By Nancy Iankowitz | RN, DNP, FNP-BC
Choosing a life partner often reflects who we are at the time and may offer insights into who we wish to become. If we choose a person who is ahead of us in certain respects, we may hope to self-improve. Since growth is part of any healthy relationship – both the one we have with our “self” as well as with another person – the one who is “stronger” in the initial phase of the new relationship is the one who recognizes a need for personal growth. It takes personal strength to choose a partner who pushes and incentivizes fulfillment of that potential. Can both partners be equally strong? Absolutely. Usually not at the exact same moment, but it is certainly possible. Though rare, it is actually the ideal.
Start With the ‘Self’
Healthy relationships begin within the self. Specifically, your internal relationship is healthy if you push yourself to be your best, earn your own trust, maintain self-respect, and make decisions that, more often than not, make you proud to be who you are. Self-destructive behavior, distraction from truth, cheating yourself out of logic, lying to yourself, making excuses for toxic choices, and hiding from those who love you unconditionally are ways of keeping distance from anyone who might push you to grow. We all slip up on occasion. If, however, this becomes one’s self-definition, “fear” often distracts from the truth that the internal person hidden from view is sensitive, kind, caring, and one with tremendous unfulfilled potential. If this happens, professional help might help dissolve that fear. Fear provides illusions and distractions. A book by Leinad Nehoc, Ph.D., entitled Illusion: Redefined is just one of many that addresses this topic.
Admittedly, it takes tremendous courage and strength to decide to embrace personal growth. It begins with honest self-reflection. The next step is to help one’s life partner grow. That takes perhaps more courage. Why? Because fear suggests that once growth happens, someone will be “left behind” and that person will become unhappy, isolated, rejected, and disaster will loom heavily upon the couple. The truth is that growth leads to generosity of spirit, trust, and increased self-esteem.
Beware of Fear and Distraction
If fear is given a voice in this scenario, it will absolutely distract from truth. Growth is not inevitable. Distraction is. The key is to spot distraction by asking, “Is this something that will increase mutual happiness, trust, and satisfaction?” The answer is “no” if any part of the scenario includes: “Don’t rock the boat,” “you must maintain status quo,” or “walk on eggshells, or else,” as internal dialogue.
There must be enough love to lean on to permit mutual growth to happen. When partners try to keep each other “down” or otherwise distract from personal growth, it says as much about the oppressor or suppressor as it does about the one accepting the distraction from growth. Relationships in strength can inspire growth on both parts. When rifts occur, love is leaned on. When there is mutual agreement to either avoid growth (that is, to maintain status quo) or split up, this is generally either because fear is distracting the couple – or there may be a recognition that the partners have outgrown each other.
Children raised in an emotionally toxic environment may take a variety of lessons into adulthood. Parents who raise children in an environment of growth avoidance owe it to their children to offer mental health tools so they can break the pattern and cope later in life. Finding well educated mentors to provide guidance is a way of offering these tools. Not every young adult is lucky enough to have been raised by healthy parents and, even if the environment was mostly healthy, there are always aspects of the home environment that are somewhat toxic to the spirit. These glitches may strengthen the developing young person, or they may distract from growth.
Once adulthood is reached, if self-reflection reveals a toxic childhood, a licensed, certified mental health professional might be helpful. If the childhood was toxic in a way that distracted from fulfillment of potential, though the adult may have found a healthy partner and may have a mentally wholesome relationship filled with love, marriage counseling is often of value to iron out areas of distraction that result from early deprivation or neglect which may have stifled growth in the emotional intelligence and/or availability department. In some cases, a mental health provider who specializes in cognitive behavior therapy might be of great value. You may expect that “healing” tools can be used independently within only three months of therapy; that is, cognitive behavior therapy is a therapeutic approach that may facilitate the healing necessary within a very short time frame of active sessions.
Listen to Your Brain
If emotional distress is permitted for decades upon decades, the toll taken on mind/body/spirit balance may be overwhelming. The human body is designed to heal, and does so for the first several decades of life. By the time the body reaches about 50 years of age, the brain begins to send signals that it needs assistance. It is best to pay attention.
If we discover that we have fallen into toxic ways, we are told what needs to change in our lifestyle in order to help the body heal itself. Developing early habits that don’t stress the body would be the goal. However, if we fall (as most of us do) into toxic mind/body/spirit patterns of behavior, we ultimately learn the “habits” are necessary – although difficult – to break. Initially, the brain compensates, repairs, and rebounds. In later years, it begins to whisper, then shout to get our attention. The cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and gastrointestinal systems take the brunt of this impact and, after years of “emotional dissatisfaction,” begin to break down.
To learn more about your body and how your brain whispers and shouts, consult with a systems-based functional medical professional for insights so that you can address your whispers before they become shouts. This is your life. All decisions made are up to you, and all steps taken and avoided are your choice. Here’s to balance and healing along your sacred journey!
Dr. Nancy Iankowitz is a board-certified family nurse practitioner and Director of Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC. She is also host of “Marcy’s World” on Pawling Public Radio. Email your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call (917) 716-6802, or visit www.driankowitz.com online.