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Alternative Culture Magazine

Embracing Each Other: Relationship as Teacher, Healer and Guide

--Hal Stone and Sidra Winkelman

"The fairy tale version of romantic love teaches that once one finds the right mate, there is a marriage and then the two live happily ever after. Somehow the relationship magically brings out the King or Queen in each of us; therefore, our task in life is to find the correct mate so that we can be truly ourselves. In contrast to this, many of us now have a real fear that we will lose ourselves if we "give in" to a relationship and make the adjustments that are necessary in order for it to work, that the changes demanded of us by relationship are a weakening or a lessening of who we are." --Embracing Each Other, pp. 227-8

This is a book that comes at the right time: and in (or out of) relationship, any time is the right time. Especially helpful is the advice on taking care of one's [inner] "vulnerable child":

  1. Recognize its presence
  2. Develop an awareness of its personality, needs and reactions
  3. Separate far enough in trigger situations to evaluate
  4. Speak up for it in an objective, relaxed fashion

Here are some key do's and don'ts:

--Don't put it in position of taking care of itself
--Don't give in to all its needs ("indulging in all its feelings")
--Don't let it lock into victim mode through over-identification

--Do provide its own space, aesthetic and safe
--Do use impersonal self to set limits and boundaries, speaking for its needs
--Do use one's network of safe friends for support and listening

The vulnerable child is often disowned by the dominant constellation of one's "primary selves." Left to their own devices these often give rise to a variety of shadow selves...with both primary selves and shadows indulging in excess.

Primary selves

. . . and shadows

protector/controller gambler/liberal
perfectionist sloppy
critic dreamer/romantic
pusher slacker
good parent disowner
pleaser selfish

"Negative bonding patterns" occur in relationship when the disowned child in each person has to find support externally, and bonds unconsciously with the parent-figure in the other person.

Problems and conflicts inevitably occur. How to deal with them constructively? Awareness is crucial. So while expression of feelings may occur, it's important that it's done consciously rather than hurtfully; using discernment, not judgment. In this dance one must learn to embrace all of one's disowned selves. Also, to understand the dynamic connections between each other's vulnerable selves and the corresponding partner-parent roles. We can come to realize and embrace in ourselves the opposite qualities embodied in our relationships--but in less extreme forms. For such understanding this book is invaluable.

They will keep happening, battles and make-ups, but the aware ego will begin entering earlier to balance the power selves and vulnerable selves, with more choices; so that we relate out of em-power-ment rather than a drive for power; without dominating/controlling or playing victim. The content of conflict becomes neutral, without the usual hidden agenda.

Sound like too much work? It's all a choice. If relationship is the path we take (and how can anyone ignore it forever?), we may avoid much unnecessary pain (for ourselves and others) and discover the greatest growth through maximum discovery and awareness. For such a living journey, Embracing Each Other is the essential guidebook.

Embracing Each Other: order page

Other selected books on Relationship (thumbnail reviews, secure order links)

Final full page quote from Embracing Each Other

Embracing Ourselves: the Voice Dialogue Manual, by the same authors, provides hands-on tools for healing.


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