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Relationships: How Do I Make Meaningful Connections?

By: Bridgette W. Gottwald, LPC, NCC

If you’re my client, then you have heard me talk extensively about the body and mind being exquisitely interconnected and in constant dialogue with one another. That makes sense, right? Well, surprisingly we tend to overlook this important fact. To be able to find our way back to ourselves and each other, we must understand how our emotions shape our thoughts and decisions. If we don’t do this, we become “disembodied” from our own experiences and disconnected from others. Sometimes, a barrier in understanding this is that many people struggle to be held accountable without rationalizing, blaming, or shutting down.

“People will do almost anything to not feel pain, including causing pain and abusing power.” 

Typically, these are people’s gut instincts and they can come up immediately as a normal defense. To avoid this barrier to understanding and work on holding ourselves accountable, it might help to do the following:

Understand how we show up in our bodies and why (biology).

  • What somatic reactions are you going to and what happens when you are triggered?

Get curious about how our families and communities shape our beliefs about the connection between our feelings, thoughts, and behavior (biography).

  • Whether you like it or not, you have learned things in your childhood that contribute to how you act and handle adversity today. What have you learned from your family?

Examine our go-to behaviors.

  • Look for patterns in behavior. Life is all about patterns – often, everything has a pattern, so look at history to see if you find any.

Recognize the context of what we’re feeling or thinking.

  • What brought this on? (Aka what is the backstory that got you here)
  • Did a domino effect take place? What specific things led you to how you are feeling right now?

Finding the answers to these questions help us make meaning of our lives. Asking yourself these will involve recognizing, naming, and making sense of your feelings and experiences. Often in life, we feel lost, adrift, and confused and our first instinct is to gaze out into the distance seeking the nearest shore. However, the shore we are looking for actually exists in the solid ground within us. That anchor that you need and that you are looking for is a connection, and it’s internal, not external. You won’t find that outside of yourself no matter how hard you look.

To be able to form meaningful connections with others, first, you have to connect with yourself. You might find yourself wondering how I do both of these things? Well, that’s when language comes into play. To do either of these things, you have to establish a common understanding of the language of emotion and human experience so that you can properly and accurately articulate. Language is our “portal” to meaning-making and connection, healing, learning, and self-awareness. We must have access to the right words or labels that explain our experiences and these words could open up an entirely different world for us. Without accurate language, we will end up struggling to get the help that we need, which can lead to a dysregulation of emotions or “acting out.” Having the ability to name an experience does not give the experience itself more power, but instead, it gives us the power of understanding and meaning. To learn more about some of the topics covered in this blog, check out Brené Brown’s book, Atlas of the Heart, which shares how to better understand and articulate difficult emotions we all experience throughout life. 

We hope you have found these tips for making meaningful connections helpful. If you would like to talk to someone, our counselors are here to help. Contact Symmetry Counseling to begin therapy in Chicago today!


Brown, B. (2021). Atlas of the heart: Mapping meaningful connection and the language of human experience. Random House Publishing.  

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