Love found, love lost, love reclaimed and the role for self-compassion.

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Movies only tell us half of the story when couple fall in love, then lose love and finally somehow reclaim love. In the movies there is usually some obvious logical explanation for each step. In real life it’s not so simple and usually the couples themselves don’t fully understand how their “dream lover” turns out to be “worst nightmare.” Couples typically convince themselves that the cause of the problem is sex, money, work, poor communication, extended family, etc; and to be sure in some situations this maybe the case. Certainly, this is the sort of explanation that is usually given in the movies; unfortunately this is not the whole truth.

We may glimpse at the truth if we start from our childhood or babyhood, when we learn from our caretakers a sense of safety and emotional availability in time of distress. It is this crucial interaction with our caregivers that organizes the experience of our inner state and this will stay with us for the rest of our lives. With positive experience from our caregivers, the inner state gives us sense of ourselves, teaches us how much we can count on others to keep us safe, we learn to accept ourselves as we are, without pretending to be someone we are not, just so we may receive their love and security. When there is an intense feeling we respond appropriately, we know when to get anxious, when to get angry and how to deal with our emotions. We know how to receive care and later how to give care.

However, our inner state goes wrong when there are repeated separations from our caregiver, prolonged stress, or traumatic experiences in our early beginnings. The young child then uses whatever defenses are available, including denial, dissociation, projection of emotions to others, and many other defenses designed to protect him or her from being overwhelmed by dangerous emotions. The emotions are particularly frightening and painful if there is no one present to understand or to give comfort. These defense circuits get stored in our subcortical region of the brain that is hidden from our consciousness and it gets triggered automatically in certain situations. The defense mechanism may show up as anxiety or acting out with a pathological anger. They usually cover hidden core emotions that are too primitive for words. Sometimes by triggering emotional arousal from the past person or situation and mixing it with the current person or current situation it becomes extremely confusing to understand how powerful emotions can be generated by trivial events. It does not mean we are crazy or we are abnormal, it just mean we were unlucky and our circumstances lay down circuits that do not serve us; but we can change them.

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Couples generally seek therapy when they are caught in repetitive, bewildering, painful patterns of highly emotional interaction. They both have a narrative explanation of the problems between them each viewing the problem as lying within the other. Yet, as they describe their dissatisfaction and discomfort in the relationship, their account often reflects self- blame and inadequacy. When pressed to clarify, a partner may express numbness, bodily pain, or vague feeling of something wrong or may simply walk away from the interaction.

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This cycle can be broken and YES there is hope of turning from intimate enemies to intimate lovers.  There are studies indicating that with help, relationship can change from an insecure to secure attachment.  So even if we missed out in our childhood there is hope in our adulthood with proper help. Start with simple self-compassion and self-forgiveness. Remember, most of this is not under our control. It takes a millisecond for the subcortical process to merge past and the present emotional reactions, giving rise to intense feeling that influences reasoning and decision-making ability.

The goal is to contain the feelings rather than try to get rid of them or defend in ways that elicit destructive reactions. With the therapist’s help, partners can learn (1) to ask themselves if their perceptions are accurate for the present situation; (2) to take time out when emotions are overwhelming; (3) to question whether their behavior is getting them what they want; (4) to honor/ understand the meaning of what is happening in terms of terms of what happened in the past; and (5) to try out new ways of responding.

Resources:

The Healing Power of Emotion, Edited by Diana Fosha, Daniel J. Siegel and Marion F. Solomon

Sexuality Is The Deepest And Most Primal Impulse

“Our sexuality is the deepest and most primal impulse we possess. Repressed, it drains our vital energies and weakens all our faculties of mind and body. Fulfilled, it becomes a great creative and regenerative force. Sexual liberation does not lie in mastering techniques which see our bodies as pleasure mechanisms, but in the realization that our bodies are holy and that sexual relationships are sharing of the divine energy that animates the universe.”

LAYNA VERIN

” The entire social and cultural game of antisexual, ‘ spirit against flesh’ education is so monstrous , so opposed to incarnate human happiness and human responsibility, as well as the ultimate transcendental sacrifice of the individual body-mind through moral and spiritual processes, that it must be considered the primary social and even philosophical issue of our time.”

