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At Ohio State University, from 1940 to 1944, the writer was in charge of a practicum course at the advanced graduate level, whose purpose was to give training in counseling and psychotherapy. Several of its features were not unusual. Individuals were admitted to the course who had both training and experience in clinical psychology or student counseling. Wide reading was encouraged in a variety of therapeutic viewpoints. If you're having trouble offering tenderness to yourself, maybe you can bring to mind compassionate others who do accept you. Next, sit with it. I've found a ritual that works great for me. I invite my fear to tea. Tea warms me, comforts me. I use it to make the environment a little safer, to make it easier to explore the hard feelings. This great idea came from radical dietitian, spoken word poet, and scholar Lucy Aphramor. When I sit with it, I notice the physical sensations. I usually feel fear in my throat, as if fear itself is choking me. We all have different physical sensations of fear. But first, let's examine why our relationships are so important in the first place. Unpacking Relationships Why is socializing in person so important? To understand the answer, we need to look to some of the foundational theories of psychology. Our drive to form relationships has motivations well beyond deriving the obvious psychologically beneficial feelings of belonging, connection, affiliation, and understanding: forming relationships is also crucial to our survival as a species. Humans evolved into social beings out of necessity.

Dependence on and cooperation with each other enhanced our ability to survive the harsh environmental circumstances we faced centuries ago. In fact, the lack of such connections in one's life can produce problematic feelings of loneliness. Famous psychologist Abraham Maslow developed a now-well-known theory to illuminate our innate need for belonging and love. This theory, known as Maslow's hierarchy of needs, breaks down human needs and human motivation into five sequential levels. A more novel feature, for that time, was that the course was built around cases handled by the students. As soon as a student felt that he was ready to handle a case, a client was assigned to him from among the individuals coming to the Psychological Clinic. The student-counselor took full notes on his interview (or occasionally was able to record some of the interviews) and the nearly verbatim account of at least one interview was mimeographed and distributed to members of the practicum for discussion, while the case was still in progress. This gave the course the maximum of live interest, and was intended to be of help to the counselor while he was still dealing with his client. Counselors were encouraged to request early consideration of their cases if difficulties were developing, or if they felt unsure and in need of help. In addition to this class discussion, many individual conferences were held with students in regard to the clients they were handling. In retrospect, the course seems so full of flaws that its constructive outcomes appear astonishing. The course was very short, with 20 to 25 hours of class time. It could be repeated once, giving a maximum training of about 45 hours. There were usually 15 to 30 members of the group, with one instructor. Try to figure out what it's like for you. Then, I just watch it. What I inevitably notice is the sensations wash over me and change form. Over time, they have less power over me. I am less attached to my pain narrative as I recognize how ephemeral it is. Does anxiety get in the way of your participation in life?

Breathe and feel the fear. Let it be there. The anxiety may still be there, but it's not in control. Stop running from fear and instead allow yourself to grow comfortable with its existence, with the fact that it is present, and that it is another part of human emotion. Only when a prior need is satisfied can one begin working on achieving the next level. Based on Maslow's theory, our first and most important need is our physiological care--including proper nutrition, water, and sleep. Our second-level need is safety--which encompasses shelter, employment, and health. Our third-level need is love and belonging--reflecting our need to have friends and family. This level of need is what Maslow refers to as our social needs. The fourth-level need is esteem--including confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of achievement. Finally, our last need is for self-actualization. Achieving self-actualization is thought to be crucial to our existence. Self-actualization is a big and complex concept, but it's basically a need for morality, creativity, and acceptance. Self-actualization reflects our full potential. The teaching methods were, by present standards, decidedly inadequate. In general they consisted of approval and disapproval of specific ways of carrying on counseling, as exemplified in the interview at hand. While the instructor endeavored to keep the pressure of disapproval from being too great, and to balance it with approval, the individual student frequently felt very much on the spot. Some of the poor results of the course, as seen in retrospect, or dimly perceived at the time, are these. Due to the method of teaching, the student was very likely to acquire guilt feelings in regard to his work. There grew up unintentionally a notion of orthodoxy, so that the student-counselor felt that he was either right or wrong in what he was doing, or that he was properly nondirective or improperly directive.

