By Dr. Steve
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Which One Are You ...
I often am unable to effectively initiate meaningful
I often find my important
relationships being superficial and unfulfilling
I often feel powerless
and am unable to assert
myself in my relationships
I often find my relationships being full of conflict
I often find myself not knowing
how to make myself understood in my relationships
I often find myself longing for
relationships that are open and free but I am unable to create them
I often find myself involved
with somebody who actively runs away from me
I often need to maintain my
personal space in all of my relationships
I often am unable to sustain
long-term committed relationshipsI often am afraid that I will lose myself or my autonomy
in a long-term relationship
I often commit myself to
unavailable or inappropriate partners
people are confronted with these life challenges daily. The core of my clinical work
in private practice as a clinical psychologist has focused on these types of life
challenges and more. These life challenges were the source of a variety of
presenting problems I initially addressed with my clients. Depression, anxiety disorders,
low-self esteem, substance abuse, eating disorders, and sexual addiction all flowed from
the disturbed interpersonal relationships my clients experienced with friends, lovers,
family members, and co-workers.
we found an enormous potential for change and growth by expanding and improving the
quality and breadth of the clients interpersonal relationships. I am sure you will
understand me when I tell you this was easier said than done.
many of my clients believed relationships were important to have but were too much work to
maintain. They doubted their own ability to have quality relationships. I cannot tell you
how many times I heard the lament, Good relationships are something other people can
have, but were not intended for me.
permeated their emotional and spiritual well-being. So many of my clients thought of
themselves as being completely powerless. Time-after-time they would tell me how
out-of-control their lives felt. They believed the self-defeating patterns dominating
their relationships were unchangeable. I was always left with the feeling my clients
believed these patterns had a life of their own.
always felt so much empathy for their plight. It seemed as if they experienced life much
the way a child feels standing outside a candy store without any hope of finding a way
into the store.
times I would get phone calls from people who said, I understand my problem
inside-out. Ive spent years in individual therapy. Ive read all the books.
Ive seen all the video tapes. Ive gone to all the workshops. I still
dont know any more about how to do what it is I know I need to do. I dont know
how to get to where I want to be from where I know only too well I am right now.
noticed something else about the people I was meeting. I sensed an underlying cynicism
from years of exploring every remedy a self-help book could offer, only to see those books
go unread, be misunderstood, or not helpful beyond describing the problem and/or the
of trying every quick fix remedy on the market exacerbated their despair with cynicism.
Big promises, with little delivery of these promises, had actually undermined
peoples openness to considering that there were legitimate and effective ways of
creating change. Some people viewed each setback as their own personal
failure--discounting any shortcomings with whatever or whomever they had placed all their
after disappointment ingrained the silent belief, I am flawed and things will never
meeting so many people with the same story, it was clear to me that something different
needed to be done.
program we call Relationship Bridge-Building is for both individuals and couples who want
to enhance the quality of their life. The basic assumption of the program is that
emotional and spiritual well-being evolves from effective, satisfying, and
fulfilling relationships in all aspects of your life. By mastering universal
relationship principles, you can develop the skills necessary to create safe, supportive,
and nurturing relationships.
kinds of relationships are the foundation for both emotional and spiritual well-being.
Emotional well-being is a sense of worth, value, and importance to others. Feeling loved
and accepted grows out of relationships in which we feel a sense of belonging. Supportive
relationships provide affirmation when our partners listen to us and support us.
well-being comes from the quality of the relationships that we have with ourselves and
others. When we feel safe, supported, and rounded to others, life takes on purpose and
meaning. A life of purpose allows us to follow our own path with a sense of security
knowing that we always have a place in this world and that we are cared about.
truth is, this is not only a program about how to build good relationships. This program
helps you create a life of emotional and spiritual well-being. Nurturing relationships are
the salve that heals wounds and soothes pain. If your relationships are safe and
supportive, notice how much hope and meaning they bring to your life.
premise of the principles of Relationship Bridge-Building is: by learning to
effectively relate to others, you can repair, nourish, and enhance the quality of your
person is different. And their pain is individual. Some people came to my office with
marital issues, problems with infidelity, depression, or eating, drug or alcohol problems.
