Open Pages: Relational-Cultural Therapy

APA Books Open Pages is an ongoing series in which we share interesting tidbits from current & upcoming books. Find the full list by browsing the Open Pages tag. APA Books will publish Relational-Cultural Therapy, Second Edition by Judith V. Jordan, in October 2017. The following excerpt is from Chapter 7, “Summary.”

The neurobiological data strongly support the notion that we need connections to grow and thrive. In fact, new data indicate that we need connection to survive throughout our lives; we never outgrow our need for connection (Banks, 2016; Lieberman, 2013). We come into the world primed to seek mutual connection; our brains grow, and there is balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic functioning when there is sufficient early mutuality between infant and caregiver and an absence of chronic stress. However, our social conditioning with its overvaluing of separation, autonomy, and independence is at odds with our underlying biological predispositions. Herein lies a profound dilemma, as these competing tendencies produce enormous stress in all of us. Our individualistic social conditioning erodes the very community that our biology suggests we need. We are neurologically wired to connect (to thrive in relationship) but taught to stand strong alone (to be independent and autonomous). Stress is created at a chronic and undermining level when standards for maturity that cannot actually be attained with any predictability are placed on people. Thus, we are told to be strong through autonomy and separation. But in fact, “going it alone,” or being on the outside, creates pain and a sense of inadequacy. We are told not to be vulnerable, particularly if we are male; and yet every day we encounter the inevitability of our vulnerability. We see loved ones get sick or die; we watch our children suffer with illnesses that we cannot always cure. We watch parents and loved ones succumb to the indignities of older age. We hear of random acts of violence felling adolescent boys in the inner city, of children starving in Africa, of people tortured in prisons. Yet, in our effort to deny our vulnerability, we tend to locate vulnerability in chosen target groups who are then seen as “lesser than.” We marginalize and denigrate those who are seen as “weak.” We minimize the real pain of exclusion and marginalization.

RCT therapy offers a responsive relationship based on respect and dedication to facilitating movement out of isolation. In this context, people heal from chronic disconnections and begin to rework maladaptive, negative relational images, which are keeping them locked in shame and isolation. Energy is generated, feelings of worth increase, creative activity resumes, and people demonstrate enhanced clarity about their experience and about relationships. Most important, they engage in relationships that contribute to the growth of others and community is supported.

References

Banks, A. (2016). Wired to connect. New York, NY: Tarcher/Penguin.

Jordan, J. V. (2017, in press). Relational-Cultural Therapy, Second Edition. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Lieberman, M. (2013). Social: Why our brains are wired to connect. New York, NY: Crown.