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  • Writer's pictureKit Wisdom

Creating more space to consider our humanity: a relational approach

Updated: Aug 18, 2022



En route to a workshop in the country, I ease off the accelerator, temper my authority of the steering wheel, and gaze sideways at the spirited landscape as it glides into focus.


I love stopping here.


My ruminating shoulders and zealous abdominals soften like cold butter in a hot bread roll. Gallivanting thoughts wane as my eyes reach the leaves of trees, waving from afar.


Venturing out, the wind bickers with my hair as the sun toys with my heart. I can hear my smile rearranging my face.


I breathe a full breath - one where the air goes out, not just in, and my dancing belly shifts and settles.


Here, I can sense my humanness, my wholeness.


 

A relational approach is a way of interacting with others that embodies values such as inclusiveness, honesty, respect, compassion, humility and cooperation.


A relational approach goes beyond communication skills. It is about the relationship and the relational elements that allow for a full engagement from both patient and practitioner.


This is a significant paradigm shift that values the subjective experiences that we have with each other. It champions presence, attunement, resonance, reciprocity, and intention.


In a therapeutic setting, the intention is to establish authentic and mutual connections, where the practitioner needs to be in relationship with all of their humanness.

Humanness is not something we easily entertain within the medically-modeled world. Repressed by the patriarchal waters in which we all swim, our unconscious view deems our humanity insignificant; perhaps, even useless.


And yet, it is there. Staunchly incandescent, it cannot be doused.


Within you, within me; within every person we see.


We all have a worldview that has been moulded by a multitude of experiences, perspectives, and structures - our body-minds have traversed many relational moments that influence and shape who and how we are.


And yet, many of these parts may never be expressed or given space to emerge within the clinical encounter. The way we have learned to relate is through separation and disconnection.

Without making room for humanness, we inadvertently cultivate fragmentation, and wholeness is interrupted. It is difficult to promote healing within such conditions.


The patient remains a portion of themselves. And the practitioner remains detached.


 

It reminds me of a patient who came to see me, yearning to cultivate a sense of wholeness within. She arrived late and apologetic, her reddened face explaining her unwavering ambition to arrive early.


Despite engaging different specialists to expertly manage her body and mind, she felt aloof towards herself. A sense of indifference pervaded her experience; it was beige in colour, and flat in shape. She could not taste the richness she desired.


In noticing her own disconnection, she wondered about those providing her care. If she was there in a disrupted fashion, were they experiencing something similar?


As her awareness grew, she noticed two people, together yet isolated, sharing space yet separated, focusing on one part of her body-mind, yet ignoring the whole.
To her, it felt montonous, uniform, lonely, and humanly inaccurate.

 

She came to me requesting a shared experience. One where we cultivated a mutual foundation of what her body-mind had been through and how she was relating to it, herself, others, and her environment.


She needed to notice and share her noticing; she needed a mutual understanding, a whole-body dialogue where we could reconceptualise her body-mind's experiences, allowing both integration and transformation.


She was asking me to dance in a way that stepped out of time with the traditional healthcare waltz.
As her partner, my role was to slow down and support her reconnection, by centering her humanity. Weaving a thread to create a tapestry.
And yet, in order to meet her in her humanness, I needed to meet my own.

 

Exploring ourselves - the practitioners - as humans, has historically not been given much value nor space. It has not been made visible by those who've gone before us.


In our patriarchal, power-over healthcare approach, our focus to 'fix' lies primarily on the problematic patient. To hold up our own personal mirror, signifies weakness; perhaps even failure. A sensation so uncomfortable, we avoid at all costs.


And yet, this way of working does not serve the patient, nor the practitioner. It only serves to reinforce the dehumanisation process of both parties.


Moving into a relational approach sees the experience as shared. And not just the sharing of knowledge, which we professionals appear to pride ourselves on.

The sharing of power.

The sharing of dialogue.

The sharing of presence.

The sharing of creation.

The sharing of connection.

The sharing of coherance.


To do this requires a willingness to be transformed by the other in our care. To step towards a way of being that has been perpetually dismissed by the doing. To me, this is the definition of vulnerability.

 

As we began exploring, I sensed an ease develop within my chest - I noticed my breathing was shallow and some tightness had softened.


Unknowingly, I realised I had been holding my breath. Maybe anticipation, or fear perhaps?


I loved how her noticings encouraged my own.

Exploring together, we traversed rocky terrain, connecting sensations in her body to her experiences, memories, beliefs, and feelings.


We noticed anger and frustration in the lack of recognition of her emotional and cognitive load. We acknowledged her fear of conflict and the expectation to do it all as a woman, mother, partner, worker, and giver. We savoured her sense of strength and power in choosing not to conform to work and socio-cultural hierarchies which served to perpetuate many limiting beliefs.


In that moment, I noticed my own strength and power. A rising warmth, moving through my torso, slow and thick like spreading honey.
By making space and welcoming what was emerging for her, I felt I too, was breaking my shackles and choosing not to conform.
Exploring her humanness centered our shared wholeness.

My growing awareness allowed space for slowness and silences. I noticed my gardner's sense of satisfaction, germinating the unknown for fruit to be formed.


And what emerged was rich in texture and co-created in shape.


Strengthening awareness of her multiple layers, we discovered many a moment of binary thinking, fear of movement, protection of self, and disconnection from others. Parts of her body-mind that had been suppressed and ignored, blamed and dismissed were emerging and coherant, cultivating new pathways and narratives.


There was an embodied hope in the humility of the shared vulnerability.


What was fascinating to me, was the quietness of my 'fixer' part. I sensed it melting sideways as we chose curiosity over judgement.

Paying inward attention, I sensed something new. A stillness reminiscent of waving tree-leaves, bickering winds, and a heart-toying sun.


I smiled, and slowly breathed, in and out.


 

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