DA FREE JOHN

Resources 

Chop Wood Carry Water

By Rick Fields, with Peggy Taylor, Rex Weyler, and Rick Ingrasci.

Sexual Love

 

Sex is such a loaded word. It has different meaning for almost everyone. In modern time sex sadly is regarded as a trivial act; not long ago a women in her late thirties told me she was sleeping with someone so she could get to know him, that statement took me by surprise that I didn’t know what to say to her. Unfortunately the modern notion of sex ignores what the ancients recognized; that sex is not an activity in isolation from our thought, what we feel , what we do or what we value in rest of our  lives.They regarded it as a spiritual and a sacred act. George Leonard reminds us that today what we need to do is ” reconnect the bedroom with the rest of our lives, with society, and nature, and perhaps with the stars. We need to realize that the way we make love influences the way  we make our world, and vice versa. We need to appreciate the connection between the erotic and the creative. We need, more than anything else to reawaken to the almost endless, half forgotten, life transforming powers of full-bodied, fully committed erotic love.”

Sex is a powerful force, like the life-force itself. It brings lovers together, serves as an expression of love, creates life, and fulfills our longing for unity and wholeness. We engage in sex not only for physical release, but to merge with the beloved in a state of ecstatic spiritual union. The sexual act of union is highly spiritual but unfortunately this image has been tainted by our popular culture of trivialities. Mystics of the past have used images of sexual love to describe their deepest spiritual ecstasy; they recognized sexual love to be deeply spiritual.

D.H Lawrence uses act of sexual union to explain what is the beloved. ” She is that which I am not. In the act of love, I am pure male, and she is pure female. She is she, and I am I, and clasped together with her, I know how perfectly she is not me, how perfectly I am not her, how utterly we are two, the light and the darkness , and how infinitely and eternally not to be comprehended by either of us is the surpassing One we make.”

Alan Watts in his classic Nature , Man, and Women explains, that in the hight of sexual love we see the beloved as the divine. He writes……..”one of the most total experiences of relationship to the other of which we are capable, but prejudice and insensitivity have prevented us from seeing that in any other circumstances such delight would be called mystical ecstasy. For what lovers feel for each other in this moment is no other than adoration in its full religious sense, and its climax is almost literally the pouring of their lives into each other. Such adoration, which is due only to God, would indeed be idolatrous, were it not that in that moment love takes away illusion and shows the beloved for what he or she in truth is — not the socially pretended person but the naturally divine.”

 

Resources

Chop Wood Carry Water

By Rick Fields, with Peggy Taylor, Rex Weyler, and Rick Ingrasci.

Related articles

Relationship with the loved one

In 1858, a British epidemiologist named William Farr set out to study what he called the “conjugal condition” of the people of France. Farr’s was among the first scholarly works to suggest that there is a health advantage to marriage and to identify marital loss as a significant risk factor for poor health. Married people, the data seemed to show, lived longer and lead healthier lives. “Marriage is a healthy estate,” Farr concluded.(1)  It has been a common belief  since then that a married couple tends to be more healthy than those who are not married. However , new data suggests :- “When we divide good marriages from bad ones,” says the marriage historian Stephanie Coontz, who is also the director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, “we learn that it is the relationship, not the institution (of marriage) , that is key.” (1) The upshot of all this is that being in a good relationship with your loved one confers health benefits. Let us therefore look at the components of healthy relationship with the loved one.

Relationship with the loved one is life itself. The relationship can be a source of intense delight and also source of much unhappiness and frustration that life has to offer. It is indeed a doubled edged sword. Loving another person can be Devine, it awaken the heart and lifts us beyond narrow confines of our self-interest. It can teach us that we are  part of the universe , inter-connected with all things, including all beings, plants, earth, our environment, the ski, space and the very air we breath. Cultivating a  relationship with loved one can be a spiritual journey. It can be also be a disappointing experience,the other edge of the sword , when loving another person bring us pain of attachment, possessiveness, jealousy , unrequited love and all the rest. How is it that some couple have the grace of perfect relationship and others experience nothing but frustration? Is there a secret journey to a perfect relationship ?  Let us go on couples journey to find out !

