The New Profession of Relationship Mentoring

No matter where you are, what you are feeling, what you are thinking, what you are doing, whether you are alone or with another, or in a crowd, you are always in relationship. Whatever the relationship, it is always a couple relationship. Whatever the relationship, whether this is a parent with child, a lover with a lover, a teacher with a student, a manager with an employee, a politician with a citizen, a priest with a parishioner, a neighbour with a neighbour. Each couple relationship is unique so that each child has a different mother and a different father, each student has a different teacher, each employee a different manager, each parishioner a different priest and so on for all relationships.

What is often not recognised is that the most important couple relationship is the one that a person has with self and, indeed, the nature of that inner relationship totally determines how that person relates to another. It follows that a person who doubts or hates self or is dependent on others for recognition or is obsessed with what others think of him, or is addicted to food or to alcohol or to success or is aggressive, passive, unsure, timid, fearful will create a relationship with another that in some way or other reflects that person’s inner relationship with self.

Individuals who head the important places where we live, work, learn, pray, heal and play, depending on their inner relationship with self, can create harmony or wreak havoc in their relationships with others. Regrettably, the relationship record of some of these heads leaves a lot to be desired and this has become so visible since the sexual abuse revelations and cover-ups by Catholic clergy and the appalling levels of irresponsibility shown by politicians, public servants, bankers, heads of other financial institutions and multi-national companies and property developers. Even before the recession, a large majority of people who moved onto other jobs did so because of the intimidatory behaviour of managers. There is no attempt here to blame these heads; on the contrary, no progress can be made unless we get to understand what led individual members of Catholic clergy to sexually violate children and other leading clergy to cover up these same violations; what were the influences that saw individual politicians, public servants, bankers and other heads mentioned above lining their own pockets without any ethical consideration being present?

It behoves all heads – parents, teachers, managers, politicians, sports leaders, health care professionals and clergy – to examine their inner worlds and to resolve whatever blocks to maturity exist therein. The answers lie in relationship and the stories of the important relationships those heads have had to date. It is a sad reality that a family can be the most dangerous place to live, a school a place you can’t wait to leave, a workplace that you can literally feel sick at the thought of, a church where you feel invisible or a country where you feel alienated. The question arises: who is going to support and help these heads (and, indeed, the rest of us) to examine our inner and outer lives, and in an understanding and compassionate way, to bring to consciousness the repressions of aspects of their true nature that would have led to the great neglects perpetrated.

Help is at hand in the emergence of the new professions of parent mentoring and relationship mentoring. The highly trained practitioners work on both a one-to-one basis with heads of familial, social, religious, educational and economic systems, but also provide intensive training courses for groups of individuals – heads and members – who occupy the systems.

The professional training of these mentors involved principally examining their own inner and outer lives and the making of new choices and taking new actions when consciousness of their own hidden issues arose. Parent mentors do a two-year training course and relationship mentors do up to four years training. These mentors know what are the ingredients of mature relationships and how relationships in all the different life settings can be seriously interrupted. They are well aware that affectiveness is critical to the resolution of interruptions. They can readily detect whether or not listening occurs and whether or not communication is open, direct and clear and whether or not definite boundaries around each individual’s wellbeing are in place. Most of all, the mentors know that it is the nature of the relationship with self that is the bedrock of personal maturity and the maturity of relationships with others. The mentors are trained to create a relational depth that makes it emotionally, intellectually, socially, behaviourally and creatively safe for the person(s) seeking help to explore their relationships to date and to see what needs to be seen and to do what needs to be done – for the benefit of all.

The NUI training courses are provided by UCC in the UCC campus and in All Hallows College, Dublin.