Since too little attention was paid to basic attitudes, a student not infrequently felt that his own sincere desire was to do one thing, while a vague concept of orthodoxy in counseling compelled him to do another. Thus it was sometimes true that the counselor tried hard to behave in ways which were not genuine for him -- a most damaging start for a therapist. Obviously, the whole situation involved an overemphasis on technique, which was not good. To some extent this deficiency was recognized, but the controls seemed necessary at the time to prevent definite harm being done to clients. You'll find there's room for it and it doesn't need to control you. In fact, it only controls you when you try to avoid it. Only by feeling the fear can you examine the story that's beneath it. In my case, that story is the fear of rejection, which is an almost universal human experience. Let me share an aha moment I had that has helped me immensely in going forward despite fear. Fear of rejection was spinning out of control for me. Why did I have so few close friends? I wondered if something I bring to the table blocked me from finding the intimacy I wanted. I have felt rejected frequently in the past, leading me to believe something about me makes me unlikable, an unlikability on display for everyone to see. So I did something brave. It is important to note that belonging ranks third on Maslow's hierarchy, after physiological and safety needs have been met, but before an individual can pursue esteem and self-actualization. Erik Erikson is a well-known psychoanalyst who examined the importance our relationships have on our emotional well-being. Unlike other psychologists and psychoanalysts of his day--most notably Sigmund Freud--Erikson developed theories that took into account the impact culture, society, and family have on personality development and mental health. In short, Erikson's theory is comprised of eight developmental crises, beginning at birth and ending at death. He believed that successfully working through a specific crisis during specific points in our development is crucial for developing a healthy and adaptive personality. This crisis is the first encountered in adult development, occurring during our young adulthood, beginning at around age eighteen and lasting until forty years old.

Developing the skills for establishing and forming lifelong intimate relationships--such as friendships, romantic partners, and starting a family--is the key challenge at this stage. The capacity to actually feel love and intimacy is necessary for feeling safe and cared for as well as for cultivating a deep sense of commitment to important relationships in our lives. Based on Erikson's theory, if someone is not able to work through this developmental crisis, most likely they will have difficulty forming and maintaining meaningful and nurturing relationships. A whole body of psychology and method of psychotherapy focuses on the quality of an individual's relationships: relational psychology, as it's called, suggests that the way people relate to others and situations in their adult lives is shaped by family experiences during infancy and childhood. The writer believed that if student-counselors, full of many notions of psychodynamics, were permitted to work with clients in any way they saw fit, real harm might result. It was hoped that by emphasizing the techniques of a relatively safe approach, the student could be initiated into counseling work, and could then slowly find the ways of working which were real for him. At the time it was the only way which could be seen of meeting the double demands of safety for the client and learning for the counselor. In spite of the many deficiencies of the course, a very considerable number of excellent therapists emerged from these groups. In the first place, many of these students were highly promising persons, well selected. In the second place, for those who already had to some degree the philosophical orientation outlined in the second article of this article, the emphasis on techniques was often helpful rather than stultifying. It provided a way of working which was in line with their attitudes, and helped to give them a consistent framework for all their therapeutic effort. Another reason for the success of the training was that at a very early stage the student was given responsibility for dealing with a real person in difficulty, and thus felt impelled to learn as rapidly and as deeply as he could the dynamics of a helping relationship. Finally, the use of electrically recorded interviews became a stimulating and highly profitable basis for learning on the part of the therapists. As described at the time (173) it gave counselors an opportunity to see what methods they were actually using, in contrast to those they thought they were using. I reached out to a few ex-friends (all of them therapists! What I got back was enlightening. In one case, I got It's not you, it's me. Now, you don't usually fall for that line, do you? Well, what I learned is that sometimes it actually is true. That friend told me she stopped calling because she had a ton of things going on in her life--single parenthood, stressful job, divorce--and the only way she felt she could handle her responsibilities was to shut out everything other than work or family responsibilities.