During October and November, I talked about the obstructions in front of building healthy relationships, and said, “People who cannot establish healthy relationships are either not aware of themselves, or they are not aware of anybody else but themselves.” I also mentioned which relationship modes, when used indiscriminately and without control, would make a relationship unhealthy. As we have talked a lot about being unhealthy, the time has come to understand being healthy.

Healthy relationships can only be established by healthy individuals. According to the Gestalt approach, healthy persons are mature and authentic individuals who can take on their responsibilities and realize their potentials. 

The characteristics of a healthy individual can be itemized thus:

·         The healthy individual accepts the responsibility for his/her feelings, thoughts and actions. Therefore, he/she can decide for him-/herself, can differentiate what is important for him-/herself from what is important for the society. He/she does not base his/her actions on the acceptance or approval of the society. He/she does not expect the state to meet his/her needs and tries to do what he/she can for him-/herself and the partner. The person who can shoulder his/her own responsibility will not take on the role of the downtrodden, the victim. Even in challenging situations, he/she can see his/her own and the partner’s share, and head for the next step. Being able to take on his/her own responsibility makes it possible to make choices with more freedom, and to stand behind them. The person who can shoulder his/her own responsibility expresses him-/herself, not with, “You make me angry,” but with “I  am angry at you,” not with, “Because of you,” but with, “Because of my choices.”

·         Saying that the healthy individual does not focus on the acceptance of the society in making free choices does not mean that he/she ignores the society. He/she acts in the way he/she finds correct while taking the conditions and the people around him/her into consideration. This makes them into authentic individuals. This means, he/she knows what to say and when and how to say it, and has the capacity to calculate how others will be affected by this.

·         The healthy individual has the capacity to support him-/herself. Life is full of opportunities for maturing, and each opportunity to mature actually harbors worries and fears. The healthy individual has the ability to calm and encourage him-/herself in the face of these worries and fears. He/she is not constantly on the lookout for someone to support him/her. He/she does not focus just on the worry and the fear, he/she tries to see the opportunity for growth behind them.

·         The healthy individual is after realizing his/her own potential. Being perfect or faultless are not among his/her criteria. It is not necessary to be the most beautiful or the most successful. What is important is being aware of his/her most beautiful and successful aspects, and being able to use them. This is the key to an individual’s acceptance of him-/herself as is.

The healthy outlook of a person will make the relationships built by that person also healthy. As a result, there will be no need for him/her to say, “You are mad at me,” and reflect his/her own feelings to the other, or swallow everything without chewing, and say, “I cannot be with someone my family doesn’t approve of,” and even if he/she has made the wrong choices, he/she will shoulder the responsibility for them, and not leave the other person in a quandary.

Becoming healthy individuals and building healthy relationships require a process and effort. All the relationship modes we have mentioned as unhealthy, all our experiences since the day we were born, and everything we have learned since, have become ingrained. These templates that protected us from the challenges of our environment and from individuals in our little world once upon a time, no longer function once we grow into adult individuals and enter a bigger society. We start looking for the templates of that small family in every relationship we establish, and we try to distance ourselves when we don’t find it. And this snatches the chance of catching that healthy relationship out of our grasp. Just for this reason, women try to find a partner like their father, and men search for one like their mother. The lifelong continuation of the same pattern makes us feel safe. However, feeling safe does not indicate healthy relationships.

So, what needs to be done is, first of all, to make ourselves healthy. To do this, we first need to get to know ourselves as an individual, to recognize our healthy and unhealthy aspects, to be open to new experiences, and to be able to see the situations that worry or scare us as opportunities for growth and development. This is a process, and the first step is gaining awareness. We shall meet again in January, with “How Can Awareness Be Gained?”…


Derya Gulterler