We human beings come into life on this planet to further our psychospiritual growth and healing. This purpose enlivens us and enables us to contribute the unique gift of ourselves to the world in which we live.
Alignment with false self hinders our growth
The word “heal” comes from the root word “to make whole”.
The extent to which we do not live in alignment with our true nature results in confusion and distress, ultimately manifesting in emotional, physical, mental, spiritual, and societal pain and dysfunction. As we try to understand, justify, deny, or avoid this pain and dysfunction, we box ourselves into self-identities and world views that are very limited, often false, and certainly not based on the multidimensional truth of who we really are.
We have confused what happened to us with who we really are. This self-denial fractures our sense of self and we experience ourselves as less than whole. Tweet this
Our thoughts, feelings, actions, and our consciousness have the power to either reinforce this lack of alignment and disassociation or help direct us toward our authenticity.
The squeaky wheel gets the oils
In this world view, the obstacles and difficulties that arise in the course of moment-to-moment life are the experiential vehicles that call our attention to what needs healing. They are the squeaks that tell us which wheel needs oil. They offer us an in the moment experience to identify, accept and integrate some denied part of ourselves and bring the light of truth to some belief, attitude, expectation, world view, or self-identity that is false or outmoded. No one is exempt. If you are born into life, you are here to do this work.
Relationships as a tool for healing
Romantic or coupled relationships play a very important part in our search to make ourselves whole, i.e., to heal. In this sense, I am dividing romantic relationship into two categories: relationships that provide Refuge For Healing; and relationships that provide Reflective Mirrors for Healing.
The refugee relationship
In the Refuge Relationship, the difficulties and obstacles that lead to growth and healing are still present but they are experienced out there in the external world. Each partner comes home to the relationship for support, refueling, and rest.
Reflective mirrors for healing relationships
In the Mirror Relationship, repeated conflicts in the relationship are the obstacles that are calling for healing attention. As the issues underlying these conflicts are understood – as each partner learns to take personal responsibility for what is misaligned, misunderstood, or just plain not true, the conflict dissolves.
People who are in one category have great difficulty comprehending how the other can exist. Mirrors often watch Refuges with a jealous, guilt-ridden, or disbelieving eye and Refuges watch Mirrors in total amazement, and sometimes judgment, or dismay.
In Mirror Relationships, this growth process can be conscious or unconscious, and individuals will either match each other’s true or false sense of Self.
Unconscious, non-conflicting false self match
No Use of Mirror
Each partner matches the other’s lack of alignment with their true Selves without question – “that’s just the way they are”. For example: Childhood conditioning left Bob with abandonment fears and Jane with low self-esteem. Bob won’t let Jane work because he is afraid she won’t need him anymore and then she might leave him, and Jane is afraid to displease Bob because she doesn’t want to lose his love and fears no one else would love her. So he controls her and she does what he wants.
Bob and Jane are matched according to their misaligned selves – to the ways they have lost connection with their true natures and are instead identified with how they have had to cope with the painful experiences from their past. Their relationship will perpetuate the ways in which they are not aligned with their true nature. As long as each person stays in their role, there is no apparent conflict. However the lack of alignment will generally find some way to manifest. Perhaps somatically through illnesses or injuries or emotionally as depression or anxiety or perhaps their children will act the misalignment out.
Unconscious, conflicting false self match
No Use Of Mirror
In this case, there is the same misaligned match (according to conditioned, false Self rather than true Self) without the resignation to and acceptance of the roles they have. So Jane might fight with or punish Bob for not letting her work. Or Bob and/or Jane might sabotage her efforts to work. Or Jane might have an affair…. One or the other or both are dissatisfied and experience conflict and act that conflict out in some way. Power struggles and emotional anguish prevail. With no way out except to end the relationship. The relationship may end, but without the healing, the pattern inevitably repeats itself in new choices for partners.
There is no real match at all. For example: If Sally is the only woman Bill thinks he could ever love, while Sally prefers Hank, and Hank isn’t interested in Sally there aren’t any matches present. It can’t be a match for one and not for the other. In other words, it takes two to tango! What happens is that people who are not in a match get caught up in the struggle to make the match happen. This requires enormous effort and causes great pain and suffering.
