The whole idea of development from a baby into an adult is to attain a level of autonomy and self regulation, including self caretaking. Within the structure of adult motivation is also an innate desire to care for others, raise children, or care for the community, environment, or next generation. Ultimately, we alone are responsible for our choices, our values, and our direction. We make mistakes and we live with the consequences. Real life can cause us to feel very alone. But underlying this sense of isolation is actually a set of internal relationships built from the connections we have made in our lives with people who are significant to us. The earlier connections are deeper and those that follow add to the sense of ourselves that is formed from reflections within relationships.
For example, I knew a speech therapist who worked with very elderly people in a nursing home. She said she was always so surprised when one of her clients had a gain in the therapy and then they would say, “I wish my mother could see me able to do this.” She said this happened quite often. Her clients had an ongoing, current relationship in their minds with the mother who encouraged them, celebrated their successes and cared that they did better.
We carry with us the picture that is us in the mind of another person. Like looking in a mirror, reflections from significant people describe to us who we are, how good we are, how intelligent we are, down to the nuances of how we understand ourselves. This understanding is constantly being revised and updated, but much of it is entrenched from earlier in our lives.
Because these reflections carry such weight, it makes sense to choose relationships to bring into our lives that will provide us with the experiences and the responses that not only give us an accurate picture of who we are, but also encourage us to reach for our ideals. Relationships that are real, and at the same time confident about our best selves.
If we are going to be having ongoing conversations in our minds with all the people whose smiles we value, it makes sense to try to select those relationships carefully. Having someone in our corner who believes in us and can also know all the parts of us is a true luxury.