To be effective in human relations requires both skill and "feel"; it demands the use of head and heart. -Howard Thurman
What does “relational wellness” mean” to you? This has been the July 2021 focus of The Year of Wisdom and Healing program. This weekend’s quote from Howard Thurman stands out to me as an essential piece of relationship wisdom. It is fundamentally about an energy of integration vs. fragmentation.
Strong, healthy relationships are developed and enhanced when we join the wisdom of “feeling” AND the wisdom of “thinking”. The wisdom of feeling is about opening our hearts, connecting to our somatic, emotional, and soul experience, and showing up authentically to ourselves and others. It is about being present as open, vulnerable, compassionate and loving beings. It is when our interactions are infused with the deep experiencing of our interconnected humanity and spiritual connectedness. It involves tuning in to the Truths that we can feel in the core of our being. The wisdom of thinking involves reflection, contemplation, and creative, critical thought. It invites us to engage in inquiry of our lived experience, to reflect critically, and consider diverse sources of wisdom and knowledge (from family, culture, teachers, mentors, etc.).
Cutting ourselves off from either head or heart is not helpful in relationships. Some of us may be more comfortable in a feeling mode and some in a thinking mode. (Are you aware of having a dominant mode?) We contribute to the development of healthy relationships when we resist compartmentalizing or over-reliance on either. If we are not present in heart and soul then we are missing the energetic glue of human connection that joins us our heart/soul with the heart/soul of others. If we don’t activate the capacities of our mental processes then we risk impulsivity or reactivity, or we may allow fear or anger to dominate our relational lives, missing the collective wisdom available to us. Relational wellness improves when we draw upon both head and heart, when we listen to the messages of both. However, the key is to allow them to speak to each other, to explore their congruence/incongruence, and allow this integration of head and heart to inform what we actually DO in our relationships. This is what strong relationship skills are fundamentally about, utilizing the integration of head and heart in ways that enhance our choices and actions in our relationships.
With Peace, Love, and Soulfulness,
Dr. Shelly Harrell