Boundary Confusion in Relationship Work
Inspired by my experiences at Cynthia Connop and Ernst Dams’ Living Love Workshop at the Joining Gathering 2012
My partner Paul and I attended a retreat called The Joining where we spent a beautiful couple of days learning about, celebrating and rejoicing the dance between the feminine and masculine energies. We shared special experiences of opening further into our gender potentials with another 100 amazing men and women with the same passion for connection, community and conscious cultivation of the masculine and feminine. It was here that Paul and I met Cynthia and Ernest who facilitated a couple of workshops that focused on David Deida’s work that embraces raising the masculine and feminine sexual essences.
The Basis of the David Deida Work
The whole aim of this work is to cultivate the masculine and feminine sexual essence that can become lost in our contemporary couple relationships. Deida points out in his work that there are three stages of evolution for the masculine and feminine. In the first stage, the masculine and feminine are sexually polarised but they are embroiled in control and power issues. The second stage evolves from the power struggles but unfortunately can all too easily become sexually unpolarised. Our relationships then become more like good friends than intimate lovers. In the third stage of David Deida’s work is where we aim to re-polarise our sexual essence in respectful, safe intimate relationships.
The aspirations of this work are profound! In a time of significant changes in couple relationships over the last few generations and when there are very high rates of relationship separation, this kind of work is greatly needed. Our intimate relationship could provide the glue for meaningful connection and increase resilience in a stressful, disconnected world.
My Group Experience & My Confusion
In the group, it was wonderful to have the time, focus and support of other beautiful women to re-embrace my feminine essence through dance, body movement, expression of feelings, and supporting other women into their feminine essence. However, my confusion arose when I discovered that I was not cultivating my feminine essence for my partner and he was not cultivating his masculine essence for me, but rather we were to freely give our sexual essence to any man or woman in the group.
After a challenging group experience, emotional discussions with Paul and then further discussions between Paul, Cynthia, Ernst and myself, I still swing between two camps of thought and feelings on the issue. Does it honour our relationship to do this work largely exclusively with my partner or is it acceptable to do this work with any man (for me) or woman (for my partner). While I can see the enormous value of learning how to cultivate our sexual essence in our intimate relationship, I question how we can honour the sacredness, specialness and boundaries of the relationships while we do this work.
On one hand, I can see how the exercises with other people were triggering past betrayals from past relationships that still need healing. Yet on the other hand, I question how much of what I was feeling was a normal adaptive emotional response to the actual experiences in the group that required me to hear them and act on them. I question, what is right for Paul and I in our own unique relationship and more generally, how are we to really honour our intimate relationships and cultivate them while learning the David Deida work?
I would greatly value anyone’s input who is familiar with David Deida work with sexual polarity…
I have seen many people emotionally detach in relationships under the “disguise” of practicing non-attachment. However, there is a big difference between shutting down from another person and practicing non-attachment. Personally my life has been one of flipping between destructive co-dependent relationship and detachment. “Compassionate detachment” (or perhaps non-attachment) may have been a better road to tread. However, my awareness of what these types of connections are in practice has been an on-going experiential journey of progressive understanding.
Detachment, Emotional Shut Down & Estrangement
My life journey started with harsh lessons in emotional estrangement and detachment. Both my mother and father were seriously emotionally damaged however, as a child I did not know that! I was conditioned to believe that I was over-emotional because I emotionally reacted to my parent’s physical abuse and the absence of emotional connection with both me and each other. It seemed that the world was incredibly cold, harsh and merciless from a very early age. My father arrived home from the Vietnam War when I was 6 months old. That was the first time he met me. He did not admit to having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) however, I now know that he did. A symptom of PTSD is “emotional estrangement”, which is the shutting down from loving or connecting emotions. All my memories of my father were of this incredibly shut down, depressed, negative, angry man.
My mother on the other hand, made it clear that she had no desire to have children and seemed to take it out on me throughout my childhood. So detachment had to be cultivated in me to survive my childhood. I learnt to hide myself and to shut down my intense emotions because it only made things worse. In order to cope, I found my own way to shut down from the world around me!!! I learnt the fine art of dissociation and daydreaming!
I do not even think I was aware of shutting down emotionally as an adult in intimate relationship until relatively recently. I have been on the receiving end of punishing behaviour from men in relationships without knowing why. I now see they were reacting to their own perceptions and pain patterns that were triggered by my withdrawal. My shut down however, was an unconscious coping mechanism I learnt in my childhood to survive from my parent’s emotional disconnection. When these men either became volatile, destructive or abandoning, then my abandonment and fear patterns were re-ignited. I concluded that people simply hated me and were going to go out of their way to hurt me no matter what I did. I now see that they WERE reacting to something… my emotional detachment!!!