The couple’s Journey:

The couples on the journey of relationship often find them-selves adopting spiritual values even though they had no spiritual intentions at the beginning.(2) This happens when the couple decide to commit to the relationship, work through the up and downs and try to make the best of the bad situation. They come to realize that it is better to love then to stubbornly try to get what you want, they give up the power struggle because they learn that two egos cannot co-exist. The act of giving up the power struggle creates a space for new kind of relationship , they let in God and spirituality; thus creating entirely new kind of unifying force for their relationship; the force of God and force of Love.

Susan Campbell after interviewing dozens of couples identified five stages in what she calls “The Couple’s Journey” :- Romance, Power Struggle, Stability, Commitment, and Co Creation.

(a) Romance Stage: In this stage the couples have positive feeling towards each other. The feeling is so pleasurable that each want to ensure that the other is happy. At this stage the similarities between them are emphasized and the differences are ignored. The positive of this stage is that the couple begins to develop an emotional bond,  trust and a common vision that can sustain them in bad times. The negative of this stage is the couple can get so attached to apparent security of romance that they deny many of their real feeling in order to keep the peace. Which will lead to problems later.

(b) Power struggle stage : In this stage the differences become more apparent and the couple feels less control over each other and therefore they feel less attraction for each other and are also less in love. They start to feel competitive with one another for control and for what they want. They become increasingly frustrated with one another. At this point the relationship has a chance to continue only if they recognize the destructive dynamic and they feel they can deal with the differences between themselves in a creative way. Otherwise the differences will cause the partners to subtly punish each other for causing the disappointment, or they may try to dominate, overpower, or simply “change” each other. ( always a futile effort). If this escalate  they don’t make it beyond this stage.

(c) Stability Stage: In this stage the couple discover that the power struggle is actually a refection of unresolved conflict with in each of them. They begin to learn that the  relationship is actually a source of learning about oneself. With communication they further become to realize their  differences from new and wider  prospective, which includes both hers and his views. This is the first sign of hope  that this relationship will continue  and foster further spiritual growth and self discovery.

(d) Commitment stage: In this stage they recognize that they  need each other to help expand others prospective and their very being is in some way interdependent on each other. They further realized they are part of much larger interconnected network and anything they do, not only affect each other but everything else they are connected with. So if their actions foster the uniqueness of the partner and others it is likely their own uniqueness will be supported as well. As in any stage the mutual effect of each other will inevitably be experienced by each other – for good or bad; they realize that they can’t  always maintain “perfect couple image” and when the disappointments come up they come to see , though painful it maybe, that it is a lesson on ones own path that needs to be learned for self understanding. Instead of blaming.

(e) Co-Creative stage: In this stage partners come to accept each other as they are, and they are able to extend the ” unconditional love of otherness ” to their partner and to the world beyond the couple themselves. The couple engage in creativity or work aimed at the world , the “other” now becomes anyone or anything outside themselves which make them stretch beyond their narrow view to discover new potentials. Here they have also learned to embrace uncertainty, ambiguity and change in their relationship ; with these same skills it is easier for them to deal with our uncertain, ambiguous and changing world as well.

As I write this it makes me reflect on how I could have creatively  interacted with my partner so as to value her instead of wanting my own way. I realize now that wanting security and control is far less important than genuinely valuing your partner; which leads to growth , discovery and the capacity for love. I wish I had a wise teacher to guide me during my struggles. Then again, as painful as though it maybe, I needed to learn these lessons through experience with the real live partner.

May your journey be blessed with all the benefits.

Resources:-

(1) Tara Parker- Pope

Is Marriage Good for Your Health?

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/magazine/18marriage-t.html?pagewanted=all

A version of this article appeared in print on April 18, 2010, on page MM46 of the  New York Sunday Magazine.

(2) Susan Campbell- couples therapist- page 40, Chop Wood , Carry Water.

(3) Chop Wood, Carry Water

by Rick Fields, with Peggy Taylor, Rex Weyler, and Rick Ingraschi

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