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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Mirror of Relationships

If you’ve been following these articles in my newsletters over the past nearly five years, and if you’ve been reading the frequent posts on my blog, you may have realized that much of what I write is repeated in new words. This is deliberate. In marketing it is said that if you want to sell something, you have to get the message across to the consumer at least nine times. In psychology things are not so different: to get the message across to the reader, so that inner transformation has a chance at beginning to take place, the message has to be repeated over and over again.

What do our Reactions to Others Tell Us about Us?

Recently I was asked (on the same day) by two acquaintances, what I would do if a client walked in the door that I did not like, and what I would do if I were attracted to a client. My answer has a great deal to do with what I believe an ethical practitioner should do, but more importantly, has a great deal to do with what all of us can and should do when faced with our reactions to others in our lives.

Basically I was being asked whether I would refer the first client out (the one I hypothetically did not like), and whether in the second instance (the client I was hypothetically attracted to), I would want to have some type of social contact with that client, or whether I would forego that, and continue on in the professional relationship.

Physician, Know Thyself!

The underlying structure to my answer lies in the Socratic advice: Physician, know thyself. In other words, if I am practicing in my chosen field of endeavour, I must have begun the process of knowing myself and recognizing my own issues. In such a case, when faced with the client I hypothetically don’t like, I would, of course, immediately understand that the reason I feel unpleasant in the presence of that person, has nothing in particular to do with him or her, but with me.

Oh.

Hmm…

So does that mean I can’t blame that person for how I feel?

No Blame?

Right on. No blaming. Even if the person is obnoxious, or difficult, or needy, or haughty, or autocratic, or whatever it might be that sets me off. What sets me off is not his/her behavior, but some unresolved issue in me. If the issue were resolved, it would not set me off. Affect (emotion) is also a clue to something that needs addressing in oneself. So that means I’m the one that has to look at me, not look outward and point a finger.

Jewels in Our Lives

So back to the hypothetical client I don’t like. Such a client could well become a jewel in my life. If I’m willing to follow the above directives. If I’m willing to look within, rather than without. So such a client immediately sets off a warning bell, and launches a red flag in me, to make me aware of the fact that the client is bringing out some as yet unresolved issue.

The example I’m using is my client and myself, but this is how it is with every single person that populates your life, from the peripheral fringes, to its nuclear core, from the newspaper vendor and shoeshine person, to your partner (see also my Sept. 2006 Newsletter: Marriage in the 21st Century Could Cutting Edge Spiritual Psychology Make it Viable Again?) and children or parents. Every time you react inside to something, you are being given a message about yourself by your psyche, and if you pay attention to those messages, if you look in the mirror of your relationship with that particular person, you will learn something about yourself, and eventually resolve that issue in order to not have to revisit that place again, in such a way that similar situations in future, will not affect you negatively as they used to do. (See also Choosing to Wallow in Relationship Pain).

You, too, must know yourself!

Earlier I quoted Socrates: Physician, know thyself. This lies at the core of the work of any good therapist, psychologist, analyst, psychiatrist, or healer. Not only because this individual is in the business of helping people understand and help themselves, and consequently improve their lives and broaden their parameters of inner freedom, but also because if this individual does not begin with the humility of recognizing that he or she also has issues to be resolved, he’s going to be quite hopeless at helping other people resolve theirs. It doesn’t mean he has to have every single one of his issues resolved long before he begins to see clients. It just means he must be working on them. Actively. Continually. Incessantly. Tirelessly.

What Attracts you is Very Important…

So let’s go on to the question about the hypothetical client I might feel attracted to. Here there can be no doubt. An ethical practitioner will immediately recognize some kind of counter transference, i.e. that the client has touched on some core of an unresolved issue in oneself. Again, therefore, the therapist has to look inside. And be very ethical.

The Treasure Map

So how does this relate to people outside of a practice? In exactly the same manner. (Listen to the audio clip Obsession, Suspicion, Jealousy, and the Need to Control in the “Emotions” Section). When you feel attracted to someone, it is because that person carries within them something that lights up your buttons because there is something there that is unresolved in you. It doesn’t have to be a difficult or negative thing, simply something that has not yet been addressed, and the fact that you are now attracted to this specific individual, should be reason enough for you to realize that beyond the chemistry, beyond the infatuation, beyond the possible love, there is something even more important that can help you become more psychologically and emotionally free, and precisely this person can be the means by which you get there. . (See also my July 2006 Newsletter: I Need You...I Need You Not). As long as you realize the mechanism of the dynamics behind what is happening. In other words, don’t go there, don’t go into the relationship blindly. Look at yourself. Understand that the attraction, just as in the example of my hypothetical client, is a sign to you, a clue, a map, a treasure map, so that you will sit up and take notice. Your feelings are – in this sense – your road to freedom. Pay attention to them beyond the obvious. Learn to use them. Use them to grow. Grow and transform your way into freedom, because that is your duty to yourself and that is your right.

Photo: View towards the Atlantic in Atlanterra, Cadiz, Spain

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