In psychology there are three general ways to relate to other people, depending on how you interpret and manage emotional risk.
- You can avoid deep emotional investments in people (avoidant attachment).
- You can try to control other people (anxious attachment).
- You can intelligently bond with people and invest in secure relationships (secure attachment).
You can generalize these dispositions to consider how you relate to different areas of life. Are you hiding? Are you over-controlling? Or are you securely investing?
There’s really a spectrum here for different aspects of life and for relating with different types of people, so in practice there are a lot more than just three options.
Your root relationship is your relationship with reality itself. That’s the most important one to get right because it’s the one from which all other relationships flow. All of your relationships are a part of your reality, so if your base relationship with reality is shaky, that will negatively affect all the others. This relationship is so important that I created the full 60-day Submersion course to help you explore, improve, and invest deeply in this core relationship to make it stronger and healthier. Do you feel grounded and secure in this life? That answer needs to be a yes.
Another relationship that’s critical to get right is your relationship with yourself. This is what the 65-lesson Stature course delves into in tremendous detail. It’s the deepest and most thorough self-exploration course that I’m aware of. The purpose is to help you face the full-spectrum truth about yourself and and to develop a healthy and empowering lifelong relationship with all aspects of yourself, including your inner critic, your inner child, and more.
From here you can consider relationships with people and with other aspects of life.
Our next deep dive (for the first quarter of 2021) will be about creative productivity. This new course will help you develop a healthy and secure relationship with your own creative flow. This doesn’t just mean doing creative work like writing or game development. It means managing the creative flow of your entire life as well. What kind of life are you creating? Do you like the direction your life is going? Are you over-steering or under-steering? How can you intelligently manage this flow on each time scale, hour by hour, year by year, and decade by decade, especially with an increasing rate of change?
For many years I’ve enjoyed a secure and healthy relationship with my creative flow, but I didn’t always have that kind of relationship. I had to work through issues like procrastination, selecting projects for the wrong reasons, seeing too many projects die on the vine, feeling too anxious about certain modes of expression (public speaking, being live on camera), overplaying the importance of money, etc.
I continue to invest in improving this relationship, which is really a collection of many different relationships. This year I discovered more depth and nuance in my relationship with creative output through the 365-day blogging challenge. If I wasn’t securely bonded in this relationship, it could have been a difficult year requiring a lot of discipline. But I was exploring a relationship that was already very healthy and positive, so I found the overall experience to be beautiful, warm, and relaxing.
Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries connects with these ideas as well. We can’t deeply invest our time and energy in relationships with everyone and everything. Do you know which relationships you want to deepen and which relationships you’d prefer to avoid? Do you know where you want to plant your social and emotional flag? Is that flag securely planted where you want it to be?
I especially love the depth of exploration that comes from secure bonding, so I can really invest long-term.
One of my personal flags is securely planted in a vegan lifestyle and vegan ethics. I’ve invested almost 24 years of my life in this path, and I want to keep investing for the rest of my life. I love being vegan, and my relationship with veganism keeps growing stronger and deeper. Next year I want to deepen this relationship even more by investing in a full year of a raw foods lifestyle.
I also really enjoy the secure bonding I have in my relationship with Rachelle. Lockdowns and social restrictions seem almost trivial when I get to spend each day with her. I never tire of spending time with her. Day after day I always look forward to even more time with her – hours, days, weeks, months, and years ahead. I love investing in our relationship.
Here’s the key that I struggled with for a long time: the notion of settling. I got stuck for so long by trying to settle for less than I really wanted.
The problem with settling for a partial match is that you don’t feel good enough about the relationship to full invest in it. Some part of you always holds back. The thought of investing may even give you a queasy feeling.
That was me in my first business. I liked many aspects of game development, but I too often felt like I was falling short when it came to contributing, making a difference, and really caring about people as much as I could. There was a certain coldness to the work, and I wanted to invest in more warmth. It was always going to be a partial match for me, so I could never unlock 100% of my desire to invest. Some part of me was always going to have doubts, wondering if maybe I should be doing something else.
My first marriage followed a different trajectory. I did feel very invested in it in the early years, but eventually incompatibilities grew, and it became clear that each of us wanted to invest in different directions. Looking back I do feel good about investing in that relationship while it lasted. I also see that it was best for us to move on when we could no longer truly invest in building a life together going forward.
What I love about my life today is that I feel securely bonded with people and aspects of life with which I’m can really invest long-term.
I can also see where I’m not investing as a sign that I may be dealing with a partial match, in which case the solution isn’t to settle but rather to find a full match where I can really invest.