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We Need Others

Human beings are social creatures and need connection. Psychologists, anthropologists, and philosophers have suggested many reasons for why we need connection.  These reasons include: providing for physical and emotional needs, creating tribal safety, invoking social and economic efficiency, and offering structure for human development.

As I’ve explored this topic, I find our need for others is multifaceted. In mental health, there are overlapping influences, often termed the biopsychosocial model of health. This phonetic amalgamation promotes the importance of three overarching schools of thought: (1) our biology, (2) our thoughts and emotions, and (3) our social environment. Our social connections are no small matter. We experience social connection with family, friends, church relationships, clubs, and work situations.

One reason I feel we need others, is to create affirmation and validation for our life journey. As children, we look to authority figures for validation. At first, this person is usually a parent or guardian. When we enter our adolescence, we turn to friends. As adults, we may seek approval from peers, or authority figures such as church leaders, a spouse, or a boss at work. Marriage relationships uniquely create opportunities for seeking intimate affirmation and validation. As a therapist, I see couples desiring validation if they are “enough,” or if they are “doing things right.” These bids for validation are expressed in a variety of scenarios in the kitchen to the bedroom.

Eventually, we arrive at a place where self-confidence eclipses the need to seek validation from others.  When this occurs, we help support others, and our self-esteem is self-sufficient.  I don’t think this process is a bad thing. Instead, I feel the understanding we gain is helpful and includes three important concepts.

First, as other people bid for validation from us, we should feel complimented, as we are now a companion in their healing journey. Affirming another is an opportunity to support and honor the path and choices others make in a way that creates self-awareness and growth, confidence, and security while allowing for a space of safety.

Second, we need to know how hurtful rejection can be for those who seek for an affirming voice from us. As children, we are often told “no,” “don’t,” or “you cannot.” Usually, these commands are barked from parents who want to protect their children. However, as a conscience being willing to aid in the healing journey of others, an affirming voice such as “you can,” “you’ve got this,” or “I trust you,” is more effective.

Third, understanding your attachment style, or the attachment style of others can assist in explaining how validation and affirmation are expressed.  An assessment of how you engage with others can aid you and those you love to help establish securely attached relationships.  For example, some people will anxiously seek for attention, and others pull back when things get messy, avoiding receiving the needed help the connection brings.

As humans, we connect with others for a variety of meaningful ways. Seeking affirmation and validation is a human characteristic that moves people toward a place of self-confidence. We start by trusting the voices of others we trust, and then we move to trust our internal voice.  We do these in elaborate dances that deserve our attention and our nonjudgmental observation.

If you or a loved one needs help in understanding or seeking validation, please give me a call at 801.944.4555 to schedule an appointment today.

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Affirmation: A Conference Dedicated to Fostering Loving Dialogue about LGBT Mormons

Affirmation LGBT Conference

 Next month, Julie Hanks will be presenting at Affirmation, a conference dedicated to fostering a loving discussion among LGBT Mormons, their friends and family, and the LDS community.  The conference is non-political, but is instead focused on providing healing, love, and support for our LGBT brothers and sisters.

The Deseret News asked Julie a few questions about Affirmation.  Here is a bit of the interview:

Q:  How did you get involved with Affirmation? How long have you been associated with the group?

A: While I am not officially affiliated with the group, I am a huge supporter of Affirmation’s mission of inclusiveness, love, and support for Mormon LGBT individuals.

Q:  What do you hope to communicate with those attending?

A:  I hope to communicate a message that every life is valuable and important. No matter where we are on our life’s journey, God’s love for us is infinite, and Jesus Christ’s Atonement is always available as a source of strength and healing. Too often, we think that we have to do something different or be someone different to be worthy of God’s love, but nothing can separate us from the love of God.  

As an LDS performing songwriter and a licensed therapist, I plan to share some of my best-loved songs and words of encouragement based on my experiences working with LGBT individuals and their families.

Q:  What misconceptions do you think people have about LGBT Mormons and Affirmation?

A:  There are so many misconceptions about LGBT Mormons that it’s difficult to know where to start. Here are a few: that being LGBT is a choice, that you can’t be LGBT and participate in the church, that LGBT Mormons want to leave the church, that many LGBT Mormon who have left the church are bitter and want nothing to do with it.  None of those things are necessarily true, and we want to help eradicate these myths. 

Many people assume that Affirmation is an activist group that is in opposition to the LDS church’s teaching.  Affirmation is about creating and maintaining a respectful and healthy dialogue between LGBT Mormons and the broader LDS community that encourages inclusive attitudes and practices. 

 

The Affirmation conference is on September 12-14.  Click here for more details and to buy tickets.

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