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Reciprocity and mutuality in relationship

Language teacher on Niue in 1965 tought us to appreciate polynesian reciprocity. So careful for the stranger but taken for granted by the polynesian. What this mirrors to the western European is what it would mirror to Malaysian, Chilean or to be fair to any great ape or lesser ape or in some form all living creatures. Balance of relating and the importance in power management to mutuality, equity and efficacy in relationships and community are essential to self-direction, intimacy and self-esteem. This is not just self protective against being over powered it is societally significant in determining the sharing of power and ensuring the good health of communities and nations. Constitutional law is predicated on reciprocity.

In self-managing work-groups where productivity and quality and adequacy of service are crucial and where consensus decision making requires ensuring the place and influence of all members teams review relationships health and respect individual vulnerabilities and give assistance to each member’s ability to contribute adequately. Where vulnerabilities are owned and shared if the the relative vulnerabilities are not sufficiently balanced then sharing openness will diminish and well-being distress balances will be  hidden. In any such group, which can be seen to include family life, reciprocity is crucial.

In polynesia you give me I must give equal or more. Although come to think of it – it is not quite that simply regulated. Assessment is subtle and mutually appreciated wealth and material assets are precisely transparent through the community and every relationship has both sides able to assess differentials of need and resources and proportionality will be precisely judged by both sides so “more than” could be “less than” but according to resouce differentials “more than” proportionally! In 1967 the building workers as their custom was sat around a banana box and put their fortnights wages down for one man to have all that was available after each of them took out what was absolutely needed for him and his family that week. Needs vary week to week family size differs and each is happy that on their turn they will get what is there for the major expenditure which other wise they’d need to save for in a pot or a Post Office account. This was adjusted reciprocity and trusted community provision. No complaints.

What of reciprocity in psychotherapy or any contracted relationship of helping by one of another – whether entered into freely or under duress. “Differentials of power” are recognised to be crucial as are “transferences”. But, what if we explore this endeavour at base exchange realities of reciprocity and balance. Then cognitive dissonance becomes a key player. The first question is: is there sufficient equity to sustain the health of both parties and what are the leverages towards health where the focus, and the contract, are to one person’s health and not the other.

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