In psychology we have coined the term “healthy attachment bond” which means an early childhood relationship with significant others that consists of love, trust, supported autonomy, and stability. These are the building blocks of healthy intimate relationships later in life. There are some schools of thought that suggest we can create an inner sense of love and security later in life even if we do not have these early relationships with our parents. Being of the camp of people that believes in the possibility of deep inner change and healing, I advocate that we can re-create a healthy attachment bond in adulthood. It needs to be in intimate relationship (outside of the early parent/child relationship) that these attachment bonds can be formed. A friendship can provide these to some degree, and friendships can be deep and enduring. However often they lack the everyday intimacy and affectionate connection that may be needed in developing a safe and secure attachment bond. An intimate relationship needs to be supportive, loving and stable to cultivate a sense of inner belonging and permanency within the couple relationship. Through this connection, each individual can cultivate a sense of stability and love within themselves individually.
The biggest difference between developing inner safety and security as a young child in a healthy parental relationship and two people developing it in an adult intimate relationship, is that the adults require conscious awareness and good communication skills to be able to pull it off. As a child we are totally reliant on the healthiness of our parent. As an adult we need to constantly practice self-awareness of our already damaged emotional patterns and then communicate them with each other before a safe and secure attachment bond can form.
The Practice of Non-Attachment in Intimate Relationship
The practice of non-attachment in intimate relationship is yet another step forward beyond the safe and secure attachment bond. It is not possible to practice non-attachment until healthy attachments are formed, otherwise they are really only different manifestations of unhealthy detachment. The practice of non-attachment is being able to detach from our own and the people’s patterns while simultaneously being able to connect and love ourselves and others beyond the patterns.
Non-attachment is non-reactive. It is being able to remain present and calm while allowing others to do what they do. Of course it does not mean stay around aggression or violence. Rather it is about “right action” that values self and other, without becoming caught in blame, criticism, reactivity, rescuer/victim patterns, detachment or enmeshment. Non-attachment is being able to remain in a space of compassion and respond to events rather than react. By default, this involves a sense of inner-security, self-love and stability to be able to remain emotionally centred and not become caught in the hurricane of interpersonal relationship dynamics and intrapersonal patterns.
What does attachment mean to you in you relationship?
Conscious relationship means different things to different people. Some people think it refers to open sexual relationships, while other people think it is about spiritual awakening in relationship. Yet others may see it as understanding inner demons, rather than taking them out on our partner. For me, however the essence of conscious relationship is all about self-responsibility and choice!
Making Real Choices
How many times have you found yourself reacting to your partner’s words or actions, only to later wonder why you reacted in the way you did? How often have you found yourself on the receiving end of your partner’s judgements or projections and wondered “where did that come from”? Conscious relationship is a practice of mindfully bringing awareness into our own thoughts, feelings and actions when caught in relationship dynamics. Only through this type of process can we see our own projections that we put on our partner and make a choice… “Do I believe this projection and react out of my unconscious patterns or do I chose to “turn the magnifying glass around” from my partner to myself” (as Susan Jeffers would say!).
Conscious Relationship & Self-Responsibility
Self-responsibility is simply the ABILITY to RESPOND! If we are driven by unconscious patterns, then we tend to REACT. These reactions may involve lashing out verbally or even physically, or they may involve withdrawing into ourselves and becoming evasive or avoidant. The way we can tell if it is a reaction, rather than a response, is if the emotion seems to possess us and take on a life of its own. The other way we can tell that it is a reaction is if it becomes a repetitive way of acting towards our partner. Patterns are automatic habits of thoughts, feelings and action. They are often instant and tend to lack conscious thought or awareness, as well as lacking understanding for self and other and compassion.
There are no choices without conscious awareness… not real choices anyway. We may believe we are making choices when we are really driven by unconscious patterns however, this is an illusion. After all, how can we make choices in how we are acting towards our partner if a) we do not understand them or where they are coming from, and b) we do not even see or understand our own patterns? The answer is simply that we cannot!
The Challenge of Conscious Relationship
This process of self-responsibility and choice sounds simple and it is in principle. However, in practice it can be challenging. Blaming and projecting our realties onto our partner is very common and can be powerfully convincing. So many people in couple relationships do not simply connect on an intimate level where they allow themselves to see their partner as simply human. A lot of people do not stop and simply listen (and I mean REALLY listen) to their partners. Many miss the person and their inner struggle within their partner because all they can see is their own inner child struggling with mum or dad, or another significant childhood role-model. The beliefs themselves, and our emotional attachments those perceptions and beliefs, are strong. Most of the time we do not know our perceived reality in intimate relationship IS ACTUALLY a projection!!!
