Relationships for Growth and Perspective
Awareness and receptiveness are essential for wise decisions, perspective, and adaptability.
My valued mentor and the confusing advice
A favorite mentor and advisor told me on my way out from our final meeting, with a big smile on his face, shaking hands as I left for the final time from his cozy living room office, with the big glass window looking out on his yard,
“Here is my last clinical pearl; never give anyone advice.”
I saw some wisdom in his last words that it was better to listen carefully and receptively rather than cutting off dialogue with advice or solution-giving. It reminded me of when a lab instructor in the medical school microbiology room full of microscopes adamantly told me.
“Do not jump to a premature conclusion when you first look at the slide in the microscope. Patiently and carefully look at and study all the details you can see through the magnifying lens before closing your mind to further observation. The added attention will prevent you from missing your best interpretation of what you observe.”
Through the years, I have reflected on the advice from my mentor "not to give advice." He was jesting with me or presenting a paradox to make me reflect, observe, and listen more. The best communication comes from being in a relationship where you are patient and receptive to another's perceptions and points of view, to learn and to gain a greater perspective about what you're seeking to know. It also could be described as building necessary contextual information to gain a better understanding and depth view of something versus entrapment in narrowly defined, premature interpretations or definitions. It is what we might call the avoidance of jumping to conclusions.
The plan with a lack of perspective
Recently my wife, hold no bars, feedback giver, was showing distress. I knew from being married for over fifty-seven years that something I was planning was misguided or flawed; my well-thought-out and left-brain tightly held logic had fallen short on some vital information and perspective. I asked softly. “You seem upset.” Jan responded with an angry frown, “I'm mad about the trip; it's an exhausting drive, and trying to run around and visit everyone once we're there.”
With my wife's sharing and feedback, I realized that my planning to do multiple things during our travel was unrealistic. Braving the possible emotional volcano or descent into an argument, I was able to elicit what about the trip, and my planning was upsetting to my love mate and honest, usually right, feedback giver. Respecting our safety needs and my age-related fatigue when overdoing it, we made a more straightforward and safer travel plan.
I hopefully have gained the wisdom to be more aware and to listen to one who is an essential partner and relationship for an over-left-brain planner and thinker like me. Of course, I respect myself as a problem solver and planner, but with the added wisdom to realize the essential need for trusted relationships with others to help with feedback and gaining perspectives.
Many of us need feedback and ways to gain perspective from significant and trusted others, self-reflective awareness, or engagement in activities. I remember a talented sculpturer with one eye I met who told me he could only appreciate depth and perspective in creating his beautiful sculpture pieces by continuing to circle his work. As he chiseled away, he would gain multiple visual perspectives with his one good eye that allowed him to create his beautiful work.
A close family member and a go-to person for advice and perspective is a talented writer but, like his other family members, has his unique way of learning. Most of his talent comes from his exquisite left brain's predominant way of creating an extensive database of information with the ability to craft novel projects and innovative solutions. This type of talent or unique way of doing things occurs in many artists, academics, and professionals that are perhaps more intellectual in their approaches. He has always been one of my most trusted advisors and consultants, especially when I miss the best perspective on something I'm working on.
The unique learning and problem-solving style
Being more of a left-brain thinker, like many of his family, for planning and putting together life choices, intentions, and actions, requires more of his time to gain vital information, perspective, and background for any of his work in progress. This unique learning and problem-solving style require more time and accommodation in traditional academic settings and the typical job setting when there is an over-factory mentality towards efficiency, production, and profits. When in a prior training program, problems arose when accommodations were lacking. Even though he was a talented and unique learner, one of his primary instructors did not accommodate him. The teacher would not help students to adapt to his complex way of testing that valued speed and production. His lack of understanding and assistance undermined an up-and-coming student's ability to complete the program.
Years later, a similar situation arose in a new program, but with the sensibility from his prior experience, he got the accommodations he needed. The more enlightened and updated curriculum resonated well with his talented way of learning and accomplishing the required work. The program offers a favorable situation where the accommodations needed are available with a relationship that will provide vital feedback and information for maintaining perspective: a fortunate circumstance for growth and success.
