We need to be “connected.” But we don’t need the conflicts.

Notes on the Sunday address by Dr Francis Macnab, 22 November 2015.
By John Abbate.

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Our relationships affect us profoundly, in both positive and negative ways. Partners, family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances—the people of our continuing relationships are often opaque to us, full of contradictions. “[Our relationships] survive on uncertainty and supposition, fear and farce,” said Dr Macnab.

Taking his cue from Goya, who painted himself in a strange hat that functioned as a wearable candelabrum, Dr Macnab said, “we all need to think about how we can paint ourselves and our relationships in a better light.”

In this address, Dr Macnab urges the meeting of a strong existential awareness of the reality of our relationships, a strong psychology of relationships, and a strong theology of relationships. For what is religion if not “how to live life in all its fullness?” The way we handle our relationships is vital to that goal of living.

Three Listening Principles

Dr Macnab sets out some first principles to open the way:

  1. Listen to yourself. Listen to your higher self and to your healing self, to the ways of hope and wholeness. Listen to the “dialogenic factors”—those factors that open up dialogue—that can release us into a larger life.
  2. Listen to the other, to the many others, to the stimulation that they bring, and to their voices of healing, renewing and reshaping.
  3. Listen to the many voices of life and the larger world—the voices of enlargement and enhancement. Open the doors; an openness of self is the first of Dr Macnab’s seven factors of the flourishing, OCEANIC personality; “the self that is always calling beyond itself.”

Bringing psychology and theology into active service for our relationships

Dr Macnab offers four points to consider:

  1. Relationships can grow tired, but a spontaneous renewal of interest and energy can occur. Some relationships may need active resuscitation. The first concern is to recognise the reality of the complexity and the potential of your relationships. Not all relationships can be resuscitated. Self-examination is required for informed judgement.
  2. Choose your relationships carefully; look to relationships that are stimulating yet protective, enlarging yet healing. Those qualities may come from different relationships. Avoid draining, destructive relationships; reduce your own destructive, neurotic behaviour. “Reduce your exposure to those people that believe in the dead weight of life,” said Dr Macnab. “Look for relationships that will contribute to the lightness of being.”
  3. Look to environments that keep you and your relationships alive—that boost your openness and sense of enjoyment of life. Celebrate those places, and allow your openness to lift your environments in turn, just as the open rose lifts the garden, bringing delight to the senses.
  4. Be open to the other. Through genuine dialogue with the other the self is enhanced. Look for people who will help you discover and become your best self.

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