It may sound cliché at this time of year to encourage thankfulness and gratitude – yet those attitudes are strong inner healing medicine for our minds and bodies. That medicine warms us from the inside out and gives us a sense of wellbeing. When we act with generosity towards others, we cultivate our natural expansiveness – we can relax rather than constrict. We escape the grip of our small, tightly woven, survival-oriented egos that assert their will over our more gracious and generous values. In those moments, when we live inside our smaller self – constricted, hyper-vigilant to what we are getting – we actually feel less worthy. When we experience our feelings of sufficiency, we know we are enough and can give to others as well as experience gratitude for all we receive. We can feel connected to others and to the beauty surrounding us – we can feel more alive. We see the preciousness of others and move beyond our own petty selfishness – hah liberation!
In my work with couples for over thirty years, the balance ratio of fusion and differentiation is an important indicator of couple health. Let’s clarify these concepts beginning with fusion. The classic photo of two Americans traveling in similar Hawaiian shirts in Europe engenders the flavor — two matching bookends. Of course, individuals in a couple create resonance together that influences life style choices, plans, activities, outlooks on life and everyday habits. That resonance, as displayed in a variety of ways, helps the couple align and function with ease. The relationship can hum with the rhythm of basic routines, worked-out choices and habits that allow each individual a level of comfort in the similarity and consistency of their acquired lifestyle and tastes.
Couple life can present many difficult challenges – while simultaneously providing the most stabilizing, anchoring force in one’s life. Living day-to-day with another can feel like receiving multiple abrasions. We often feel our partner has stepped on our toes as he walked by, and we instinctively retaliate and step decisively on his. We often feel rubbed the wrong way. Contending with major and minor incidents is one challenge facing most couples on a regular basis. If couples learn healthy ways to navigate ruptures, they can preserve and strengthen the fabric of their relationship. Learning couple skills takes trial and error and discipline.
Leading 5-day workshops over 9 years at Esalen® Institute in Big Sur was always an experience to remember. I often utilized transformational themes that led participants into uncharted waters of reflection and life change. The retreats were incredible experiences and many of you who read my blog were there with me! Granted, the beauty of Esalen made a major contribution to the dynamic experience. Today’s post shares a theme from one of my workshops.
One of my favorite resources is Jungian analyst, Dr. James Hillman. His book The Soul’s Code is provocative in that he feels we all have and must discover our calling, what he calls “that essential mystery at the heart of each human life.” (pg 6) Hillman suggests that many psychological treatment perspectives perpetuate a stasis in clients’ lives, that is, if therapy repetitively spins and reinforces – like a broken record – the problematic narrative of one’s history. I agree that an over-emphasis on our historic travails may create a ‘victimized’ narrative that may diminish a sense of personal efficacy and responsibility in creating a meaningful present life. Identifying with a limiting narrative stifles one’s innate potential. An over-emphasis on our childhood experiences without a balanced focus on an adult transformational perspective results in a constricted and regressed perspective. Finding personal meaning and unlocking the code of one’s destiny elevates and refines our life, enabling its full potential to unfold. Of course, it is essential that we understand cognitively and emotionally how we became who we are now and do the work to unravel our non-adaptive defenses – and that is substantial work. That very broken character style and patterning clouds discovery of who we are and how we want to live. As we drop our defensive character style, we must propel ourselves forward with newly discovered self-knowledge – to find and live our calling.
All of us, from time-to-time, can inspire ourselves by pinpointing a specific growth edge of change we might be willing to jump-start. When I say growth edge, I am referring to something we may be afraid of or something we have wanted to try but haven’t. Maybe it is a specific activation we have procrastinated in completing. Is there a risk you could take that would make you better yourself? What is the edge of real change for you? Can you start a project you always wanted to do – or finish a project still left undone?
We can go along with our routines, repeating old mistaken concepts about how to be. We can subscribe to antiquated habits that don’t serve us. Yet, every moment provides an opportunity to change things up. Let’s delineate a point of departure for making one change. Let’s select an item for improvement.
My Independent Study Program (ISP) offers students, professional therapists and patients easy access to audio teaching modules covering all aspects of therapeutic practice outside of a formal classroom process – in an organized and methodical fashion. After years of organizing and distilling the relevant clinical material of Reich, Masterson and Jung, I developed a method that teaches a precise clinical approach using discrete steps with functionally applicable tools – the basics of how to do therapy from soup-to-nuts.