An example of patterns and projections harming an intimate relationship is the pattern of rejection. For example, we may genuinely think that our partner is rejecting us and feel crushed and betrayed. Yet the partner’s reality may be that they are overwhelmed at work or that their partner is not listening to them and therefore not available to them anyway. Ironically, the person feeling rejected may desperately want connection, however they do not know how to connect with their partner, often due to communication differences. So this pattern leaves both people isolated, hurt and confused. Neither one wanted this. Nor are either to blame. Either one could pick up the sword of clarity and self-responsibility and look at their 50% of the relationship dance to help resolve the misunderstanding. It is even more powerful if BOTH choose to work through their respective 50% of the relationship dynamic and fully resolve the conflict.
This is just one of many challenging patterns and projections that can happen in intimate relationships. The core essential point is that taking self-responsibility and making conscious choices to co-create an intimate relationship, where both people grow into better people and better partners, is a desirable goal.
What ways do you consciously choose to take self-responsibility in your intimate relationship?
Conscious relationship is one of my passions because I love and honour love itself. While intimate relationship is only one type of relationship where love can be cultivated, it fascinates me because I believe there is so much potential in our intimate relationships, rather than misunderstanding, separation and heartbreak. My hope is that increased awareness of gender and relationship will lead to us healing ourselves and our hearts.
Learnings from my Personal Story
From a very early age I had a deep longing for love. My dad was a Vietnam veteran with PTSD and my mum was psychologically and emotionally shut down. So neither one of them were connected to love within themselves, their relationship or with their children. The only time the word love was even used in their household was when we were getting the strap … “I’m doing this because I love you!” So needless to say, my first introduction to so called love was abuse. There was a deep sense of “wrongness” for me as a child. I knew this was not love! And yet there was no affection, encouragement or half way positive messages about who I was or who I might become.
Perhaps what gave me the deepest sadness in my family of origin was that they were so emotionally shut down. Like androids, these people were not connected to themselves or each other. The aimless, depressed negativity drove me crazy! Later I was to know this as unconsciousness… deeply shutdown patterns that blocked them from the life force… blocked them from love! So my earliest desires to wake up, become conscious and embrace love originated from early childhood experiences.
Over the decades as an adult, I have accessed counselling, spiritual healing, kinesiology, body talk, holographic kinetics, and anything else I could get my hands on! Today I wake up feeling happy! There are times when challenging things happen in life, but my perceptions and beliefs are largely positive. Sometimes I witness my thoughts and their attached emotions, spiral into the old family patterns, but I see them for what they are… simply unconscious patterns that detract me from loving life.
So what does all this have to do with Conscious Relationship?
I learnt in a very real way the importance of healing myself before I can create a conscious, healing and loving intimate relationship. I cannot say I am fully healed… I know that is not true! But I am on my way!!! Becoming more aware of my unconscious patterns that are triggered in intimate relationship, I can take responsibility for my 50% of a relationship and learn from it. My dream for intimate relationships is where both people become consciously aware of their own psychological patterns and learn to create love rather than pain.
This involves understanding the differences between genders and honouring those differences. If women are generally emotionally based creatures while men are often physically based, then what can we learn from each other in regards to respecting each other? It is not so much about becoming like the other, but rather to understand what the other is about in how they approach life. The idea of opening to happiness through connection, honouring differences and complementing our partners in intimate relationships, is the cornerstone of conscious relationship. By observing and learning from our own reactions, we can learn to give better to our relationships. By learning how to communicate even when we speak different languages, we can create shared meaning and purpose in our relationships. By understanding and appreciating what the feminine and masculine give and HOW they give, we can increase gratitude and reduce resentment. This is essential if we are going to shift our intimate relationships from the average, shut down relationships that exist in the sludge of life.
How we connect to our intimate partner is a choice! If we struggle with resentment, criticism, guilt or condemnation towards our partner, then perhaps it is time to heal. First this process is in each individual self. Secondly, the relationship itself may need healing. Becoming conscious simply opens the door to healing and finding happiness in relationship. Conscious awareness is an on-going process that sometimes requires guidance through therapy, self-help avenues and other healing modalities. But it is worth it!!! For it is the difference between mastering ourselves and our relationships, and perpetuating the living hell of the unconscious relationships of the past. Without compassionate awareness towards ourselves, there cannot be love for another.
What are the important ingredients of Conscious Relationships in your experience?