What began as a match doesn’t always remains a match
Sometimes a relationship starts as a match but the individuals grow in different directions and then the match is gone. There is no blame, just change. Sometimes it is difficult to differentiate the struggles of a non-match from the struggles of the unresolved issues from the past that the partners are mirroring for each other. Sometimes the partners have been battling each other for so long they can hardly feel any love left in their hearts. To give the relationship a fair chance, they may have to first clear their unresolved issues to be able to then tell if they are now in a non-match situation.
False self match
Using Mirror For Healing
The partners here still come together believing in and acting from their misaligned and conditioned selves. However, they learn to look for the mirrors in their conflicts so that they can discover their true nature and leave their conditioned Selves behind. In this instance, Bob would learn to take responsibility for his abandonment fears and heal his past pain and Jane would do the same regarding her low self-esteem.
For example: A couple recently came to see me who for 8 years have been intimately and romantically involved as well as working professionally together. They had finally come to the point where intimate relationship was just too painful and decided to end their relationship as lovers. They wanted assistance creating boundaries and a new form of relationship that would allow them to still be able to work together.
These two had enormous respect, love and physical attraction for each other. They had tried counseling separately and as a couple. They had attempted various levels of intimacy trying to get beyond the knee-jerk reactions of how their old hurts and defenses collided. Yet, try as they may, they kept coming back to the same place where each felt hurt, angry or betrayed. A place where each felt unloved and uncared for by the other. An impossible place that only exiting could relieve.
Each was very bright, creative, loving, and generous of heart.
The woman’s core issue was that of deprivation and unworthiness. As a child she was neither emotionally nor financially supported by her parents in the ways that she needed. She falsely learned from these early experiences that she was not worthy of receiving the things she needed. To compensate, apart from her natural kindness and caring, her coping personality learned to be the good girl, helpful, and giving in order to acquire the worthiness to get what she needed. This kind of giving is depleting and inevitably leads to exhaustion and resentment. Meanwhile another part of her, knowing full well that she did deserve to be given what she needed, when triggered, could verbally and physically flare up in an aggressive angry outburst, completely unavailable for meaningful communication.
The man’s was that of the abandoned child, the good boy being treated as bad, whose mother raged at him with abusive anger. He didn’t understand why he was being attacked and later abandoned and he was very upset and confused about this. He got into trouble when he expressed his upsetnesss. Apart from his naturally generous nature, he developed a coping personality that was giving, the kind of giving that gets taken advantage of. He had learned that his expressions of anger would only make matters much worse. He learned to contain and hide his anger – even from himself – and he developed a communication style that meandered and diverted itself from direct confrontations.
In their relationship, she was in a situation where she did not have financial resource. He did. This created a power differential that exaggerated the way their core issues would collide. When she perceived his actions as depriving or undervaluing her she would rage her anger at him. He would feel unfairly and dangerously attacked and withdraw. When he felt he was being taken advantage of, asked to provide something that he thought was not his responsibility, or when he felt he was being unfairly attacked, his generosity would get offended and he would withdraw, sometimes taking back something he had earlier offered or given. Their defenses locked into place, communication would only escalate their conflict.
These knee jerk reactions and the consequential stalemate that followed had left them with their feelings too raw to continue. Yet, their desire to work together provided the glue to help them maintain the relationship as a vehicle for growth. Meanwhile they could learn to create new boundaries that would support their individual healing needs.
No Need For Mirror
Both partners match each other’s true natures. They do not end up pushing each other’s buttons. This alignment eliminates the need for conflict or submission and thus it actually falls into the Refuge category. Unhealed issues from the past will still show up in their interactions with outside relationship, career, finances, health, or possibly problems with their families of origin but their relationship will basically be a place of refuge.
No blame, no failure and no-rejection
From this point of view, there is no blame, no failure, and no rejection for what doesn’t work in relationship. Partners are either aligned with their true Selves or their false Selves or there is no real match in the first place.
Unfortunately, because most of us do not understand the reflective nature of conflict in relationship, we generally fail to look for the mirror aspect within the relationship. Without being able to see the reflection of misalignment which underlies the conflict, one’s attention usually gets caught up in either blaming the other or blaming the self. The conflict then reinforces the way we identify and align ourselves with a false sense of Self.
Misalignment leads to poor choices
People who are not in alignment with their true nature inevitably lose their ability to discern their true needs and desires. Consequently, they end up choosing people who match their conditioned, false identity rather than their true nature. This kind of a match creates a loop that perpetuates re-injury rather than promotes healing. And it is carried from one relationship to the next, and often from one generation to the next, until it is healed.
