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For many people, mental health is a stand-alone concept.
It’s off on its own.
If it’s even given much thought at all.
But there’s so much that goes into mental health.
And there’s one aspect in particular that’s not given much thought at all.
It’s the way our interactions shape our mental health.
Because no matter how much we may want to hide away, we live in an intricate web of relationships.
How Relationships Affect Us
Humans are wired for connection. We think that we can go it alone, but we need others to survive.
We need to see ourselves in the eyes of others.
And this is precisely what happens. Relationships don’t just help us get what we need from an emotional, physical, or even monetary perspective. Relationships help us form our very identities.
You can think that you have a perfect understanding of who you are, but then step out into the world — and watch it change. It’s a humbling experience.
You can work as hard as you want to craft the perfect identity behind closed doors, but what if no one believes that about you? What if others don’t care as much about your perfect identity as you do?
Sadly, this is reality. For the mast majority of people, their area of focus falls squarely on themselves, not others. We are our own favorite subjects.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but we discover who we are in relation to others. Children have grandiose ideas about their status and potential only to find out that there are many, many more children in the world.
And so the process begins. Suddenly, we are immersed in the words, thoughts, and stories of those around us. We are woven into the design of other people’s tapestries. In essence, we become part of other people’s realities. And this must inevitably warp the views we hold of ourselves.
How We Affect Our Relationships
If it seems like I’m painting a reality of mental health that is passive and outside your control, that is not my intention.
You also have an influence on the mental health and very lives of others
You have primary relationships and secondary relationships. You devote more time to some people than you do to others. And where you put your energy will form impressions in other people’s minds. There’s nothing you can do to stop that other than change your actions. Or change your thoughts, which change your actions. Or change your physical position, which might change your thoughts and then change your actions. You get the idea.
By now you’re probably beginning to see that the interplay of who you are and how you connect with others has a huge impact on not just your own mental health but also on the mental health of the people in your life.
The feelings you bring into an interaction have a strong tendency to impact the feelings of whomever it is you are talking to.
The same goes for your thoughts. You may think that your thoughts are private — and they are, in a certain sense — but have you ever considered how what you think about a person impacts the interactions you have with them? Are your thoughts telling you to hate that person? Are your thoughts attaching themselves to past wrongs you feel this person has committed?
The mental image you have of someone else can be just as strong as the physical image of that person that is right in front of you.
The Delicate Dance of Relationships
The next time you interact with someone, consider what you’re bringing into that interaction.
It would take several hours to consider all of the potential elements that impact you and your relationships, but we can summarize with a few of the important ones here.
You have an idea of who you are. That impacts how you conduct yourself and how you treat others with whom you come into contact.
You also have ideas about others, and what they think of the world and how they treat their friends and family.
What’s more, you have your thoughts and feelings, current and past, your experiences and actions, current and past, and your web of current and past relationships. It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.
But it’s OK. Because it all starts with awareness. The more you can bring these elements into your awareness, the more you can make decisions that move your mental health — and your relationships — in the direction you want to go.
You’re not alone in this world.
That’s why it’s so important to study your interactions — and how they shape the world around you.