How Humans Relate: A New Interpersonal Theory

How Humans Relate: A New Interpersonal Theory

How Humans Relate: A New Interpersonal Theory

How Humans Relate: A New Interpersonal Theory

Synopsis

From the time we are born, we never stop relating, just as our hearts never stop beating. Relating is a characteristic which humans share with all animal forms and any classification of human relating ought to exist in continuity with, and be derivable from, that of the relating of all other animal forms. Relating occurs along two main axes. The one concerned with distance regulation, the other with the adjustment of the power differential. People need both distance and closeness; to both hold power and rely upon those who have power. It is argued that all the main forms of relating are organized around these four needs. Interrelating is the process by which people attempt to reconcile their respective relating needs.

Excerpt

I can date the origin of this book to the summer of 1982, when I joined the Medical Research Council Social Psychiatry Unit at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. My intention there was to study proneness to depression in young, married women. In a paper titled Dependence and Its Relationship to Depression (Birtchnell, 1984) I considered dependence to be an important precursor to depression and, at about that time, decided to develop a questionnaire to measure it. Had I been aware that Hirschfeld et al. (1977) already had done so, the book might never have been written. In fact, being unaware of what other people have done seems to have become a necessary evil for me! John Wing, the director of the Unit, said, "You cannot measure dependence without also measuring independence." That was the beginning of what one might call my dimensional way of thinking.

I began to think that if married women became depressed because they were dependent, they must have husbands who behaved in a way that made and kept them dependent. I called such behavior directiveness and decided to develop a measure of that too. Astonishingly, unbeknown to me, this also already had been done, by Ray (1976). What John Wing had said about dependence, I felt should also apply to directiveness; but what could the opposite of directiveness be? I decided to call it receptiveness; and this was the start of another dimension.

Shortly after arriving in London, I had the good fortune to become a member of John Bolwby's study group. About eight of us met regularly in each other's homes. The word "dependence" was anathema to John. He said, "It will lead you straight into a bog." This made me veer away from Wing's dependence- independence dimension towards Bowlby's attachment-detachment one; so the first version of the system around which this book was written comprised a horizontal, attachment-detachment dimension and a vertical directiveness- receptiveness one (Birtchnell, 1987). Several members of the group were quite taken by it. Maggie Mills told me how excited she had been when she read about . . .

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