When we think about commitment and being in the moment, we often think they are two mutually exclusive concepts and practices. Commitment is often seen as an obligation we make to someone or something else. When we make a commitment we are saying that we will stay together in a marriage relationship or that we will commit to making a business or project work. Being in the moment, on the other hand often means coming out of belief, social constructs and interpersonal roles. “Now experiences” are about a state of being within, rather than mental or social constructs. So how could these two concepts support each other and come together to create a new sense of togetherness in conscious relationship, or success in business, or enhance ourselves?
Commitment in the moment is about putting in our 100% in the here and now into our businesses, work, relationships, parenting etc. It is like saying, “right now I will do the very best in being present, aware and focussed on this project or relationship”. The truth is that we cannot know what we will be thinking, feeling or doing in five or twenty years’ time. We can ONLY create in the present moment! However if we cultivate the right beliefs, environment, attitudes and their associated feeling space of what we want to create, then we are giving our desires the best chance of growing. To force something to be or become simply does not work.
Commitment in Intimate Relationship
This is why intimate relationships can be such a deep source of disappointment. If we believe that the relationship is long lasting then it is more likely that it will be long lasting. Our belief has a real role to play in commitment. Our attitudes, communication practices and exploration of real genuine intimacy are also important aspects of creating long lasting commitment in intimate relationship. However, we ARE cultivating this in every moment. If, for example, we say we will commit to a relationship or a marriage and then we neglect our responsibility to see from eyes of love rather than resentment, or to react out of unconscious patterns towards our partner, then it is little wonder that commitment wanes and the relationship eventually breaks down. We may agree to enter a sexually exclusive relationship however, it is how consciously aware of ourselves in that relationship and in every moment, that makes or breaks commitment. So under this definition, commitment is a process rather than a static concept or doctrine to live up to.
Commitment in Business & Work Life
Likewise, in business or even in employed positions, what we create in our work life and the commitment we bring to it shines through or disintegrates it. Currently, business and the economic market are tough. However, I am continuously seeing people in business focussing on the stress and negative (or their fear based reality) rather than bringing in some optimism and realistic steps forward to strengthen their business. They often say they are committed, however their actions tell another story. They are closed for longer, they cease to top up stock and they order less. All that happens is that people do not buy there as much. Eventually the business will fold.
In paid employment, it is amazing how many people do not want to be at work. They often do not realise it, but this attitude and the attached feeling space, creates a general depressing lack of commitment and lost opportunities to give. Susan Jeffers talks about giving our 100% to each aspect of our lives with commitment and generosity to overcome depression and anxiety. She is right! Commitment at work in our attitude, perception and actions is vital for a fulfilling life.
Commitment to Ourselves
Commitment to ourselves is the third area I will explore today. Perhaps this is the best place to start to cultivate commitment in any area of our lives, as commitment is a process that emanates from our beliefs, feeling space and actions when we embrace it. Commitment to ourselves is about valuing and honouring ourselves physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally in every moment. Ultimately, this is a practice like mindfulness that builds awareness in the here and now. As we learn more about ourselves and increase our conscious awareness of our psycho-spiritual patterns, we are by default learning how to commit to ourselves. It is like, the more that we consciously know at a gut level, the more we can only practice that which is for our own and others greater good. As we become more kind to ourselves, we become more kind to others. The more overflowing in joy, the more we love to give without expectation. Commitment to ourselves is like embracing commitment to life, we allow in what we thrive on and say “no” to what corrodes or destroys us.
Commitment in the now is fundamental to success and fulfilment in life. It does not guarantee anything. It does not mean things we want will necessarily work out for us. But it does mean that we are giving what we want in life our best shot and opening to success. Commitment is giving our best. If commitment is fuelled with conscious awareness and self-value, then the chances of permanent healthy relationships, meaningful work and a happy, healthy self are maximized.
How do you cultivate commitment in your life?
In what areas of your life would you like to cultivate more commitment?
Becoming Conscious of Gender Expectations in Intimate Relationships
The issue of expectations in intimate relationship has two dominant perspectives, the male and female. In reality, there are multiple perspectives. In fact, there is a different perspective for every person on this planet. But today I will focus on dominant Western gender perspectives about expectations in intimate relationship.
From the dominant Western female perspective of expectations in intimate relationship, a lot of women believe it is important to have high expectations of the men who date them. There is a culture of increasing “feminine desirability” and the concept of “deserving” that are echoed in how women want to be treated in intimate relationships. There is also the age old concept of male wealth, status and how well they can be provided for. Finally there is a new addition to women’s relationship expectations. This is wanting emotional safety and sensitivity from men in relationships. These are generalised and do not pertain to all women, but they are trends in media and Western culture.
