Richard G. Petty, MD

Healthy Relationships are Essential to Your Health

“All of life is relationship.”
–Swami Rama (Indian Spiritual Teacher and Writer, 1925-1996)

When I first started looking at the hundreds of different therapeutic systems that we have on offer, it was striking that they all have at their core the development of a relationship between two or more individuals. One is designated the patient or client and the other the therapist who is helping the patient cure himself or herself. Until the invention of the stethoscope, which was the first step toward separating patients from those treating them, the fundamental nature of a healing relationship was well understood. Sad to say, over the last century and a half orthodox medicine began to minimize the importance of relationship to cure.

Nothing in the Universe exists in isolation: We live in a Universe of relationships. It is inconceivable that anything can exist except in relationship to something else. The entire Universe is made up of integrated systems that function, develop and evolve together. A failure to construct and maintain healthy relationships can be a cause of much distress.

Several years ago I reported some interesting observations. At the time, I was doing a lot of research on diseases of blood vessels. I had developed a laboratory method for taking some of the cells that line blood vessels from volunteers and then growing them in a cell culture dish. We discovered that if we did not have enough cells in the dish, they would all die of “loneliness.”

The exception is cancer cells, which in culture will grow on their own like weeds.

Next, we made an accidental and remarkable discovery. We normally cleared out our cell cultures once a week, but on this occasion I found that I had accidentally nudged one of the dishes to the back of the incubator, where it had been sitting for three weeks. Looking at the cells under the microscope, we could see that they had formed little tubes. Now that might not sound like very much, but it was. The cells had, inside the body of the volunteer, been part of a microscopic tube called a capillary.

To prepare the culture, the cells had been cleaned with all sorts of biochemical treatments to strip them away from everything else so that we would have no contaminating cells. The teaching for years has been that the development of cells and organs is a result of biochemical interactions between different cells of the body driven by the DNA inside the nucleus of the cells. But my cultured cells had no such cells to guide them. How could they “remember” that their role was to make tubes? The most likely explanation is that they are responding to morphic fields. I published the observation in a paper 17 years ago, and others have now replicated it.

It is estimated that at least 80% of our higher cortical functions are directed toward social functions. It is little wonder that failing to use those vast tracts of evolutionary machinery might have sad consequences.

And they do. Social isolation increases the chance of substance abuse and scores of illnesses. And people who have no social supports are much less likely to recover from many major illnesses. On the other hand, being engaged in robust, dynamic relationships provides you with powerful protections against some illnesses.

Relationships are essential to your health.

There are tens of thousands of books on relationships and I have no intention of reiterating material that has been written about a hundred times before.
But based on our principles of physical, psychological, social, subtle and spiritual, let me make these suggestions for constructing and maintaining successful relationships:

  1. Partnership: As I discuss in Healing, Meaning and Purpose, it is essential to examine every one of your relationships to see if it is a relationship of domination or partnership: is one person dominating and controlling the relationship, or are both people participating equally? And here is the trick. We are not only interested in the relationship between you and another person or persons, we are interested in ALL your relationships, from cell to soul.
  2. Maintaining wellness: all the people in a relationship should do whatever they can to maintain their physical, psychological, social subtle and spiritual well being. Nobody can avoid everything: life will throw you some curve balls, but it is most unfair to burden a relationship with avoidable health worries
  3. Responsibility: In the same way that you should not burden others in a relationship with avoidable health problems, you should also not burden them with needless concerns about money or other resources. Arguments about money are one of the main causes of turmoil in marriages, and it is not so much a matter of having insufficient, it is more often a matter of one person being irresponsible.
  4. Attention: it is essential to give the other person or persons in a relationship the attention that they deserve.
  5. Acceptance: This can be a hard one sometimes, and I am going to write more about acceptance shortly. Suffice to say that mature relationships require a good dose of acceptance. I have written before about an extreme case in which a woman was lamenting the fact that she could find nobody who matched her ideals in a mate. Her list of non-negotiable requirements in a partner ran to some ten pages
  6. Kindness: Spontaneous acts of kindness are essential to healthy relationships. If you do not want to offer kindnesses to another person it implies that there is something seriously awry n the relationship. Kindness should not be planned; it should just be part of your normal modus operandi
  7. Warmth and affection: Spontaneous warmth and affection are signs of a healthy relationship. But don’t think of that as holding hands and signing kumbaya, it also means being aware of the heart, the essence and the soul of the other person or persons in a relationship. If you have not recently shown some real gratitude for the other person, today might be a really good time to start.
  8. Laughter: Do you and your partner(s) have fun together? Are you able to share laughter and to let go of pretence? It doesn’t mean that you have to spend all day watching Laurel and Hardy or telling each other sidesplitting jokes. It means being able to find a new and healthy perspective on life and to find time to enjoy the lighter side of life.
  9. Conflict: do you have a healthy way of dealing with anger, conflict and resentment? All three may crop up from time to time, but the key is how you cope with them. It is simply not realistic to follow the advice that you should avoid all conflict. It’s as silly as saying the key to stress management is to avoid stress. You may as well try to avoid gravity. Stress and conflict are universal constants: the trick is learning how to deal with them. In the case of conflict the key – as always – is to communicate and to avoid toxic or corrosive habit patterns
  10. Listening: Listening to another person is not a matter of sitting back and allowing sound waves to set up vibrations in your auditory nerve: listening is an active learned skill that involves watching, noticing and being aware of every aspect of a communication. (You may be interested in having a look at another piece that I wrote about communication). Listening involves giving space for a communication to unfold and then asking questions and checking to ensure that both people are understanding every aspect of the exchange
  11. Trust: No relationship can be expected o flourish without a healthy dose of trust. Not just in the integrity of the relationship, integrity of the other person(s) involved in the relationship and trust that what you say or do will not be judged harshly
  12. Freedom: I have seen more relationships flounder because of a lack of freedom than almost anything else. There is a good reason why freedom is such a powerful political force. For most people, freedom to be themselves and to determine their own destiny is as important as oxygen. Ensure that your relationships have plenty of space to breathe. 

“Relationships are the hallmark of the mature person.”

–Brian Tracy (Canadian-born American Author and Expert on Business and Personal Development, 1944-)

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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