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Relationship - A Matter of Distinctions

Taken from:
Saanich News, February 22, 2006

Paul Beckow M.Sc. R.P.C.
Individual couple and Family Counsellor

Many relationship columns in the newspaper begin with a letter outlining a challenging personal problem then ending with a call for help. Something like:

“Dear Ann. I just married a man twice my age, and his mother is now sleeping in our living room, and he’s gone fishing with his friends for a week and his lab dog is having puppies in our bedroom. I feel lost and confused. What should I do?”

Then the columnist gives her or his advice. Isn’t that how it goes?

Every one can give advice. It’s easy to give people advice. Anyone can tell another what they should do.

For me, there is something very limiting about advice.

Advice seems to be what we do when we simply survive or “brave through” a life situation.. It replaces any real learning, any exploration of the conditions of our life, or new understanding.

I say, in the practice of our relationships, people do not need more advice.

What people need is - distinctions.

With greater distinctions, we see and understand more. We make better choices.

What is a distinction.?

The dictionary says a distinction is “the perception, awareness, or knowledge of, a differentiation made between or amongst things.”

There are hundred and thousands of distinctions in any activity or field of endeavour. Take wine tasting, horse racing, retirement savings, sailing, gardening etc. Each activity is full of fine distinctions that have been passed on through someone’s experience.

So it is with relationship. Relationship is a practice. Relationship, like gardening, is an activity with clear distinctions - understandings and skills that support success.

The more distinctions you have available to you the more proficient you are with your choices and effectiveness in that activity.

For example, someone who is masterful at playing the piano has hundreds, perhaps thousands, of distinctions as a result of their training and personal practice with the piano.

Personally I don’t have a clue as to the difference between the black keys and the white keys, or what the three metal peddles on the floor are for. The proficient player does. Each “knowing” and understanding is a “distinction”. The more distinctions they understand the more proficient they are with the piano.

How do you make a distinction?

By examining something and delineating what that something is, from what it is not.

Take learning to ride a bicycle for example. When you first learn to ride a bike you are basically learning the distinction “balance”. Through real practice on the bike, you learn to ride by discovering what balance is, from what balance is not.

You get on your bike and ride it and fall off. You get on your bike and ride it and fall off. And finally you get that point we call “balance” . Now that you have that distinction balance you ride your bike with ease and skill.

Relationship is the same. There are hundreds of distinctions, in the activity of relating, and in the field of counselling and psychology, ( skills and understandings ) that will make a difference in peoples own effectiveness at relationship.

There is much to learn about skills of relationship such as: authenticity, openness, challenges and power of communication, forgiving, letting go, intimacy, listening, commitment, our selves, the other, being satisfied, cleaning up a mess, being responsible, taking care of ourselves, making requests, being accountable, trusting … etc.

You learn a distinction just as you do on the bike example, by taking a particular distinction and practicing it. For example. Being satisfied. You practice at it. Making requests. You practice at it. Forgiving. You practice at it. Until you got it so it works.

And when we’re feeling stuck we get at new distinctions, not by asking “Now what do I do ?” but by wondering, “In this situation, what is it that relationship is trying to teach me? ” This opens the pathway to discovery and new learning.

This is what I intend for this column LETS TALK. The purpose of writing is not advice.

The purpose of this column is to share with you some of the distinctions of the art of relating. To share clear skills and understandings that will support you in having exciting, nurturing, satisfying relationships in all areas of your life.

Paul Beckow is a certified individual, marriage, and family therapist. If you have a relationship, personal issue or concern, he can be reached by phoning the Victoria Family Institute at 721 2477 or contacted through his web site at www.paulbeckow.com

For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.

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