Published on Charity Village
Date: 7th January 2020
Relationships are the container for the potential for transformation. As Service Providers, we usually think in terms of how the relationship will be of benefit for the person receiving services but not so much for ourselves.
Traditionally, we refer to therapeutic and helping relationships when we talk about service to others. And right off the bat, for me anyway, it implies a lop-sided relationship with one person giving and the other receiving. It goes without saying that the giver holds more perceived “power” and must have more to offer. But that is a myth.
When we seek to create Transformative Relationships, we are creating connections that are grounded in partnership, balance, and harmony. All parties involved have something to offer to the process AND something to receive. This is one of the areas that is often quite challenging for many people involved in Vocations of Service ~ this capacity to receive.
We are told throughout our training and reminded in our careers, that “it is not about us, it is about the client or patient” ~ more labels to create separation and draw lines. I prefer the term “person.” I know it makes it clearer to others who we are talking about when we use those labels, but those terms have the potential to dehumanize. The recognition of our collective humanity is imperative to the creation of Transformative Relationships.
Now we are starting to realize that being of service to others is just as much about us as it is about anybody. You are an essential element of this process and this relationship. If you aren’t fully present in that space with another and bringing with you the qualities that a Transformative Relationship are built on, then anything else you offer will have less impact.
You cannot be present and engaged with another if you do not first create that space within. In other words, Self-Connection is intricately connected to your capacity for Enlightened Communication, which has an integral role in the creation of Transformative Relationships.
Transformative Relationships are naturally grounded in presence and engagement, authenticity, compassion, and the honoring of personal power. And the potential for transformation does not exist only for the receiver. There is opportunity for you too. That is the gift of developing your capacity to receive. This is not a tit-for-tat kind of situation ~ rather it is a matter of being within the energetic state of receptivity, sending the message that there is a spirit of equality and mutual value.
From a holistic perspective, tapping into your spirit in ways that work for you ~ think self-connection ~ can be a powerful way to restore your being. So, it’s not that we get this replenishment from other people, and yet, our open nature, makes it possible to receive through an energetic exchange with another. This exchange creates a channel for the experience of connection and engagement. And there is much we receive in that space.
Beyond a spirit of reciprocity and the potential for mutual growth, there are a few foundational elements that make Transformative Relationships possible.
Holding the vision of wholeness
As Service Providers, one of the most powerful things we can do is to see others as whole beings. Western philosophy in human services often focuses on problems and things that need to be fixed or healed, leaving us with the impression of brokenness. To see another (and ourselves, for that matter) as whole beings, even in the midst of challenge, sends a powerful message of hope and affirmation of capacity. Just because one can’t see it or feel it doesn’t mean it isn’t there and often it is accessible with the slightest shift in perception.
We do not give or take away power from other people. It is not possible. We can, however, facilitate a space in which people can come into their sense of personal power. And alternatively, we can act as a barrier to that expression. This distinction is important because to imply that we give or take away power for someone indicates a belief in power imbalances. From a structural perspective, the sense of powerlessness might often feel very real. From a spiritual perspective, however, we are all equal, with no one of us having any more or any less power or value than another. Not everyone feels connected to a sense of power and that is where our role in this process comes in ~ to create that opportunity for connection or re-connection to that inner personal force.
Are you an empath? For many of us, we feel a natural capacity to empathize with others. Our understanding of this needs a bit of fine-tuning. It is not actually possible to feel another person’s feelings ~ not any more than you can taste their food. What we are really doing is picking up on energetic emotional vibrations and then interpreting what we sense through our own lens of understanding. We feel our emotional response to the interpretation of another person’s feelings. And our emotional response holds important information for us that can deepen our sense of self-understanding and connection. What it does for the relationship is make us able to relate and to hold sacred emotional space where another person can process their feelings. Empathy allows us to stand with another in their experience with courage and presence.
And speaking of courage…
In the creation of Transformative Relationships, we aim to restore a sense of hope and capacity for resilience. We believe in growth and change ~ that all things are possible.
That takes guts.
To hold the vision of something beyond what we already know or have known forever requires a step outside of the comfort zone.
And isn’t that what we are asking of others?
There is an element of risk involved with any new learning. Depending on the kind of service you offer in the world, the idea of risk might sound like something you want to avoid and discourage in others. But risk is a part of life. Risk is required in any growth process. With courage, risk can be incorporated in safe ways that allow for expansion and the development of resilience. Risk is also subjective. One person’s risk is another’s adventure. Going out on a limb can often lead to the sweetest fruit.
As Service Providers, it is important that we don’t get in the way of another’s desire for calculated risk. Transformative Relationships provide space for the sense of security that we all need to be able to take a chance.
The benefits of Transformative Relationships extend to the connections with our colleagues and community partners. Transformative Relationships set the stage for Co-Creating Community ~ the focus of an upcoming article.
Recall a time when you felt transformed. What were the circumstances? Who was involved? How did it feel? How did you know you had been transformed? Connecting with the energy of transformation, which often feels both exciting and unsettling at the same time, can assist you to integrate this powerful intention into the work you do with others.
Elizabeth Bishop is the creator of The Conscious Service Approach. She regularly facilitates workshops based on the principles of the approach both online and in person. Elizabeth can be reached at www.elizabethbishopconsulting.com, on twitter at @askelizabethb, and Facebook and Linkedin at Elizabeth Bishop Consulting.