Attempts to fathom how one’s mind works in relation to self-understanding, and understanding others, is as old as human existence. Yet, what progress have we made? Are there any changes from days of the caveman in what we know about ourselves and how we interact with other people? We still have armed conflict, tribal warfare, genocide and worldwide criminal activity. An unparalleled use of legitimate and illicit drugs and substances are self-administered to reduce anxiety. Countless interpersonal conflicts result in miscommunications, emotional illnesses, soaring divorce rates, violence, job stress and a weakening of family structure and function.
We can look at the modern world and discover not one virtue that did not exist millennia ago. Nor can we identify one defect of human nature which has been eradicated. The average person in today’s modern world resorts to precisely the same coping strategies in seeking personal security as did his ancient ancestors. Yet in other fields of human endeavor we have made great progress. Scientific breakthroughs have occurred in the fields of health, education, travel, commerce, etc. Such achievements influence life in more quantitative ways than affecting life’s qualitative aspects. These materialistic gains have not enhanced personal emotional security for human beings. To the contrary life may be more stressful and problematical to manage than in former times.
Those of us who work in the arena of analyzing and resolving emotional problems are accustomed to hearing individuals blame their difficulties on concerns they are consciously aware of – job loss, financial problems, career disappointments, household moves, being young parents, empty-nesters, caring for elderly parents, problems with raising children. However, the causes of emotional difficulties are found in conflict in one’s interpersonal relationships. Each individual’s sense of well-being depends entirely on the status of such relationships and how well they are managed. Thus, self-understanding of one’s role and function in relationship with various other people in one’s life is crucial to circumventing and minimizing personal emotional distress and achieving more harmonious relationships.