Others came in just feeling bad. Hopelessness permeated their emotional and spiritual
well-being. What we learned was the source of all that emotional pain ran deeper than just
the problems they initially talked about. What we learned was the sense of being
disconnected from themselves and other people created the real emptiness and loneliness
they were experiencing. The emptiness that chemicals, food, sex, or material things were
trying to fill was the symptom of a person in need of interpersonal connection.
the answer applied to many different people--from the businessman whose infidelity
stripped meaning out of his life, to the mother of three who gave herself away for her
family. Whether they felt isolated and lonely or filled with despair, their common story
was a search for meaning and fulfillment. To everyone who said Where is the
answer?, the response rang clear--change and growth do not have a quick fix. Any
real life challenge needs time and commitment to create new solutions.
spending time listening to so many people, I decided that working in the context of small
groups of people was the most effective means for bringing about healing and change. By
building relationships with people in these groups, the group members could develop the
skills necessary to elevate all of their significant relationships.
as the people in the groups established real belonging, people could begin to experience a
sense of worth and value. Feelings of isolation and alienation could be replaced with
something more satisfying.
the result of this project turned into six groups called Bridge-Builders. The groups did
something called Relationship Bridge-Building. The name Bridge-Builders came from the
first exercise we learned to do as members of the groups. Its tough to describe the
exercise here, but it involved some string and kind words and for some reason, dozens of
people seemed to hang on to that name--Bridge-Builders.
time, the results of this program demonstrated that a combination of active guidance and
willing participants was a powerful combination for creating growth and change.
the success did not come without its risks. I instinctively knew I would be asking
people to experience awkwardness, discomfort, and even pain. The program exposed the
participants to the very things they feared the most.
a personal growth experience built on this kind of paradox needed to be safe. So we began
to find ways to strike a balance between challenging people and making sure that their
rights and dignity were respected at all times. And that seemed to be an almost magical
I was writing this book, I talked to a woman who has found herself through the
Bridge-Building process. She has embraced everything contained in this book and more. As I
shared my plans to put all this down on paper, I asked her what she thought.
think writing down an experience like this is tough, she said. Knowing the
skills is one thing, but connecting them to your soul is something else.
soul? I asked.
the point of this story is not just about how to get along with people. Its the
great, unbelievable things that happen when you learn to connect with it all. A
smile filled her face, Its not just mastering Involvement, Personal Freedom,
Responsibility, Communication, and all that. Its experiencing the gift of being full
and involved in so many aspects of your life.
talked for a long time about the things to be gained and then I shared my concerns for
putting these ideas in a book. For one thing, its tough to explain everything
fully on paper, and you never know if you have answered all of the readers
questions, I said. And its tough to encourage people when you are not
actually there with them.
she said, what Ive learned is when you need support, look in the mirror and
decide for yourself how best to proceed. As you read through the book, youll realize
that each persons path is individual to her or him. Theres a lot in there and
everybody will take or leave things as they need them. There is no right or wrong
I asked her about her experience in Relationship
Bridge-Building and she said, Its an involved path, sometimes I feel safe,
light, and free. Other times, everything seems dark, uncomfortable, and confusing. It may
not always be as clear to you, the important thing is that you try.
thought for a second and said, Sometimes I remember my feelings being locked shut
with big warning signs saying, ENTER AT YOUR OWN
RISK. Trying to enter those parts of myself only seemed to cause despair and fear. It
is critical to respect these feelings as well. There is a lot to be learned from the parts
of yourself that you are not ready to open up. But, those feelings may be best
acknowledged and left unentered, until you feel more ready.
like a journey and the things to be gained along the way are tremendous. Do not worry,
theres no specific order that these things must be entered and mastered. Find your
own order of entering and mastering them, and take the time to make them your own. The
only caveat is, the more you move forward the better it gets, until you eventually move to
the biggest challenges for you.
there was one thing I could tell someone reading the book, it would be to embrace the
spirit of those words you shared with me when I first started.
You enter the forest
at the darkest point,
where there is no path.
Where there is a way or path,
it is someone elses path.
You are not on your own path.
If you follow someone elses way,
you are not going to realize
chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your
children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs
free. Learn how
to in Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. Recovery book series.