Through teaching live classes for many years, and with the help of students who recorded a prodigious amount of these sessions, I began the mammoth job of editing all of the recordings with my terrific audio engineer, and created a compendium of CD’s and MP3’s that give public access to this abundant supply of theoretical and clinical information on Orgonomy and my own method. These audio learning programs feature lively student discussions, which include the listener as if he or she is attending the class. Of course, the CD’s were highly edited to eliminate compromising personal information in order to maintain strict confidentiality.
Orgonomy embraces health with a functional mind-body approach that helps patients access their naturally abundant free flowing energy, and couples it with capacity for lively contact and clarity of perception in an unarmored body. This approach is distinguished from other therapies by its energetic concept of functioning. When there is blockage in our mind and body, our capacity to function at our fullest is limited by both aspects. Our physicality is part and parcel of the health equation. As mental health professionals – why not work with the body directly? Why not expand treatment beyond a strictly verbal analytic therapy model, as we increasingly realize the importance of body-mind components that factor into the etiology of physical disease, stress-related symptoms and capacity to heal. I hope to engage you in these questions and provide answers. I am incredulous that the vast majority of analysts never engage the patient’s body in the process; likely because somatic interventions are rarely taught in a methodical way that is congruent with theoretical principles of analysis. With verbal therapies, the mind and emotions are engaged, but not the body, therefore the mind-body split continues.
Carl Jung’s concept of individuation defines a stage of conscious maturity that is based on: autonomy, differentiation, and authenticity manifested in self-expression defined by our unique, individual nature. In my last post on dreams, I focused on creating a conscious shift from preoccupation with externalized activities, outer busyness and ego identification to cultivation of silence and inner meaning achieved through a deepening relationship and exploration of our dreams. Jung teaches that as we develop this relationship with our unconscious, which speaks to us through dreams and other creative expressions: painting, writing, etc., we are engaging in a personally transformative process of becoming.
Dreaming is a pathway into the mysteries of our psyche. Dreams and dream analysis help us establish an illuminated relationship with our unconscious. Our relationship with our unconscious is important as our unconscious is often in the driver’s seat affecting many aspects of our life – even if we don’t realize it. Our conscious mind may be, at times, in the backseat as our unconscious emotions, drives and impulses take over. Dr. Carl Jung, a brilliant dream expert, teaches us that the unconscious mind is a powerful internal force that must be responded to and respected or it can flood us – resulting in a feeling of being overwhelmed by our own inner thoughts and feelings. When the psyche is not reckoned with, it may express itself through a persistent variety of physical and mental symptoms that we have difficulty understanding. Tuning into our dreams is a way to develop a relationship with our unconscious; to listen carefully to the messages we receive in our dreams.
February is upon us and there is one more character type I feel obliged to describe so you all have a fairly thorough template of types to help you understand aspects of yourself and others. The Closet Narcissist is an interesting type as their narcissism is not as obvious as the Narcissistic personality disorder I described in a prior post. Rather than the blatant grandiose, self-centered, exhibitionistic Narcissist, the Closet Narcissist is subtler and lives underground as she serves the grandiose Narcissist in order to get her Narcissistic needs met.
This dynamic is often most noticeable in couples. There is one star performer or dysfunctional dominator and an accomplice hiding behind the more overt individual. The lead performer enjoys having someone to dominate and control, someone he commandeers to serve his needs and boosts his ego. The more subservient partner gets to share the light of fame, fortune, success or, more often, simply false bravado founded on nothing. The Closet Narcissist gets to feel important and special as he or she idealizes the other. The Closet Narcissist feeds off the projections she places on her mate; maybe his educational credentials, her powerful position at work, his accomplishments, her glamorous looks, his impressive motorcycle or his false sense of pride and cockiness built on the surface without substance or foundation. The Closet Narcissist feels weak and deflated inside and relies on the other to feel any sense of cohesion. Plus she can tag along on a ride with the dictating spouse and live a life that appears special; one that the person is unable to accomplish on her own. The Closet Narcissist lives the other’s life; takes trips decided by the mate on their terms for their benefit and the Closet Narcissist goes along because he can’t decide what he wants anyway.