By Adrian Hickmon PhD
Thanksgiving for Another Chance:
12 Trust Bridges for Building Strong, Intimate Relationships
The holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Years is the best time of the year to ponder where we’ve been, where we are and where we want to go. It’s like a time of fresh starts, renewed hope and directional change in our life paths.
In college, my head coach, John Prock, taught me a practice of using a deathbed reflection when trying to sort out situations and make important life decisions. Coach Prock would always say, “Adrian, you need to look at that from a deathbed reflection. Go to your deathbed in your imagination and think back to this day. What is it that you would hope to have in your memories? More money, more fame, more degrees, more trophies? Or more memories and closer relationships with your family and a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ?”
Core-to-core intimacy in our family relationships first, then in our inner circle friendships, is the strongest factor to a healthy and fulfilled life including prevention of disease, prevention of chemical and behavioral addictions, healing trauma, and most important, the realization of our most wanted death-bed reflection hopes.
I’ve been working with addictions, trauma, tough family conflict, and family enrichment for almost 30 years. During these years, the following “Trust Bridges” have consistently emerged as the most important fundamentals for building strong, deep, rich, and mutually fulfilling relationships—in other words, core-to-core intimacy.
Take a look at them and see if there’s something you can take with you and make the world a better place, starting with your family. The first four are about your inner world as a person. The rest are about actions that you implement from that inner world.
- TREASURE TRUST BRIDGE. Growing in your commitment and consistency with what matters most to you, your family. Your heart will be where your treasure is says Matthew 6:21. What matters most to you is what you give the most of you to; the true, transparent and tranquil you with your time, talk, touch, tenderness, tributes, tickles, teaching, and training.
- TRUE BLUE TRUST BRIDGE. The dogged determination to never quit growing in being true blue, authentic, genuine, and honest. Being a “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” person with no secrets living a lifelong, relentless pursuit of being more like Jesus Christ.
- TRANSPARENT TRUST BRIDGE. Willing to be deeply known and to deeply know others in your family through an ongoing process of disclosure. To create a relationship environment when the words “I love you” are said, no one feels, “You wouldn’t if you knew this secret about me.”
- TRANQUILITY TRUST BRIDGE. To become approachable, safe, and at peace with yourself, so you have a predictability and consistency in the life you give yourself and your family, especially children. Saying “I’m approachable, you can talk to me about anything!” when you are not tranquil inside means you are not approachable the way you need to be. Do the work it takes to become healed and at peace in your own skin.
- TIME TRUST BRIDGE. Committing and consistently giving Quantity Time to those you treasure. Quantity time is the setting in which quality time experiences happen not by manufacturing them, but by creating an environment in which they spontaneously happen. It is the ultimate “I love you.” It says, “I choose you first to be with in my quantity time, even if nothing sensational and memorable happens, it’s just about being with you.”
- TALK TRUST BRIDGE. Being verbal with feelings, thoughts, and interactions at all levels from fun and casual to deep and serious. The people you love need to hear you say, “I love you” and hear it often. When people say, “I know my daddy loved me even though he never said it,” they are trying to minimize something very hurtful, even if they have done it for so long that they’ve disconnected from the hurt of it. So talk, say “I love you,” listen, be with each other, and always have good eye contact.
- TOUCH TRUST BRIDGE. I always say that touch seals the deal, meaning all the trust bridges in the world are meaningless if you don’t have healthy, affectionate touch (nonsexual and not a precursor to sexual touch) on a regular basis. The skin is our biggest organ with approximately 6000 receptors per square inch that send messages to the brain more powerfully than words. Affection, with good eye-contact, is the most powerful attachment builder in the world.
- TENDERNESS TRUST BRIDGE. Being able to be empathetic—putting other’s skin on and feeling something in yourself that is similar to what that person is feeling, with a nonjudgmental, calm, and loving presence. This is vital in having deep, quality, rich relationships, and it starts with becoming healthy enough to be empathetic with your self. Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, is the best written on this subject.
- TRIBUTES TRUST BRIDGE. Tributes are to connect with a person’s heart by showing your appreciation for them and their actions, effort, and heart without tying strings to performance or achievement. “You were awesome in the game because you scored three touchdowns, but you could have scored four,” is not a tribute; it’s a manipulation and message that you are not good enough. It is also done without entitling and overpraising, as in “everybody gets a trophy” for just participating. It is the message that you believe in their innate value and heart in a way that inspires their growth and your connection with each other.
- TICKLES TRUST BRIDGE. The Bob Benson poem “Laughter in the Walls” carries a powerful message to all of us. If you have laughter in the walls of your home, everybody in your family will want to be there, including you. If you don’t, nobody will want to be there, including you. This kind of laughter is not the sarcastic kind, but the true human expression of joy and healthy humor. It always begins with the ability and practice of being able to laugh at your self, which is a true sign of humility and approachability.
- TEACHING TRUST BRIDGE. The relational practice of mentoring, teaching, sharing “you” with those you love, and passing your interests, skills, and heritage to the next generation and your inner circle by creating teamwork in pursuing goals, adventures, challenges, and crises. It is also about being the student yourself and learning new things along with your family. My family of six learned to rock climb when my wife and I were 47. I was the sixth best rock climber in my family and it was the most fun activity that I had ever learned to do. My wife was the best climber in the family. We all learned it together.
- TRAINING TRUST BRIDGE. Don’t try to do this one if the other eleven are weak and not growing. They serve as the foundation for being able to build this bridge—the most important one! Many people try to do this one strongly while the other eleven are weak and they usually get rejection and rebellion. Living (training by example) and developing (direct guidance) healthy boundaries, self-discipline, healthy intimate relationships, grit (passion and perseverance over obstacles), inner strength, engaging patterns of communication instead of avoidance patterns, having warm emotions instead of frozen survival emotions, esteeming “being-value” over “achievement-value” and most importantly, walking by faith and instilling faith.
If you value God, your family, and your inner circle friends the most, which I imagine you do, but they don’t line up with your time priority list, join the club. But you can change that!
And like all of us old veteran parents and grandparents, you will have to change it again and again as you travel through this life. We get lost and sidetracked sometimes—it is an impossible expectation to never do so. But we can begin again, again.
Thanksgiving and Praise to you Heavenly Father for another chance, again!
Dr.Adrian Hickmon is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor.Dr. Hickmon developed the Core Model of therapy which focuses on chemical and process addictions and compulsions, trauma, attachment, relationship intimacy within the family and their core underlying issues. For more info, visit www.capstonetreatmentcenter.com.