reminds us that “one of the most important messages that comes out of the work of Anthropedia is that change is possible…We can write a new story. There’s a message of hope for every relationship out there” whether it be a relationship with a spouse, a parent, a friend, or even ourselves. 

Because it’s in the crucible of relationship that we discover who we are and who we are capable of being, that we move towards our full human potential in love, hope, and faith.

Learn more about Anthropedia coaching here.

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