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When Net Worth Is a Network: 5 Creative Thinking Tools That Energize Relationships

by Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP

 In the networked world, relationships in our personal, business and community life are increasingly viewed as a form of wealth. With large-scale economic uncertainty threatening our sense of financial security, we are going to find that the intangible resources among friends, colleagues and members of social networks are important resources for creating work opportunities as well as emotional and psychological well-being. Here are five techniques that fuel positive energy in relationships:
Act as if. Relationships are fantastic vehicles for taking stock of what we have going for us and what we need to change. Creating sustainable change is often a difficult struggle to redirect deeply ingrained habits of mind but there are some reliable techniques that enhance these internal shifts. New ways of acting follow new ways of thinking, and we can energize the psychological “muscle” that makes us more adaptive, flexible and open to change by “acting as if” we are in a new and different role. Talkative and outgoing in a group situation? Practice the role of quiet listener or appreciative audience. If the kids' fighting triggers a desire to referee or add to the tension with more yelling, approach it from an unusual angle, e.g., it through the lense of a sportscaster observing and reporting on the action of two opposing teams. Simply choosing to change things up taps into the creative resources we need to put change into action.

Feel the love. Creativity - and its energizing effect on our openness to others' points of view, new experiences and novel solutions to problems - is positively associated with joy and love and negatively associated with anger, fear, and anxiety. A 2006 study published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Science showed that positive emotions literally expand our field of attention so that we perceive a greater range of choices and are less inhibited about trying them out, part of a growing body of knowledge about the ways that positive emotions promote a creative perspective on the problems of life.
Go Within.The practice that many artists engage with to focus inwardly and find their authentic voice to channel into their work is one that can benefit all of us and foster richness of communication in relationships. Maintaining radio silence with the world around us for a period of time makes us more attuned to our inner life and more aware of emotions. Greater self-knowledge and access to feelings makes us more available and expressive to partners, friends and family. Our field of awareness - generally crowded with the pressures and stresses of getting things done - needs a chance to disconnect from incoming messages and pressures so that the less structured, seemingly random inspirations and intuitions can bubble up. A busy schedule may take precedence over carving out a piece of quiet, but even a drive to pick up the kids at soccer can be an opportunity if we turn off the radio, breathe slowly at the red lights, and listen. No texts, no twitters, no exceptions.
Grow With The Flow. A recent study conducted at Stony Brook University’s Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory shows that long-term happiness in marriage is directly linked to the personal expansion fostered by the relationship. The research shows that the more self-expansion people experience from their partner, the more committed and satisfied they are in the relationship, an effect that happens “through their partners in big and small ways,” according to the New York Times’ interview with the investigators. “It happens when they introduce new friends, or casually talk about a new restaurant or a fascinating story in the news.” In a similar way, if a closer friend or business partner challenges us to new experiences or to be a better person in some way and we rise to that challenge, the relationship grows as much as we do. Win-win.
Do the opposite. When Seinfeld's iconic loser George Costanza attributes his misery to a lifetime to following his (misguided) instincts and decides to do the opposite of his own best judgment, he meets previously unattainable women and lands a job with the New York Yankees. While we may not realize sitcom-perfect reversals of fortune through use of this technique, we will be gaining a psychological strength that increases our ability to size up unfamiliar situations quickly and respond effectively. When we choose to approach a situation from a completely different direction than what is ingrained and habitual we experience a degree of uncertainty that triggers the right-brain to search for a new and previously untried response.

About CrAzYToWn: How do you know that nice, helpful guy in the next cubicle is a psychopath? You don’t.  In Crazytown, real-life therapist/performer Jude Treder-Wolff takes you down the rabbit hole of belief that led to her being blind-sided by reality. It’s a comic take on an over-eager therapist getting over herself (when nothing else seemed to be working). And these days, when our phones are smarter than we are, and we can meet, fall in love, shop for a ring and get some counseling with someone and never meet them in person – it’s a cautionary tale about how authentic a completely fake person can be. MORE INFORMATION

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