Invest in your life pt. 4: Tribal Relationships

Relationships: Using Tribal Thinking to Develp Greater Purpose and Belonging

Successful relationships at work, home and in all aspects of our lives are essential to our feelings of wellbeing and happiness.

Looking back in time, Homo sapiens became successful  as a group because we learnt that working together and sharing is more efficient and safer than being a lone hunter/killer. Every tribe had its rituals, roles and taboos, which allowed the group to stick together and survive. This way of being has become so deeply ingrained in our psyche that the essentials of relationship-making remain pretty much the same today as they did for our ancestors.

Knowing and participating in your current tribal culture will help you to achieve successful relationships.  Not only that, but you can generate in yourself a deeper sense of purpose and belonging.

Successful Relationships in 3 Parts.

1. Rules

Whilst many of the historical taboos no longer apply, rules and boundaries are essential to emotional security and safety. This means identifying the ground-rules and working out the conditions of each relationship you’re in-with your partner, friends and colleagues, and even with your kids.

What do you need the other person to do or not do? Vague statements don’t help as they are impossible to act on. The meaning of “I need respect,” is different for different people.  “Please can you tell the boss that we worked on this job together” is better. And, if it is important to you that you to know that your partner will be late, you could say, “When you are running more than 5 minutes late, please give me a call on my mobile and leave a message”.

Get to know what others require in your relationships. This sets the boundaries. Can I do this/can I do that? What are my needs and what is acceptable or unacceptable? Is compromise possible? Write down your needs, discuss, and remember to revisit them regularly.

2. Roles: Mammoth for Tea Darling?

Successful hunting and gathering was about everyone in the tribe working together and knowing what their job was.  Perhaps today it doesn’t affect whether we are going to catch mammoth for tea but role clarity does affect both our sense of self and our effectiveness. In your personal relationships are you clear about what each of you do? Step 2 is to have that discussion.

3. Rituals

Rituals and ceremonies help us to define situations. Do you greet: with a kiss or a handshake? Do you do a tea making ceremony? This is the glue that holds all of our relationships together. The make-up rituals after rows and arguments define successful and unsuccessful couples.  Identifying and sticking to your rituals, even when it feels difficult,  is important in keeping your relationships healthy and vibrant.

Relationship Success & Tribal Habits

Thus the recipe for successful relationships boils down to the 3 R’s – observe them, and you will be surrounded by supportive people for the rest of your life.

Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy helps clients to live life fully. We use a range of creative and traditional techniques to help you to sort out issues in your personal and professional lives in an efficient and effective manner. The list is extensive but includes anxiety, addiction, relationships, depression, and all things therapeutic.

Ken McLeish is Principal Therapist at Reflexions Counselling and Therapy in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Reflexions provides counselling and therapy for a range of issues including addictions. He can be contacted through the website: .

Information contained in this blog is not a substitute for face-to-face therapy. It can only every be one view of a situation and may not be applicable to your situation. You are advised to seek specialist support for treatment for addictions. The work here is a personal view which may change over time and should not be taken as representative of Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Ken McLeish BA DMS MBA MSc MSc Cert Ed UKCP Reg
Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy
Cuthbert House, NE6 5RD
0191 3506415 .


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