From the male perspective of expectations in intimate relationships, I am hearing more and more from men that the expectations from women are simply too high. I am hearing a lot of anger and discontent from men about unrealistic feminine expectations of them. As men seem to feel more marginalized for not living up to these expectations, they are asking questions about what they see as women’s manipulation and criticism of men. I also hear men saying that they do not know what women expect of them or what they should be doing in intimate relationship. It is described as the goal posts are always moving and that it seems to men that no matter how much they try, they are never good enough.
Looking Down the Consumer Lens
As gender roles and beliefs have shifted post World War II in the West, there has been a great deal of discount between men and women, putting each other down, relationship disharmony and increased rates of divorce. Since generation X, most simply are not getting married at all. Ironically, through this journey there is actually more socioeconomic expectation on the individual to succeed financially and being everything to themselves. Given we are social creatures and that societies financial expectations are high in the West, this has lead to a whole lot of incredibly stressed men and women looking after themselves. This has also resulted in sole parenting (usually women, but not always) being the social norm which disadvantages families and children. It is sad that the only winner in all of this is consumerism!
Expectations and Gender Differences
Back to gender… Given this social context in the West, the feel of the connection between the genders is more like war than love. From both parties, there appears to be a great deal of misunderstanding and lack of healthy communication. Gender differences in expectations just seem to become polarized, leading to increased isolation and heart break. Rather than listening to each other, both men and women tend to be defensively reacting to each other in this tug-of-war. Women hear men say that women are manipulating and expecting all this stuff in relationships, while often they feel deeply hurt from previous relationships and just want to be loved. Men hear women say that men are useless and are bastards, while often they are carrying their own wounding from relationships and are protecting themselves from being hurt again. Let’s face it, this topic goes straight to our hearts like a poison arrow.
The truth is, love is healing! The loving connection that can be cultivated between men and women in inmate relationships can buffer us from the world’s harshness and increase our physical and mental health. The misunderstanding between genders partly stems from both men and women holding old traditional expectations in relationships as well as newer expectations that stem from social and technological change. This leads to a confusing mess. Feminism has often been blamed for this. However I think it goes deeper than that.
There have been huge shifts in consciousness in humanity which has affected gender beliefs, practices and expectations. We are all lost! These shifts require more understanding of ourselves and then each other more than what has ever happened throughout written history. It is challenging for all of us! As we are giving the other gender a hard time, we need to remember this context and give ourselves and the opposite sex a break. We need to bring compassion and gentle understanding into the mix. These changes in awareness of gender will take time.
What gender expectations have caused you problems in intimate relationships?
Have there been experiences of coming into compassion for the other gender rather than criticism?
Releasing the Female Romantic ProjectionAcknowledgement I want to acknowledge Lyvea Rose for partaking in expansive and engaging conversations on the Romantic Hero themes portrayed in this blog, and for her insights on the current astrological conditions of Venus in Gemini. Lyvia says we are currently experiencing a great deal of energetic shifts in intimate relationships due to this astrological formation. Both men and women are being challenged to evolve and increase awareness of interpersonal patterns and relationships. As women, we can only take up the sword of our own awareness and slice through our own unconsciousness.
Have you ever found yourself caught in a romantic projection that expects a man to psychically know how to treat you to open your heart to love? Have you found yourself guilty of developing anger or resentment when he withdraws from you or retreats after romantically pursuing you? Have you closed your heart tight so you will never be hurt by another man following one rejection after another? If so, you had better read on!!!
Feminine Romantic Projections
As women we often confuse ourselves with our projections that we place on men in romantic relationships. We expect them to fulfil our every need and threaten to leave him until we either get what we want or walk away. The key is however, that if a man is not giving us what we want then we need to heal our own projection of him. This romantic projection is a fantasy. It is humanly unattainable. Being real in the now is mutually exclusive to our romantic projections. If he is withdrawing from us after a romantic rendezvous, then a good question to ask ourselves is “what is actually happening”? Does he really want to take our hand in marriage and father our children? Or is he saying “I’m not sure if I’m ready,” or maybe he is saying, “I’m having such a fabulous time being single and free!” Perhaps he is interested in pursuing getting to know us but really has no idea whether he wants a relationship. When we start saying “I don’t think he is the one” while feeling heartbroken and betrayed, because the day after meeting him he has not called to see how we are going, then we women really need a reality check.