Getting feedback and perspective is essential for overly intellectual thinkers, especially when a neurodiverse and autism spectrum individual needs clarification for executive functioning, planning, and organization.
Finding feedback and perspective from your own body
Sometimes the relationship that brings perspective can come from an aspect of yourself rather than another person. Recently, I was moving ahead with what I consider a vital project for my health and longevity. I was eagerly training for a senior swimming competition which I have done for the past ten years. I figured that most people my age wouldn't be able to do it and that it would set a model for others about nutrition and daily exercise as the best antiaging tool. I decided this year to master five of the more demanding events.
I was rigorously training and swimming, putting more time into pool sessions. I reached a point where I could do all the vigorous and demanding events for the upcoming swimming competition. However, my aging body wasn't getting the recovery time and rest. I was almost feeling ill and exhausted during the day and could barely motivate myself for the next training session. So, my noble companion, my body, and the motivating part of my brain gave the valued feedback that I was getting out of touch and losing my perspective on what I was so much left-brain planning and orchestrating.
So, a reevaluation of my plan and strategy occurred. As my driving trip plans for a family visit, I gained perspective from that part of me and the vital relationship with my body, mind, and spirit—to slow down, keep things simple, and respect my capacity and aging. My meet and competition were an enormous success, with me completing all five events. So, there was reward and gratification for me accomplishing my mission. I only succeeded by gaining perspective from the essential inner relationship, vital feedback from that part of me, and my awareness and acceptance of the readily available self-generated feedback. Ignoring what maybe have been evident to others would have been destructive to my health and good intentions in over-training without allowing vital recovery time. The wisdom gained, I hope, will be a more significant contributor to my longevity than blindly being out of touch with over-training.
The dynamics in relationships affect your health and well-being.
Social psychology studies have shown that relationships and dynamics can significantly influence health status and outcome. Mental health and medical illness appear to be affected considerably, such as cardiovascular disease, anxiety, depression, stress, and coping. A person's longevity and survival may be at risk according to the positivity or negativity of a relationship. Individuals with more positivity in relationships in one study showed better health benefits.
A favorite former mentor of mine, James L. Lynch, wrote the 1977 Broken Heart: The Medical Consequences of Loneliness.Jim gathered statistics at the university hospital and coronary care unit and found that survival was more prolonged for those with pets. Should you run out and get a pet? Not necessarily so, but I believe appreciating positive feedback from valued relationships can be vital to life and sustenance.
I famously remember Jim advising me when I saw one of his patients in his university psychophysiology lab who worked in law enforcement and always carried a big gun on his hip. Jim commented to me when I stepped outside the session room with beaming enthusiasm and a cheerful smirk on his face, “Ron, I know you are up to date on therapy skills but don’t say anything to insult his manliness or, for that matter, anyone carrying a big gun like him.” Smiling back, I replied, “I’m always indebted to you for your sage advice. I will reframe giving any psychological interpretations of his gun-carrying and masculinity. "
If I had thought of it, as Jim was a loved and favorite friend and a mentor, I would have told him that he could retreat and barricade himself in his office after his appreciated advice-giving. Today, with the crises and gun-related shootings, policies would not permit firearms in most clinics or hospitals. The gun-carrying lawman with whom we were working at the time had an amazingly positive response to the therapeutic, innovative, psychodynamic psychophysiological blood pressure biofeedback that Jim had pioneered. His ideas about the impact of interpersonal communication and stress on blood pressure and a person’s physiology and health helped advance the scientific knowledge of the time.
