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Anyone who has trained to offer mental health, spiritual, or psychosocial care knows that part of the training process in coming to a greater understand of oneself. It is important as self-knowledge can help each of us understand those things that trigger adverse reactions and learn how to both recognize and work within those triggers. The same holds true for all life’s relationships. In the following article, the authors describe the value of self-knowledge in our personal relationships as well.

Why Knowing Yourself Helps All Your Relationships

One goal common to many types of psychotherapy as well as psychoanalysis is to learn about yourself, who you are (your inner self and outer self) at present and how you got there.

Yet knowing yourself may be one of the hardest tasks you’ll ever attempt.For many of us, a myriad of obstacles spring up when we attempt it.

If you tend to be intellectual or philosophical, you might get mired in questions such as: “Who is the me/self that is assessing the me/self?”

If you tend to be emotional, you might get bogged down in less-than-positive emotions around the issue.

If you are more likely to be spiritual, questions such as “Why am I here” or “Why was I created” can sometimes stymie self-knowledge.

But knowing yourself is important to all your relationships, helping you fine tune your sense of humanness.

Parents and Kids

Effective parents, for example, know themselves. Self-awareness without self-centerdness, is an important ingredient in any relationship but essential to healthy parenting.

In order to deeply understand what your child needs, to really “get” where your child is coming from, and how he experiences the world around him, it’s essential that you know who you are: what makes you tick, what brings you down, what uplifts you, what turns you off.

When we know who we are, we are more open to seeing beyond the surface in others.
But in order to understand who we are, we have to take the time to do so. By learning more about who you are and how you feel about yourself, your child, and life in general, you’ll be able to interact more effectively—and lovingly—with your child.

—From The Parent-Child Dance: A Guide to Help You Understand and Shape Your Child’s Behavior by pediatric behavioral specialist Miriam Manela, OTR/L and C.R. Zwolinski (PsychCentral’s Therapy Soup)

One of the most important things I’ve learned while working on The Parent-Child Dance with Miriam, is that in any relationship, having an appreciation for who you are and an understanding of how you “take in” the world, how you experience life, really makes a difference to how you relate to others.

Seems obvious, doesn’t it?

But sometimes you have to hear an obvious fact over and over again before it sticks.


You have to know what makes you tick, in order to find satisfying work. You also need to have an appreciation of what makes others tick, in order to create satisfying work relationships. This can be on the smaller scale, for example, you don’t need to know everything about that person in another department who you meet once a month, but knowing the person you are teaming with on a project can be vital.

Coworkers get together after work to relax and unwind, but this is the best time to pay attention and really listen to your coworkers. You may see a sense of humor you’ve never noticed before, or learn about the personal pressures they are under. Carry your knowledge through to your work relationship so you can be supportive, as well as tap into their talents and interests.

Friendships and Personal Relationships

Sometimes, we can be a little obsessed with having our own needs met. And sometimes we can push our own needs to the background, so much so that we forget who we are. Striking that balance requires paying attention and learning all the ways in which you cope, deflect, or deny.

Knowing yourself doesn’t mean that you cannot change yourself. You have to know yourself well enough to sense whether change will enrich your relationships, emotional well-being, and life in general.

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is an internationally licensed psychotherapist and addiction specialist with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. Learn more about Richard here.