Creating a Better Society

No matter where you are or what you are doing, whether you are alone or with others, you are always in relationship.  Typically, we think of relationship in terms of intimate relationships between, for example, lovers or spouses or parent and child.  However, different types of relationships occur in all places where individuals live, work, play and pray and these liaisons require as much attention as those relationships between intimates.  Indeed, with what has transpired within church, banks, government, public bodies and sporting bodies, there is an urgent need to address the quality of relationships within these social systems.  The depersonalisation, narcissism, individualism, cover-ups of abuse, mis-use of taxpayers’ monies, greed, cosy circles of deceit and superiority are just some examples of the extreme failures in relationships that have emerged – and the uncovering is not even remotely over.  Sadly, it is still the case that the most dangerous place to be is the family.  Schools, too, need to address the issue of relationship first, education second, as there are many students who complain of anonymity and teachers who are highly stressed due to an examination-result fixated mentality.  The social and economic crises we are currently undergoing here and elsewhere indicate that education has proven to be no reliable index of maturity.

What is frequently missed about the nature of relationship is that each relationship is always a couple relationship and also that each relationship is different to all others.  For instance, within the family, each child has a different relationship with each parent and vice versa and the parent who claims to treat all her children in the same way misses this fundamental fact of the uniqueness and creativity of each relationship.  Similarly, each student relates to the teacher in a different way and vice versa and it is the mature teacher who recognises that each student responds to his presence and what he says or does in accordance with his or her own unique interiority.  It is for this reason that teaching needs to be always focussed on the individual and not the group.  In the workplace, to our major detriment, where sight has been lost of the critical role of relationship, the reality is that each employee has a different manager and it is the mature manager who is highly conscious of this essential fact.  It needs to become the situation that within workplaces – particularly, within financial and, ironically, health and social services – that individual employees can bring their individuality, creativity, values, beliefs into the workplace and no longer be limited and feel threatened by a target-fixated mentality that put profits before people and performance before employee’s personal wellbeing.

A determining factor of what happens between people is what happens within each member of the dyad.  Whether we are conscious or unconscious of this fact, whether we like it or not, each person’s inner world – how one perceives self, one’s fears, doubts, insecurities, unresolved conflicts or one’s fearlessness, belief in self and occupation of an inner stronghold – determine how one perceives and interacts with the other.  This is a two-way street and when individuals have little sense of their worth, are dependent, fearful and have had to repress many aspects of their true nature, they are either a danger to themselves or to others or both.  It follows when individuals have a strong sense of their worth, are stable, mature and tolerant that they create relationships that are of a progressive rather than a defensive nature.  Personal effectiveness – a solid interiority – a deep knowing of Self – determines professional effectiveness, a fact that needs to be urgently integrated into education and training of professionals, so that the recent history of political, religious, economic, social and emotional scandals are not repeated.

In my book with co-author Dr. Helen Ruddle, all of the above issues are explored in depth.  We especially emphasise the responsibility that each and every one of us has to reflect on how we are within ourselves and how, out of that place, we relate to others.  If our inner world is harmonious then we will be better able to live with one another in harmony; it is in this sense that individual maturity leads to mature society.  For persons who occupy positions of governorship over others, the responsibility of personal maturity is particularly urgent.  The recession that has hit the world in recent times can be traced to deep emotional processes where trust had disappeared, where there was little room for individuality, where performance was prized above wellbeing and where there was an overwhelming push for ‘success’ at all costs.

The book is especially aimed at those adults in our society who have leadership, managerial and parental responsibilities.  While aimed at both men and women, the book seeks, in particular, to draw in men who traditionally have not seen relationship as belonging to their sphere of business; we emphasise that for the sake of mature society this is an area that men can no longer afford to avoid.

Dr. Tony Humphreys is a Clinical Psychologist/Author and National and International speaker.

The new book, Relationship, Relationship, Relationship, The Heart of a Mature Society, was launched recently by Alan Crosby at the West Cork Literary Festival in Bantry.