It goes without saying that our relationships can be a major source of gratification or frustration in our lives. Whether it is with family, friends, or coworkers, our interactions with others shape how we feel about ourselves and our place in the world. Difficulties in relationships often trigger intense feelings of sadness, worry, and anger that can easily spill into other areas of our lives. And few emotions can be as painful as a sense of loneliness and isolation from those around us. Similarly, depression, anxiety, and an inability to control our emotions often take a significant toll on our relationships and serve to push others away. The process of psychotherapy often highlights the patterns and struggles we experience in the interpersonal realm and offers us a unique opportunity to develop and strengthen our relationships.
Psychodynamic therapy looks at our relationships on two levels. The first focuses on how we interact with others and the patterns that may be occurring across several of our relationships. This may include exploring feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, or shame with the goal of increasing self-confidence and assertiveness. Or it might focus on better understanding a general sense of disappointment and boredom that tends to emerge in relationships after a period of time. As we begin to better understand the feelings and patterns associated with our relationships we also often begin to see aspects of ourselves that have been outside our awareness.
The second aspect of the psychodynamic approach to relationships involves reflecting on what our interactions with others says about who we are as individuals. This often means looking closely into how past experiences may have shaped our identity and personality, and how those experiences may be subtly impacting our hopes, fears, and fantasies about our current relationships. In my experience, as we increase our knowledge of ourselves the patterns and behaviors that previously seemed to "just happen" become something within our control, and we gain the capacity to truly change how we relate to others and to the world.