Focusing on healing our own patterns as women, rather than trying to change him or getting him to see his flaws, is central to releasing our projections. Accepting and allowing him to be himself is a great way to begin a respectful friendship rather than creating a prison cell. Men have wounds from their relationships with the feminine including mother/son relationships, sibling relationships and intimate relationships. Pushing these projections onto him simply reinforces this wounding which often results in his need for freedom. No one is capable of carrying that projection … think about it! We want a man who is wealthy, supportive, in touch with his feelings, romantically pursuing us (but only when we want it), and has the ability to take charge of the issues (financial, emotional, relationship and physical) leaving us women feeling completely safe and secure! And the sad reality is that a lot of men actually do want their women to feel happy and satisfied and are willing to work towards giving that to their partner…. within reasonable boundaries. Recognising our own projections and expectations as women is where we need to start when it comes to connecting with men.
Releasing The Female Romantic Projection
Recognizing the feminine projections we put on men is crucial for genuine connection to occur between men and women. How would you treat this guy if he was a valued friend? If you really believe you want a real connection with this man, how would you behave? Dropping our manipulation, imaginary projections and expectations that pressure intimate relationships will help real connection to occur. Men are generally strong on picking up body language and where people are at. Generally they need to protect themselves within masculine culture from judgement, criticism, physical fights and other injuries. So when they watch women and how we behave, they may be more aware than we are of our resentment, criticism, and impossible expectations.
The times when we are caught in heartbreak when we are not even in a committed relationship, or when a man does not met our romantic expectations, can be seen as a gift. These times are a healing crisis that crushes our romantic delusions about men and relationships. We can witness our thoughts and the emotional attachments to those thoughts, in order to see through this destructive pattern. Mindfulness can help us to practice non-attachment to the thoughts, images, and day dreams of romantic projection. As we open to awareness of the projections, we also need to be mindful of maintaining compassion and understanding for the feminine wounding. We need to forgive ourselves for holding impossibly high expectations for men in intimate relationships. With unconditional love for ourselves, we can see the thoughts, scheming plans, and the manipulation of men to reassure our insecurities and desires as woman.
Distinguishing Between Projection & The Need For Healthy Boundaries
I do want to make one distinction and that is the difference between romantic projection and the need for healthy boundaries. Men, like women, can have many destructive unhealthy patterns that recruit them into abusive, manipulative, cohesive, neglectful or disrespectful behaviour. When I talk about coming out of unrealistic expectations, I am not referring to the expectation of mutual respect of choice, time, sexuality, space, spirituality or beliefs. As we meet new people, we do need to know our values and assess whether other people align with those values or digress from them. The unhealthy expectations and projections that we women hold for men in intimate relationship tend to centre on what we want from them to show us that they love us. While men may willingly show their love, they should not be forced into it before they are ready. This is quite different from realistic expectations that we would want from anyone we know.
As women we are often looking for this elusive commitment from men in relationships. Living in the moment rather wishing for a fantasy commitment is essential for commitment to grow. Commitment is not a black and white concept that states… now we are together (or not together)! Commitment is about right action in relationship and being in the moment. We are always in the moment, not in the future or the past. Commitment grows if it is cultivated in the moment. So as women, rather than pushing the point about commitment with men in relationship, we can learn to encourage a process of allowing and giving to the evolution of the intimate connection itself.
Cultivating the relationship, trust and commitment in the moment is all about making conscious choice about our own reactions. This is based on awareness of our projections. As we heal our own emotional patterns and wounds we free up the pressure we put on men to fix things for us. It is wonderful when a man gives freely to his female partner, who in turn allows and receives his gifts. However, he needs to make the choice freely, and not conditionally. Disarming the romantic myth of the “superhuman male partner” helps us to see men as real people, and to learn about them for who they really are, rather than our projections that we place on them.
Questions for women….
Have you recognised yourself projecting an illusionary image on men?
How have you freed yourself (and him) from your romantic projections?
If a woman is more feminine than masculine in her essence, then she is likely to be “emotionally based” in her self and world perspective. Being “emotionally based” means that the origin of her thought stems from emotional wisdom rather than rational or logical thought. Her understanding of the world is relationship orientated rather than physically orientated. Her understanding is first felt with the emotion held within her body, rather than the thought in her head.
Women and Emotion
David Deida described the process of emotionally based wisdom in his book “The Way of the Superior Man”. He discussed an analogy where a man asked another man to a movie and the other man responded, “It depends on the movie”! If he liked the move then he would say “yes”, if he did not like the movie then he would say “no”. Nice and simple! Now if a man asked a woman to a movie she would “yes” or “no” depending on how she felt about the connection between them. If she felt loving and close then she would say “yes”, but if she felt annoyed or distant then she would say “no”. So her decision would be based on the landscape of the emotional connection that she felt with the man. The movie itself is largely irrelevant! In counselling when I have described this process behind masculine and feminine decision making, women often laugh (a little embarrassed to have their operating system described out loud) and the men look at me like I have just turned green! “You’re joking”! They have exclaimed, probably trying to figure out how they can work out anything is her alien mind!
