The next relational need we will examine is “Initiation” which is reaching out and making interpersonal contact with another person. Initiation comes from within us, acknowledging and validating the importance of the other person in the relationship. The individual in need of personal contact doesn’t want to request the connection, they want to be important enough to others for initiation to happen without request.
We often experience relationships in which it seems as though we are the person making the contact while the other person doesn’t reciprocate. This experience points to our relational need for initiation. Ideally, a healthy relationship is an equal amount of give and take. However, in most relationships it is very difficult to achieve this interactional balance. The relational need for initiation is often the source of the passive-aggressive relational “score card”. In other words, people often keep score within their relationships – who contacted whom last. The scorekeeping within a relationship tends to eliminate intimate contact.
When considering how we meet our need for initiation, I am a firm believer in,” you reap what you sow”. Your need for initiation will begin to be fulfilled when you become conscious and active in initiating contact with others around you. In other words, it is extremely important for us to be conscious of and aware of the need for initiation in the people around us, especially in these days of COVID-19. When we become aware of this need within others and we initiate contact with them, we may be providing the antidote to intense loneliness. An intricate result of this COVID-19 experience is an increase in suicides, emphasizing the importance of responding to this relational need within each one of us.
We may be going through our usual day and a person from our past or present pops into our mind. I believe, that at some intangible level, we remain connected to those people with whom we have had or have a personal connection. When these people come to mind, or we experience a desire to connect or reconnect to an individual, it is important to follow the directive of this image or desire. Most often, you will discover that you are responding to their need for initiation.
However, we often hold back in the process of initiation. Our restraint comes from our internal dialogue. The person in need of initiation comes to mind. We experience the desire to act on this impulse, but we don’t. We say to ourselves,” they’re not really interested in me contacting them”, in a self deprecating manner, responding to our internal sense of shame. Perhaps another response might be ” I’m afraid they will reject me”, a form of self protection. We may think, “Not now, I am too busy.” Making contact with that individual is not convenient – “I have too much to do”. We have to get beyond ourselves to initiate contact with others.
As I was contemplating the writing of this article it occurred to me that the captain of initiation is Santa Claus! Now, I’m willing to admit that it may be because it is the Christmas season, however when you think about the story of Santa Claus he comes without us asking him on a very consistent basis, once a year. He initiates/ brings Joy, Love and Gifts. I invite you to be someone’s Santa Claus. Youmay be saving their life.
Lawrence J. Johnson, Ph.D., FAPA, is a clinical psychologist with over 38 years of diverse experience in the field.