Happiness and relationships

I’m currently preparing for the exam in my existential analysis educational program. It’s going to be on the 2nd Fundamental Motivation – Do I Like to Live? I’ve been publishing some notes from the material in my Instagram. Overall, the topics include – liking, dislike, coping reactions, turning towards, grieving, relationship (inner and outer), time, closeness, values, and emotions.

Currently I’m looking into section on relationships – and in the material there was a reference to the Harvard Study of Adult Development. As a researcher myself, I got curious to read more about it and refresh my garden of memory on that particular study. There are always new angles to it, as it’s been running for over 80 years now. Amazing initiative!

A very nice and concise summary can be found here: Good genes are nice, but joy is better in The Harvard Gazette, article by Liz Mineo.

Some take away points from the study as pointed out by Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

  • “The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health. Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too.
  • “Those who kept warm relationships got to live longer and happier, and the loners often died earlier.”
  • “Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies; they protect our brains,”

From George Vaillant (psychiatrist who led the study from 1972 until 2004):

  • “The key to healthy aging is relationships, relationships, relationships.” – “The study showed that the role of genetics and long-lived ancestors proved less important to longevity than the level of satisfaction with relationships in midlife, now recognized as a good predictor of healthy aging.”

Talk: Practising Existential Therapy by Ernesto Spinelli

As part of the Continuing Professional Development I have joined the talk by Ernesto Spinelli “Practising Existential Therapy”. Overall it was very refreshing to be referred to the roots – therapia:

“Therapy in its original meaning tries to express the idea of the attempt to stand beside the other”.


Some notes to myself:

  • “The client is somebody who both wants to change, and wants to remain the same… then the existential therapist needs to choose himself or herself themselves to both those positions to the client desire to be different, and the clients desire to remain the same, and treat them as having equal validity equal value”
  • “The client is always right. And the therapist has no way of knowing initially, what the client is expressing.”
  • To describe something is to change it.
  • “Every problem presented by the client is also an attempt at a solution”.
  • “Changing any part or any aspect of a person alters the whole person, and in ways that are entirely unpredictable”.

A very important part of therapy – endings, was touched upon as well in the seminar. I feel like this topic is rarely addressed somehow.

And the final note, an analogy between the therapist and Dr.Watson:

“My sense of existential therapy is that it seems to remind us as therapists tried to be the best kind of Watson, that you can possibly try to be that Watson who really excites and invigorates and illuminates so that the wonderful detecting work that Holmes can do will be done.”

Ernesto Spinelli