My last post was on achieving wholeness and the challenging inner conflicts we endure within ourselves if we haven’t achieved this developmental passage, academically referenced as whole object relations. It is as if our psyches are split in two and one side voices our deeply ingrained self-doubt, self-criticalness and self-hatred (referenced as splitting). The other side may compensate with regressive clinging, grandiosity or submersion into the other. The split psychic structure results in pathological defensive character patterns that manifest in chronic physical symptoms, difficulty in relationships and other psychological symptoms. We are unable to balance our disappointments with self through a natural ease of self-acceptance that reinforces our inner wholeness over and over again.
What is the effect of our lack of wholeness on our relationships? Relationships present challenges in the best of circumstances and are always perpetual learning edges. Bringing two individuals into constant proximity – with every aspect of their lives interconnected – presents the quintessential opportunity for both a gloriously connected relationship that, at the same time, can be fraught with painful miscommunications and disappointments that pitch one or the other right out of heavenly bliss.
When two whole individuals come together, life is easier as each is a self-sustaining organism that does not need to co-opt the other in order to feel they can psychologically survive and function. Whole individuals are differentiated so they can make decisions from within, using an always-at-the-ready and sensitive inner compass. Then, after feeling into themselves, they can discuss and flexibly negotiate, as their psychological stability does not depend on dominating or passive compliance. There is ease within whole individuals as they have capacity for a natural love of their own life, can self-generate, take full responsibility and have capacity to love because they are not trapped in self-centered preoccupation. The whole person can be generous yet have appropriate boundaries. They can see another as they are rather than get lost in inaccurate projections (projecting their inadequacies onto their mate) or inflated fantasies. Whole individuals have learned and practice stable self-regulation (exercise, sleep, diet, relaxation/stimulation, etc.) in all areas and can self-soothe if upset, under stress or during a crisis.
When individuals have not achieved a sense of inner wholeness, they are more likely to become overly dependent or defensively self-sufficient. They might live through the other’s life, attach in suffocating or distancing ways, burden or dominate, and feed off and drain the other in unconscious or conscious ways.
The connection cannot be contactful, but is rather filled with anxiety as one or the other either cannot stand separately or cannot really connect deeply – both ways result in a lack of intimacy. Or one party needs the other to be sick, weak and dependent and that dynamic falsely bolsters the other in feeling the stronger and more competent one. Or one partner does not act responsibly in the multitude of areas that make up a life thus causing the other to over-manage. Or partners manifest a myriad of defenses that they think they need for self-protection (arrogance, avoidance, denial, checking-out, dishonesty, projections, to name a few) that are destructive in relationship. I could go on about all the unhealthy ways individuals relate when they are not whole, but I would rather give some suggestions that promote better relationships.
Always monitor your own behavior and feelings. Be aware of your reaction patterns and understand the root causes as best as possible. Do I react when I perceive feedback as criticism even if, in reality, I could take it in neutrally? Do I feel angry if I am not understood perfectly by the other? Do I need constant reassurance to lessen my anxiety as I am not able to soothe myself. Am I seeking validation from everyone, everywhere – including social media. Do I feel angst when I have to separate? Do I attack when I feel challenged or inadequate? Do I need to dominate and force my control over others? Notice and contain your typical hot-button reaction patterns. Take time and space when you feel an unhealthy reaction coming on and stop before you speak or act.
Try to set time aside to talk to your mate quietly when you both can listen. I call this set time a conference. Speak and listen with as much neutrality as you can muster – breathing as easily as possible. Listen, listen, listen, with compassion and sensitivity – your mate is not your enemy and don’t fight back about what is being said. Just allow the other to have space to share what it is like for them. Both members must take blame out of the dialogue. (view post Couple Challenges)
Create meaningful time together. Take a walk, hold hands and give a real hug. Do weekly date nights (for those with or without children), enjoy the arts – theater, museums, films, ballet. Cook together, read or listen to an audio book, create together-rituals like eating your dinner together, watching a particular series, bicycling, tennis or taking a run together, walking the dog, enjoying sex. Most importantly, get into resonance so you feel aligned and in sync. Lining up and reinforcing the links revives the bond so it can endure times when the coupledom is challenged
Find your wholeness in your own life. Dedicate energy to your own creative projects, sustain compassion for self and other. This will enable you to embrace your friends, mate or children with more spacious energy.