The truth is that feminine based thinking is quite different from masculine based thinking. Also, In our Western world emotionally based wisdom is often not understood, no matter about honoured or respected. I believe the feminine harbours a deep wound about the lack of understanding and honouring of emotional based thinking, which then becomes projected at the masculine. While men have been targeted for their lack of understanding of emotional based thinking, in my experience it is women who do not understand themselves that creates the initial problem. Women are often in the dark about her own emotions which leads to us mis-understanding herself. Much of her anger at men may be mis-placed, especially if the man wants to be respectful of the woman and genuinely does not understand her.
Women Understanding Emotion
In my work as both a woman and a psychologist, I have witnessed and related to women’s struggle with their own emotions. Women are often confused, in a great deal of emotional distress and unable to understand or express themselves. The more no-one can understand her emotional landscape, the more she becomes “Kali, the destroyer”. Without validating the emotion and understanding the real wisdom behind her feeling-space, asking her to “self-sooth” her own emotion often lands like a lead balloon. Rational explanation or logic simply do not and will never suffice to temper her emotional distress or anger.
This is why women often seek emotional comfort from other women. If you watch two women having coffee, one will talk about how they feel about a whole lot of experiences and the other will listen and validate. When she is finished (if the relationship is balanced) the other one will express how they feel about their experiences and the first one will validate her emotions. Without this process being conscious, they are giving and receiving emotional validation through direct verbal communication. If you watch two men (with a masculine essence), if they are talking they are likely to be talking on a rational basis, or not talking at all.
Even though women are thinking and communicating on an emotional basis much of the time, they often cannot express what they are doing, and are at a loss to describe it to men (or other women with a masculine essence). I hear some men say “women just like to talk… about nothing”, however women actually are talking about something! They are often talking about the ever changing emotional landscape within themselves, relationship and the world! This is the other problem… that women’s rational thinking created in their minds is often in contrast to emotional wisdom. So within women, there is often a battle between rational (socially defined) thinking and emotional body-felt wisdom. It is not that emotions are less confusing to men, it is just that women’s connection with emotion is very strong and they can find it very difficult if not impossible to compartmentalise it.
It is up to Women to understand themselves and respectfully communicate the process feeling-orientated-thinking to men. It will only be through women’s self-understanding and respectful description of emotional processes that will lead to men taking respectful notice of women’s perspectives. Emotional outbursts, cold shoulders, criticism and anger generally do nothing to women’s cause of being understood by the masculine. Women need to learn to surf the emotion, as compartmentalizing it does not seem to work for the feminine. Women cannot turn their backs on feminine wisdom, rather they need to learn from her, by learning how to work with emotion rather than dump it on others (or themselves, which only leads to excessive guilt).
So as women we need to understand ourselves and realise that men (when in their masculine) are doing something that is very different, although equally valid. Working with women to help them understand and work with their emotions is the corner stone to helping both men and women honour the emotional perspective and feminine wisdom.
Questions for Women ….
As a woman how well do you know your emotional self?
Interested in learning how to work with your emotions and honour the feminine?
“Surfing the Waves of Emotion” for Women is being held on the 7th July 2012, bookings are essential!
Rebuilding trust after either one or two people in an intimate relationship has betrayed the other is a challenging processing. It can be the trust is broken be repetitive small things such as not turning up on time to an arranged meeting. Or it may be big things such as an affair. The broken trust may result from lack of understanding another’s perception. For example, one party may not have known that forgetting to buy fish on Fridays is sacrilege. Or it may be that there was deliberate deceit, often mixed with avoidance, denial and maybe even harboured resentment.
To re-build trust in a couple relationship the key is to communicate and if both parties want to repair the relationship, then they need to embark on a healing process. If it was a legitimate mis-understanding then there needs to be exploration of values, significant meanings of events, and family of origin norms and patterns. It is very normal to not understand your partner’s nuances because they grew up in a different family with different rules. So now is he time for exploration and open communication between the couple which can enrich and deepen the connection, if both people are in the space of compassion and an open mind.
