The quality of our relationships is one of the best predictors of our mental health and emotional wellbeing. The way we relate to others, how rewarding and meaningful are these social connections often are just a consequence of how we relate to our inner world.
Mental health can be defined in many ways, one of them would be how peaceful we feel within ourselves, how meaningful we consider our life to be and the degree of clarity-understanding of our environment. Emotional wellbeing can also be defined in many ways, for example as an state of predominance of positive emotions ( emotions that feel good). There are many reasons why our mental health and emotional wellbeing can become weak or a source of suffering, just like there are many causes for physical illness and lack of general health. However there are reliable sources of good mental health and emotional wellbeing, one of those predictors is our connection with others.
Our relationship with others can be complex, and while no two relationships are the same there are some underlying principles to how we relate to others that are linked with our mental health. One way to simplify this is to contemplate the idea that our links with others are a reflection to how we relate to ourself.
Do you tend to be highly critical or judgemental of others? take a moment to honestly think if you are not probably highly judgemental of yourself.
Do you tend to feel that other people disrespect you or cross your boundaries? perhaps you are lacking self respect and internal boundaries.
Do you find yourself craving approval and acceptance from others? perhaps is to compensate for scarce internal acceptance and self-worth.
Do you mistrust others constantly? maybe this is a consequence of feeling very vulnerable about yourself.
Are you easily upset with others? frequently in conflict? perhaps you demand that others conform to you because you cannot make yourself happy.
This list can go on and on...hopefully you get the idea. Western cultures predominantly promote the ideal of extroverted personality, but the intense sociable disposition if not accompanied by some degree of self awareness and self responsibility can create all types of bad social dynamics.
While I am not saying that the above examples are always truth (that always external problems derive from internal ones), to at least reflect upon how our inner world is projecting outside will only help you. To assume responsibility for your life will help you much more than to refuse responsibility, generally speaking. Some important authors even say other people are merely mirroring you.
I am not advocating for radical self-absorption, for considering others as tools that tell us who we are. Everybody is on their own journey and we all need nurture, recognition, affection and attention from others. What i am suggesting is that how we treat and respond to others is very similar to how we treat and respond to ourselves, because it comes from the way we value ourselves. Even if you are an extrovert, and enjoy constant stimulation by others, the quality of those relationships you have with others will vary according to a filter you have inside (self perception) without this filter you will merely be reacting to the mood and desires of others.
This idea can help us understand others much better, and therefore improve our connection and empathy with them. When someone has an attitude that you don´t enjoy, instead of just blaming them and reacting to them, you can consider whether they are projecting outside an internal issue, or whether you might be the one doing so. It´s not always easy to discern who is the initial projector, but when people get into conflict chances are they are both projecting inner demons, regardless of who started doing that first.
Just imagine...or better yet: remember a time when you were feeling really good about yourself and your place in the world. When you were feeling at peace, yet motivated, confident and happy. How were your relationships then? how would you respond then to someone who was being rude or selfish, chances are if you were really in a great internal place you were able to detach yourself from engaging in conflict with that person. Perhaps you were even capable of feeling compassion for that other person and seeing their projecting. You were able to create healthy interactions from your internal harmony.
Sometimes we are lucky to be surrounded or under the influence or some people who have that internal harmony, but the vast majority we cannot sustain that harmony for very long, that is why its better to be aware of how is your internal harmony, how are you relating to yourself. What are you saying to yourself about who you are and your role in life?
Counselling can really help you examine that, but not being in therapy does not stop you from examining your self image. Hope this lines resonated with some of you.