Tips and Points to Ponder:
1. Relationships can be very beneficial or very destructive. Positive ones can contribute to health and wellness, meaning, and fulfillment. Negative influences or associations can have destructive consequences for both self and others, such as when exposed to hatred, discrimination, dishonesty, or exploitation by others,
2. A feedback or information-contributing relationship can be from a friend, family member, work, peer support group, or play partner. Other resources can be from a caregiver essential for maintaining the daily aid for someone in need; something read or heard from public venues, social media, or from attention to your inner world of thoughts and bodily experience may key you into something you need to know. The variety of life's offerings to keep you attuned are many, such as a pet, a garden, a walk-in nature, working on a job, an artistic project or hobby, a fitness activity such as swimming, running, going to the gym, or taking part in social activities. Personal awareness and mindfulness of your mind, body, spirit, and emotional functioning are vital for acquiring meaning and perspective.
3. Positive feedback-giving relationships, especially when you are receptive and accepting of the helpful information, are vital for gaining perspective and optimal executive functioning—the aspect of our mental functioning that helps us prioritize, plan, and organize.
4. Awareness, discrimination, acceptance, or rejection are all part of evaluating available and received information or feedback. There can be dangerous and harmful consequences when communications are false, misleading, or prone to misinterpretations. Portrayers of discrimination, hatred, or agendas for power and personal gain can harm anyone on the receiving end. The same is true of the influence of malicious individuals or organizations wanting to gain control of your mind and pocketbook.
5. Avoid getting lost or entrapped in your biased reasoning and configuring. When there is a lack of clarifying information and feedback from sources outside your thinking, loss of perspective and flawed concepts may result. Always be openly aware of the trove of beneficial context providing and enriching information available from your body-mind awareness or external resources. Be mindful of getting caught in arrogance or blind acceptance of single, false, or prejudicial sources of information.
6. Be aware and accepting of the unique differences and neurodiversity in all of us and embrace the contributions and values of everyone. See the quote below from an article and glossary of terms related to neurodiversity.
"Neurodiversity recognizes and supports inclusiveness and tolerance of the inherent differences that exist throughout our population. I say this because many of the traits of the various conditions associated with neurodivergence are in fact traits that are also shared by portions of the larger population, often by people who might meet some but not all of the diagnostic criteria set by the DSM-5.
One of the opportunities brought by embracing neurodiversity is the resulting infusion of new ideas. Neurodivergent people experience the world differently than neurotypical people and we think differently. As such, many of us have remarkable skills when it comes to problem solving and artistic creativity. In fact, many argue that the continued presence of autism and other forms of genetically-derived neurodivergence might in fact be an evolutionary adaptation that has served humanity well. This creativity could be a catalyst for significant positive changes….”
A special thanks to Shan Parks for his excellent final read-through and editor’s eye.
Positive relationship experience linked to better physiological functioning; https://www.integrativepractitioner.com/mental-emotional-spiritual/positive-relationship-experiences-linked-to-better-physiological-functioning?utm_source=marketo&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_content=newsletter&mkt_tok=NzU2LUZXSi0wNjEAAAGLBYGJ76lRJPUVNgJnTCc1-dQRvo5Z0L5-7UfDZPCZnxN6VEkF2ANX6B9lpRg26OxbKWNo9Wy1u6ngyfXIjDgLd88WenuAwxDDC86p4z0muS_r-NqN
James L. Lynch wrote in 1977, Broken Heart: The Medical Consequences of Loneliness; https://www.amazon.com/Broken-Heart-Medical-Consequences-Loneliness/dp/0465007724
Autism and IDD: Caregiving, Advocacy, Community, and Love, Ray Hemachandra April 17, 2023; https://rayhemachandra.com/2023/04/17/caregiving/
Thank you, Dr. Parks for an excellent article! When it comes to feedback, I remember the very wise words I heard at a talk given by Jiddu Krishnamurti. It was at the Felt Forum in Manhattan when he was 88 years old. And he spoke forcefully and clearly, and I remember well his words. He urged us to be reflective and not reactive when receiving feedback, even if we felt the feedback was completely inappropriate or not helpful we should just take it in and thank the person and tell them we would reflect on it. Krishnamurti said you should reflect on feedback for at least 24 hours if not more. He said you’ll often find to your surprise that at least some of what the person said rings true, and is helpful, even if this person seemed adversarial.