Our Stories and How They Affect Our Relationships

 

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Cousins hiking in Banff – Davidicus Wong

Self-care is essential to healthcare. How you live each day impacts your future health.

The four foundations of self-care are emotional wellbeing, healthy eating, healthy physical activity and healthy relationships. Each day in my practice, I see patients whose problems are directly or indirectly related to difficult relationships. On the other hand, a supportive family, mutually positive relationships and a network of good friends support both physical and emotional wellbeing.

Difficult relationships at work, conflicts at home and problems in school can be major sources of stress or the causes of depression or anxiety.

It makes sense to take stock of your relationships, do what you can to get away from or get help with abusive situations and do what you can to improve relations with the people in your life. Though we recognize that our relationships produce the drama in our lives, it’s hard for most of us to know what we can do to make them better.

It can start with reflection on the art of storytelling.

We all love a good story.

That’s one of the keys of a compelling TED talk. We can get wrapped up in a good novel and miss our bus stop or be so caught up with the Game of Thrones that we don’t realize that we’re consuming a whole bag of potato chips.

It is with stories that we make sense of our lives. It begins with the stories our parents tell us, the stories taught in school and the stories told through media. We sometimes mistake our stories for reality.

Like my mom, I loved reading, and every week, we would each reach our borrowing limits of library books – twenty in those days. Books opened my mind to many views, seeing through others’ eyes.

I was drawn to family practice because of my patients’ stories – the ups and downs of daily life, their challenges and triumphs and their joys and sorrows. My profession opened my heart to the experiences and feelings of others.

When we seek to understand the backstory of others, we open the door on compassion. Each of us, even siblings in the same family, may have uniquely different stories of childhood. Those early life experiences shaped our sense of self – who we are, how we fit in the world, how we felt loved or how we did not.

If our sense of self is rigid and doesn’t allow for growth and change, we can get stuck in the same old story as our lives change anyway. If we see ourselves as unchanging personalities with well-worn habits and permanent character flaws, the future will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If in your life story, you are the sole protagonist and everyone else is an antagonist in a world of danger and scarcity, life will remain a struggle and a futile fight to win. You may even compete with your loved ones and friends and fail to fully connect.

What is the premise of your life story?

Did you come into this world alone, expecting to leave the same way?

Or are you connected to every person in your life and through your life the entire world – accepting, sharing and giving forward love in its many forms – discovering and giving back to the world your unique gifts.

Every human being has the same basic needs – for warmth, clothing, food, shelter and love, and we share the same range of emotions. But each of us tells a unique story. We relate best when we understand each others’ stories.

Be mindful in your communications. We may talk to be understood, but we must listen first to understand.

And we understand better with a phone call than by text. Face to face is better than phone.

Words are best interpreted in the context of body language and facial expressions. These nonverbal cues deepen the meaning of words. We can see how others feel and how our words may affect them.

On Thursday, November 24th, 2016 at 7 pm, I’ll be speaking on the topic of healthy relationships at the Tommy Douglas Library 7311 Kingsway (at Walker Avenue). This free presentation is sponsored by the Burnaby Division of Family Practice and the Burnaby Public Library. Because seating is limited, please register by phone at 604-522-3971, in person or online at http://www.bpl.bc.ca/events

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About Davidicus Wong

I am a family physician. I write a weekly newspaper column, Healthwise for the Vancouver Courier, Burnaby Now, Royal City Record and Richmond News.
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