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  • Writer's pictureAnnelisa MacBean

Connection and Differentiation

In my intimate relationships with partners and friends I am learning to prioritize a sense of security in our connections, a kind of bonded attachment that supports us both in the regulation of challenging emotional states that might arise. It’s my intention to assume an attitude of curiosity and open-mindedness; to listen to the way they are making sense of their experience, to attune to what they are feeling, and hold them during difficult times. I want to take the risk to allow them to matter and to share my own vulnerability. Connection, first with myself, so that I can connect with others and really take them in has become an increasingly high priority in my life. That being the case, I am also learning to trust and respect my instinct and intuition when it comes to noticing unhealthy fusion. The paradoxical reality is that we are not only connected, but also separate. Secure connections, bonds and attachments include healthy differentiation, where at times the most mature and skillful activity will be to establish and communicate firm boundaries, assert my independence, emphasize my own personal integrity, and allow my partner or friend to struggle with feelings of aloneness, uncertainty, and confusion. At times I disappoint those I love. This can be really activating and exposes some very early childhood vulnerabilities. As a kid, disappointing my parents was literally physically dangerous, and by extension, today, disappointing anyone from whom I believe I need love, can reveal my deep, historic fears. It wasn’t historically safe to advocate for myself, to prioritize my experience over another's. The consequences sixty years ago were devastating. With my partner and friends today, there is a surging historical impulse to do whatever possible to prevent the shattering of their hearts and to avoid any confrontation with their own unlived lives. It takes presence and courage to allow my partner and friends to meet the reality of their own history, their own heart. It takes self-acceptance and humility to understand that differentiating myself may actually be an act of profound mercy and compassion. From a transpersonal perspective, I understand unity and oneness. But within the relational field, I can see that we are distinct. Our own individual histories and ways of organizing our experience make us each unique. We each have our own path to travel, our own relationship with the Divine. To dissolve that which fundamentally differentiates us into an homogenized spiritual explanation of connection does not serve the sacredness of this human existence. I recognize the opportunity with my partner and friends to consciously explore the reality of our separateness. Denied, I will express my independence in unconscious and irresponsible ways – in tangled, looping, and unproductive conflict, resistance, blaming and pushing away – I will unleash my unmetabolized historic pain into the relational field.

This practice evolves slowly, as the intention deepens, and I learn to register impulses and sensations in my body. May I be accepting of myself in this process and kind to all my loved ones as we navigate this territory together. The intimacy we share and the desire for true and authentic connection is one of the most transformative, sacred, and challenging opportunities this world as to offer.

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