Finding Yourself and Finding the Other
I suppose a topic appropriate for the first entry is the concept of Enlightenment. When I think of enlightenment, I think of shining a light onto all the parts of ourselves. It is identifying all of us, with a special focus of bringing into our awareness those parts of ourselves that were hidden in the dark, forced there by our belief (conscious or unconscious) that we would not belong or be loved if we retained those certain parts.
Enlightenment is an ideal and striving for that ideal is the mission of our work with individuals and families. In order for us to be more aware, we have to go past the sentinels of shame that stand guard and tell us that we “should” or “ought not” to be, feel, think, or behave a certain way. Moving past shame, we can learn to experience and express compassion towards ourselves. It is only this kind of self-love that will allow us to truly heal. Otherwise we are employing self-judgment and hate to try to expel unwelcomed parts of the self.
JD Gill illustrates this beautifully in her book Finding Human,
The point of the quest, again and again, is to replace perfection with completeness. That which is excluded must become your enemy and defeat you. (P.28)
The process of simple behavior management is not healing, but it is akin to treating the symptoms without understanding their root causes. In this kind of a “cutting the weed off at the surface,” we will see symptoms crop up in other areas of our lives. Our symptoms are evidence of wounds and to adequately heal those wounds we must clearly understand them. An important aspect that allows us to compassionately look at our symptoms/wounds is to experience that compassion in the person of another. Ideally, this is the mission of a therapist.
To facilitate this, it is critical that we experience something other than what we did when we put those parts of ourselves into our dark closets. In therapy we can experience something referred to as containment. Containment means that the therapist “holds the client in her mind,” in love and non-judgment. Or in the case of a parent or spouse, gently holding the other in the mind can occur. When we experience this, we can begin to consider what we thought to be bad or unlovable in us as something else. We can then look at it, understand it in its original context, and begin to heal. When we experience frustration or judgment at the other’s behaviors, we lose contact with them because we are failing to see that their behavior is just evidence of a wound.
When I talk about this process, people often challenge the notion by suggesting that it is only our guilt or shame that provide us with some sort of moral compass. Yet, the approach I am speaking of utilizes a higher law without the damaging side effects of repression, denial, projection and other defenses that come with guilt and shame. The higher law is Love: Love for self and others. And in order to develop this love, we must first have some experience of it from another. This principle is explained beautifully in these simple words:
Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule. -Buddha
At Enlightening Relationships, whether through life-coaching or by participating in our intensives, participants will be guided through a process that helps them to discover their hidden selves. The emphasis is not on providing advice, but rather by helping individuals to discover their own truth. Similar to Michelangelo’s description of sculpting, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it,” we will provide tools and skills that will help participants to discover themselves.
The key to healthy relationships begins with each member asking the question, “Who am I?” As who we are becomes more clearly defined, we become more clear about “others” and can more effectively determine our relationship with them. We develop “response flexibility” and move away from old scripts and knee-jerk reactions. We become more connected to others as we are able move from who we are to who are you. As far as we are able to define the lines that determine who we are and who is the other, we can more confidently understand our relationships. In the case of parenting, we then become clear on who we and our children are, we can then focus on the relationships we have with the child’s problems.
This process is the process of developing intimacy in all our relationships. Some time ago a parent asked me the following question: “You are always talking about healthy detachment. When are you going to talk about connection?” This is a great question and led me to this response:
Healthy detachment IS healthy connection.
It is the same thing. Reactiveness or over-identifying with our child is not a connection. In the case of reactiveness we are not conscious or intentional about our response, because our response is rooted in some past trauma or context. Our fears or anxieties lead us to an irrational response that attempts to control the other so our anxiety is reduced. In the case of over-identifying with our children, we are not connected at all because over-identification implies that there is only one self in the relationship. And the first ingredients in intimacy are two whole people. While wholeness and enlightenment are ideals that we strive for and may never achieve, it the embracing of this journey that creates meaning and joy in our lives and intimacy in our relationships. This is our mission at Enlightening Relationships: to be a guide to help you find all the wonderful parts of yourselves that you thought you had to be rid of in order to be loved and find intimacy. And when you recognize this process in yourself, you will be better able to provide it for your clients, your children and your partners.