False beliefs and denied feelings lead to problems that don’t go away
In the Mirror Relationship, the need for healing is reflected in the repeated or patterned interactive difficulties and obstacles that are the consequences of our false beliefs, attitudes, expectations, self-identities and denied feelings. These false or denied parts make us incomplete and dysfunctional. As incompletes or half-circles, we seek completion. We seek to be whole. But we are attracted to another who complements our holes, instead, and who is also incomplete. We join our incomplete halves together. This illusion of completion initially brings great bliss.
The bliss is soon broken, for we soon find that there are now two heads and two sets of limbs competing for control of the circle. Loss, resentment, and pain inevitably result. There may be temporary relief as the circle steadies itself in some compromise or agreement for one to dominate and the other to submit, but inevitably the illusion makes itself known again.
Half circles joining where the disowned parts meet
When this happens, it usually doesn’t take long for the difficulties and conflicts to arise.
For example, let’s look at Sue and Tom. Sue’s father was a perfectionist and tried to guide Sue by always correcting her mistakes. He rarely complemented her to keep her from getting cocky. When her parents divorced she felt abandoned by her father and misinterpreted her self-perceived inadequacy and unworthiness as the reason for his leaving. By the time she was an adult she expected to be rejected and continually feared and defended against her unworthiness. She learned to protect herself with feigned disinterest and distance. She often felt lonely and deprived.
Meanwhile, Tom’s mother was very unhappy with her relationship with her husband and so she looked to her son for companionship and comfort. Tom learned that his needs weren’t important and that he was inadequate and undeserving because no matter what he did or how hard he tried he could never make his mother happy. He also felt resentful because she wouldn’t let him have his own life.
Sue comes into the relationship feeling needy, wanting lots of attention, and seeking intimacy quickly. Tom is fearful of being engulfed by intimacy and wants to go slowly and cautiously. He really likes Sue and enjoys spending time with her. Sue misinterprets his caution as lack of interest and feels rejected and defends herself by getting cool and distant, pretending that she doesn’t care either. Even though she is actually feeling deprived and hurt. Or she might also get angry and demanding.Either way Tom gets hurt and scared and feels that no matter what he does it is never enough. He defends himself by getting really busy with work. Their individual defenses create more and more separation between them, and the perceived value and experience of satisfaction in the relationship is chipped away.
The original injury each person brought into the relationship is re-experienced and the false beliefs are reinforced. We think he or she made us feel this way, we blame the other, or we blame ourselves and so the pattern continues.
Half circles joining where our owned selves meet
In this situation, the ways we complement each other’s incompleteness and self-denial balance each other out and there is no apparent struggle. Not as long as each partner accepts and maintains their roles. This was the case in the first example of controlling Bob and submissive Jane.
But sometimes in life things happen and suddenly an old comfortable role no longer fits. Perhaps, Jane gets a life-threatening illness and realizes she does not want to die without first doing what she really wants to do. Or Bob’s father, who had abandoned him as a child, dies and he is suddenly faced with the enormous grief and anger that he had up until then been able to suppress.
Whatever the catalyst, the illusion of completeness has been broken and both partners are catapulted into having to deal with what they had been previously blocking – what they had up until then been able to deny in the other half of their circle. (their shadow sides) An opportunity to uncover their true natures has come forth.
The survival of the relationship becomes secondary and may seem oppositional to their self-discovery and healing. Perhaps it is. However, by understanding how each person’s self-denial and unfinished business from the past has contributed to the now dysfunctional relationship, sometimes the relationship can be redesigned to support the new direction toward authenticity. The relationship evolves and so it survives in a more functional and desirable way.
Difficulties mirror denied parts
As the difficulties we experience can be seen as mirrors, we can then begin to pay attention to finding our denied parts and self-rejections.
We can: discover the truth about ourselves; take personal responsibility for our feelings, processing and clearing them; and eliminate the defensive need to dump our projections, confusion, pain and blame onto our partners. We can learn to ask questions rather than make assumptions. We can remember our partner is our friend and not our enemy.With new compassion and respect for our partners and ourselves, a learned ability to find the mirror for self-reflection within our conflicts, and the willingness to really listen to each other, we can move towards a better understanding of our partners and ourselves. We can learn to support each other’s intention and ability to uncover the truth about ourselves. In so doing we might just come home one day and find a Relationship of Refuge waiting for us there!