Going by the many ‘how-to’ books and articles you would think all it takes is to learn a few techniques or skills and you are well on your way to a great relationship and good parenting. Whilst it is very helpful to use the concept of ‘time-out’ (parenting) or ‘making I-statements’ (relationships) focusing mainly on skills will let you fall short of the desired outcome in both relationships and parenting. Skills are the icing on the cake.
The cake, however, the vital aspect that forms the basis to a great relationship and also is instrumental in being a good parent: is Self-Awareness. Having self-awareness means that you have been able to make sense of your life, that you have been able to reflect on many, if not all, aspects of your life from early childhood onwards. It means you have been able to process the painful aspects of your life, you understand where your defenses and compulsions originate from, that you have access to a wide range of emotions, that you can regulate your distress well enough to not fall often into acting out behaviour, and that you like yourself.
Working through one’s personal life-story is not an easy task. It requires courage and commitment to stay with a process that is often uncomfortable and emotionally draining, especially when you have experienced childhood trauma (abuse or neglect), grief and loss, long-term illness, or disability. Not doing so may result in a lower level of functioning we all may experience in times of stress or fatigue. Unresolved trauma or grief however interferes with our clear judgements, social skills, self-understanding, attunements to others’ needs, and emotional intelligence.
If you experience problems in your (intimate) relationships or in your parenting, engaging in self-exploration with the help of a psychotherapist might be a solution for your problems.