Relationships are the vehicles that enable us to work out our unresolved, unmet or unknown issues. It is in relationships that we are most inclined to engage in our reactionary styles. In relationship, our pains and fears, our neediness, our aggression, our protective strategies all arise to be seen, to guide us toward acceptance and integration of lost or forgotten dimensions of ourselves.
This is especially true in our familial relationships – and most especially true in relationship with our spouses, partners or significant others. We choose our mates based on their capacity to awaken us to the parts of ourselves we deny.
The desire for an intimate relationship that can provide companionship, love and support in life is well-known to many. Some seek the right person with whom to build a family. Others look for a partner to offer them security; financially, emotionally and psychologically. These wants and needs are very real, often unconscious, and quite human.
However, from a spiritual perspective, the purpose of all our relationships is to call forth each individual’s true and unique expression of the Source from which we come: to connect more fully to the Truth of WHAT we are, to the Truth of that force that embodies the human vessel, to the empowered Love that is our nature. All our interactions with others offer us opportunities to act and speak from the truest and deepest experience of love – and to invite that experience of love in others.
My relationships help me to work through my unprocessed hurts and pains from my past. The intimacy required in day-to-day life with my husband, for example, brings he and I into direct contact with our differing personalities, our different ways of approaching life. Quite regularly, our various protective strategies collide, and we have been known to crash and burn!
Unconscious influences, like neediness, defensiveness and controlling tendencies can arise over the simplest things . . . how to recycle, what time to feed the cats, what to feed the cats, how much money to spend, and on what . . . and so it goes.
I am frequently surprised to discover that I am holding hidden, unconscious expectations that my husband cannot possibly meet. My communication skills can be remarkably weak when it comes to revealing a core wound. Harboring presumed, unvoiced, or simply unknown expectations, and holding resentments at his failure to fulfill my needs, I wind up with disowned hurt feelings and lash out in blame and frustration about some minor occurrence that has awakened this sleeping denial.
Such an unconscious, habitual response shows me that an aspect of my experience has been in hibernation. Instead of recognizing that I can express my fears or needs with some vulnerabilty and humility, I create conflict, like an angry bear whose slumber has been disturbed.
We choose relationships that will activate and awaken our sleepy, unconscious beliefs and assumptions. We choose the one person we sense can push our buttons, sound an alarm, point the way. Those parts of us that we deny or ignore, such as the hurt or the rage . . . those are the partner pickers! Those parts that are longing to be seen, it is THEY who know which potential partner will shine a light on their existence. Pain and Anger will NOT be denied!
The tricky part is, we are mostly unconscious about our pain and anger, so we aren’t aware that these parts are masterminding, not only the partner picking, but the entire relationship drama. This sleepiness is the reason relationships can be so difficult!
To become an open and awakened channel through which love and truth can express, we must overcome the ego’s attachment to our old survival strategies. From the soul’s perspective, our relationships are inherently designed to bring unconscious influences to the surface for healing, acceptance and inclusion. Issues that come out in relationships are opportunities to work through the unconscious, habitual and defensive responses we all erected as denial and protection mechanisms in our pasts.
These show up for me as victimized neediness, greed, and unloving or aggressive habits. Acknowledging, understanding, and paying attention to the physical experience of my habitual responses is always a good thing, as in doing so I can soften the barriers to love.
My habitual responses are fear-based. To connect to the Truth of what is and who is Annelisa, I have to start in the body. I have to start with the evidence that I even exist, that I AM; That evidence is my body! My ego is a reaction to that existence, but it isn’t existence itself.
Self-reflection through meditation, following my body’s sensations, the tension and holding that screams with a muscle ache, the knotting in my solar plexus, or the restless leg that won’t stop . . . having the courage and the patience to attend to these discomforts leads me to awareness of feelings and thoughts I didn’t know were there!
Feeling whatever emerges, without an attachment to joy or happiness or harmony, I can start to feel the truth of what I AM at any given moment. My body changes all the time. Joy and happiness come and go . . . fear and anguish and grief and lots of ideas and beliefs also come and go.
The developing gift of a relationship comes when, even after we have discovered that our partners are mine fields, that each of us has invisible triggers buried in places we don’t know exist, we stay through the eruptions, the explosions, and the releases. The opportunity with those we have chosen, and cherish, is the cultivation of curiosity and empathy.
After stepping on a trigger we couldn’t have predicted was there, can we hold our own reactivity with awareness and patience? From a grounded sense of self-containment, we may find that we can turn to the other, support them to reorganize and reassemble a truer version of themselves, tenderly and lovingly including the fragments of their forgotten self, until our loved one is able to hold and accept those parts, themselves.