12th June 2014: Enemies, Friends and Lovers; The Social Psychology of Relationships by Prof Ray Miller

Carl Jung

Come along to The Counting House at 7pm to listen to Derek’s talk. Share a crust of bread, and hear the reflections he has to share…


Name of speaker and subject:

Prof. Ray Miller, Psychologist

Title of talk:

What has Psychology ever done for us?
Part 5: Enemies, Friends and Lovers
The social psychology of relationships.

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”

― C.G. Jung

Bullet points:

• Mother, father, daughter and son
• The Tribe: In-groups and Out-groups
• Friends for life/ Enemies forever
• The enemy of my enemy is my friend
• International relationships
• Negotiation and alliances
• Relationships and beliefs
• What makes a good personal relationship
• Lust, Love and Happy Ever After?


When people talk about relationships, they are often thinking about those interpersonal interactions that characterise our experiences of love and emotion. Relationships are the stuff of fascination, whether it is the search for the perfect partner, the compatibility of personality or horoscope profiles or the headlines about the latest Hollywood make or break-up.
But relationships are far more than that…
They start with our experience of family and learning our place in relation to those close to us. We learn emotions, behaviours, trust and confidence from the way we relate to those closest to us. And from them we learn where we belong in the wider society. Who we should relate to and who we should avoid. The basis of our view of life is formulated here.
Relationships continue to build as we engage with those outside the family. Neighbours, school friends and those who share our lives in a myriad of guises. We make both friends and enemies and begin to develop networks and strategies that help us cope with the many and complex relationships that develop.
We can see that this is the foundation of national as well as personal relationships – of the interactions of work and commerce. These relationships may be strongly influenced by our beliefs and convictions about the nature of the world, ethics, morality and religion. We will come to see our place in the world in terms of how we relate to those who hold similar or different views.
But yes, we do still come back to the importance for all of us of those intimate, personal relationships. They are crucial to both our mental and physical health and well-being. Good relationships strengthen us and help us to be more resilient. With them we thrive and without them we wither.
But what makes for good personal relationships? What is the relevance of lust, love or commitment? How do we balance our own needs and imperfections with those of others? Is it realistic to expect ‘happy ever after’ or do relationships change over time – for better or worse?
All these questions will be explored but don’t expect just one clear set of answers. Both questions and answers are themselves part of the relationship each of us has with ourselves and our lives.

A few words about you and your passion:

I have been a psychologist for nearly 40 years. Most of that time has been spent as a professional psychologist in the field of healthcare (now retired) but much of the psychology that I used, and continue to use, is based on understanding some essential concepts that I acquired during my undergraduate years.
Psychology is more than just an academic topic or applied science, although it is certainly both of these. Psychology is a fundamental aspect of our daily lives, our interactions with others and with our environment. In that sense, we all have to be psychologists and, even without aiming to become experts, we can all benefit from a better understanding of some of its principles.
Don’t expect an in depth study of the topic. This will be a somewhat idiosyncratic taster to whet your appetite rather than to educate you. However, you will probably find at least some ideas that set you thinking and which may start you along the path of self-generated learning.

A few lines about the history of your subject:

Psychology, Philosophy and the urge to understand ourselves and our world have been around as long as there have been people. They are the springboard to Science and the very etymology of these terms can be traced back to Ancient Greece.
Modern Psychology, as an academic and scientific discipline, can probably be dated back to the late 19th century and the attempts of people like Wilhelm Wundt to formalise the study of personal experience. Theories of psychology have ranged from Freud’s model of the psyche, through Behaviourism and Learning Theory, Models of Cognition, Evolutionary Psychology and, most recently, the integration of Psychology with our emerging knowledge of neurology and biology.
It is a subject that has grown hugely in both its scope and understanding in the last 100 years or so. The British Psychological Society was founded in 1901 but few, if any, of its original members could have conceived of its development 110 years later.
It sometimes seems that the more we look into it, the less we actually know. It challenges many ‘common sense’ beliefs and sacred cows. It is political, social and, often, revolutionary. It raises questions about our attitudes and beliefs, our social structures and even about the notion of ‘self’.
Where will it take us in the next 100 years? Who knows! But the journey will certainly be full of surprises.

Anything else you may want to say:

That’s all folks!