If the betrayal was deliberate, then rebuilding trust can be more difficult, especially if the betrayal was big, such as an affair. This healing process involves the person who broke the trust becoming very open, transparent in their thoughts, feelings and actions, and incredibly patient while their partner recovers. It is very normal for the person who has been betrayed to need to ask a million questions, go through intense anger and hopelessness, and wonder if it is worth continuing the relationship. The person who betrayed the other needs to earn their trust back, through openness and displays of commitment. It is hard work! However eventually, it can be rewarding as it can bring skeletons out of the closet and motivate both parties to look at what has been denied or avoided in the relationship. Ironically, it can even bring people closer, but only if they enter this process. If it is glossed over or the person betrayed has not been able to re-build the trust in their partner, then it can be excruciatingly painful or the relationship can disintegrate.
Trust is an incredibly important ingredient in healthy intimate relationships and needs to be nurtured and cultivated if the relationship is to thrive. Ultimately, the key is to cultivate openness, respect, good will and communication from the beginning of the relationship and seek professional help at any point in the relationship if needed. This maximizes trust and minimizes misunderstandings or even deceit. If both parties hold positive, loving attitudes to each other, open communication can occur and trust can build.
Have you ever healed trust in your intimate relationship?
What aspects of your connection did it deepen?
It is well known that people who are depressed, grieving or are simply unhappy can either put on or lose weight. The role of how we feel about ourselves and the world can be an important ingredient to losing excessive weight. How can emotions contribute to physical body weight and why does someone’s emotional landscape become reflected in their body? For those people who are physically affected by emotional ebb and flow, these questions about how emotion affects our physical body is very pertinent.
Emotion is often attached to thought, however it is often felt in our bodies. Long term emotional stress or depression can very well have a physical effect of weight gain. It is as if the heaviness of the emotion is held in the muscles and organs in the body. In Eastern medical traditions, such as in kinesiology and acupuncture, emotional anatomy is well regarded. Emotions are said to sit in body parts and do affect physical manifestations in the body. I find in my work as a psychotherapist, that many people’s physical symptoms fit perfectly with their emotional concerns. Likewise, I also see people’s physical symptomology affecting their emotional experience. It can become a self-perpetuating pattern where the physical and the emotional feed off each other to create full blown psychological and physical conditions.
Emma & Self-Loathing
Emma came to see me about her depression. She said she was feeling down, slobby and had put on so much weight in the last six months. She said she could not sleep well and that she felt lonely and angry most of the time. As we talked, it became clear that the end of her intimate relationship with Tod contributed to her mood and self-image. The relationship ended a year and a half ago, but it was only six months ago when he began a relationship with someone else. When we discussed the quality of that relationship and what it meant to her, it became apparent that Emma had built a great deal of resentment towards Tod over a long time. As she spoke, she began to realise that she had expected him to make up for his mistakes. When he finally found someone else, she realised he was not going turn around and apologise and change his ways.
What was really important however, was the meaning this had about herself. Emma realised that she had come to hate herself because on some level she believed it was her fault that he treated her poorly and never made up for his behaviour. Her self-loathing for his lack of considerate actions and choices had resulted in depression and weight gain. Of course, the physical and emotional cycle spiralled out of control as the increased body weight lead her to hate herself even more. And it stopped her from moving forward and finding a more rewarding intimate relationship.
Emma’s Way Out of Her Bind
In recognising her pattern of self-loathing, increased body weight and depression, and her interpretation of the events that underlay her pattern, Emma began to consciously turn it around. When she explored the pattern and gained clarity of herself, her beliefs and attitudes shifted. She realised that Tod’s actions were an effect of his own patterns and were not actually about her. She learnt that she could hold a sense of self that was not dependent on how others treated her. She also learnt that she could create an environment of self-love in her life and challenge the beliefs that lead her to think she was worthless or not good enough for love.
Emma’s journey in therapy was not a quick one but it was rewarding! As she learnt healthy ways of thinking, feeling and actions that honoured herself and her body, her depression lifted over time. Likewise, her body weight decreased as she became increasingly happy about herself and her life and increased exercise and maintained a healthy diet. The key here was that she did not try to enforce a diet and exercise regime on top of her self-loathing and depression. Rather she lovingly shifted bad eating and exercise habits with her increased self-esteem and self-efficacy from changing the ways she perceived herself in the relationship with Tod. Therefore the changes she made were more permanent life style changes that reflected and her happy sense of self.
The Emotional Dimension of Weight Gain
The emotional dimension of weight gain and lose is often underestimated. Sometimes where there are stubborn self-defeating patterns when people are trying to lose weight, the emotional landscape is an essential aspect to understand and overcome. There may also be other physical conditions attached to the intra-personal dynamic such as adrenal or thyroid problems, but the emotional aspects are still important.
Have you ever realised the emotional aspect of weight gain?
I would love to hear your experiences and questions[Disclaimer. All stories used in this blog are fictional characters based on the wisdom I gain from working with clients. No character in this blog is an actual person or a client]