Moving from a dysfunctional codependent relationship to a conscious one – Part II

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Light at the end of the tunnel, finally a conscious relationship

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Read part I

Even after many years of struggles in codependent and abusive relationships, it is possible to mature into a conscious relationship. Once the lessons have been learned, we finally see light at the end of the tunnel. Intimate relationships have been a source of torment, despair, frustration and powerlessness. They now become the most beautiful part of our life. Our life deepens and we get to experience the purity of the love within our heart through the most magnificent mirror of romantic connection. What does this relationship feel like?

1. Personal Work

Because of the law of attraction, the partner we love is the mirror of who we are, mostly the unexpressed aspects. Therefore, the better person we become, the better partner we will attract. A beautiful and enjoyable romantic partnership can only be the mirror of genuine self-love. For this reason, inner work is and will continue to be the biggest factor in attracting, loving and keeping this special person.

Inner work, meditation

In a conscious relationship, we remember that our partner is a mirror. When they trigger us, we remember they are helping us to become aware of unsavory aspects we have repressed. We enjoy the good times, and we go into introspection during the challenging times to learn and become a better version of ourselves. If we think the behavior of our loved one has nothing to do with us, then we will not have strong reactions. We can either be supportive or feel indifferent, and lose interest. But if we are triggered, then we can be assured that it is about us. With experience, we learn to discriminate more and more accurately what is our stuff, and what is their stuff when a conflict arises. And we learn to discuss it in a vulnerable way to increase self-awareness and intimacy.

We learn to be alone while not feeling lonely. We do not need someone to complete ourselves. We do not need to marry someone to relive our childhood traumas. We are no longer afraid to be abandoned or betrayed. We understand that love is within us and not outside. So even if a breakup occurs, we know for certain that after we have grieved, the love within us will manifest an even better partner than before. This works as automatically as a sick body will eventually get healthy because health is our natural state of balance as we follow our inner guidance and get enough rest. We are able to make the best decisions for the relationship and ourselves because we are not driven anymore by the fear of ending up alone.

The people in a relationship are more important than the relationship itself. While it is wonderful to enjoy longevity in a relationship, we understand that there is no guarantee. As human beings, we keep changing and growing and sometimes people grow in different directions. It does not make anyone wrong, though the process of uncoupling can be so painful.  We can only share happiness with our beloved if we are happy ourselves. To keep sacrificing oneself is not sustainable. We need to put our self first with the sincere hope that our partner will want to stick around, and we understand that they need to put them self first too. We understand the fragility of romantic love, as it requires so many conditions to truly blossom. For this reason, we never take it for granted and revel in every moment of deep intimacy. Sometimes, we love our partner so much that we understand that it is best for us to step away if we see that we are limiting their growth.

As we accept the free will of our partner, we are able to experience a new form of love that is not possessive. We do not feel threatened by the growth of our partner, thinking they may leave if they outgrow us. On the opposite side, we want them to reach their full potential. We understand that the love can only get better as each partner commits to becoming the best they can be. We want to experience two hearts that choose to love each other in complete freedom, a love that is genuinely unconditional.  We accept that our partner may say no to us at times. It could be no to joining on an activity, no to sex, no to help us out, no to an external commitment and we trust them that they have taken our best interest in consideration. We work on our own abandonment or self-esteem issues or insecurities when this happens without attempting to manipulate them.

We commit to know ourselves and to be authentic. We commit to own both our light and shadow. Unless we know who we are, we appear unpredictable and unsafe to our partner. As we acquire self-knowledge, we understand our core needs and we are able to communicate effectively about them. We are honest, we act with integrity and we have healthy boundaries. When we have a conflicting need, we find a creative way for both partners to get their needs met.

Healthy boundaries

The more we own our shadow, the more we can create a container for our partner’s shadow so that we can both bring more of ourselves into the relationship for deeper intimacy. The more we own our shadow, the less likely it is for any shame to disrupt the relationship. The more we own our shadow, the better we can support our partner’s emotional healing without judgment.

2. Building a life together

While the commitment to self comes first as it is the healthy foundation for anything we bring into our life, a relationship takes nurturing and commitment. A romantic partnership is like a beautiful flower that needs its daily intake of nutrients, good soil, sun, and water. An intimate connection is the co-creation of two individuals. It is a third entity in addition of the two individuals, not an entity that is supposed to overthrow the same individuals that brought it to life in the first place.

Building our life together

Take it Slow. It takes time to know a person. People have a tendency to move too fast together after having sex. Sexual chemistry may be irresistible at first but it will eventually wane off as incompatibilities surface. Sexual attraction is an indicator of the potential of a relationship for personal growth, while compatibility is the best indicator for longevity. Genuine trust is built slowly through repetition. Taking any step back in a committed relationship is very damaging so it is better to advance slowly but surely. Only commit when you are ready to do it, but then be consistent.

Become an expert on other person. We tend to forget it but the main reason to be in a relationship is to love and to be loved, to experience joy and happiness. Therefore, the better we know our partner, the easier it is for us to make them feel loved. It is critical to know their love language, how they feel appreciated, what opens their heart, how they feel cared for. The more you bring joy into their lives, the more your partner will feel inspired to reciprocate if s/he is not narcissistic. Be curious and keep asking questions to know your partner better every day. We should give at least five times more compliments than constructive feedback on how our partner’s behavior is affecting us negatively.

In its lower form, sex can be used for control and a way to release negativity. However, when used consciously, the benefits are immense. The regular mixing of Yin & Yang sexual energy of two lovers is excellent to their health. Sex can become a sacred ritual when the energy from the genitals gets refined in each subsequent chakra to eventually open the crown chakra. It allows the lovers to experience ego death in a divine embrace. It opens the door to some of the highest pleasures we are able to experience on this earth. It promotes playfulness and intimacy. It brings heaven on earth.

sexual union, tantra

Many of us make the mistake of loving romantic partners for their potential and not for what they are today. While people can change, this is a long process so this type of expectation puts unnecessary stress onto the relationship. To truly love someone is to love his or her shortcomings. This makes it a safe place for our partner to grow without shame. We are able to see and love the whole person, without idealizing or demonizing him or her.

A conscious intimate relationship is the experience of togetherness without losing oneself in the process. It is the merging of freedom with responsibility and commitment.

We give without expecting anything in return. Unless absolutely necessary, we only do things for our partner when it comes from our heart to keep the relationship pure and unconditional. And by doing so, we raise our vibration and we move our center of gravity from the ego to the heart, to experience life at a much higher level.

We focus on creating joy and happiness for our partner. More and more, their bliss becomes our own, and their smile reflects the delight of our heart. We have no need to claim our value because it is already there as we wonder at the love in their eyes.

We strive to be sensitive towards our partner and we extend the same concern to our close ones. We ensure to be on the same page, and if we are not, we at least become aware that we are not. We are patient and understanding in solving our differences.

empathy

Self-improvement means encouraging and feeding the highest aspects within us, and starving the unsavory ones. We need to have the same commitment towards our partner. When a shadow aspect manifests but we do not feel our partner could take the constructive feedback, just ignore this aspect in silence. But under no circumstance should we feed their shadow otherwise it will come back to bite us. I once had a partner who had megalomaniac tendencies. I would be encouraging but never to the point where her ego could take the better of her. Unfortunately, she had a manager that was in love with her, and would continuously put her on a pedestal. He used her shadow to make her leave me so that he could get married with her. However, he is now the one who has to deal with the monster he has created.

3. Communication

There cannot be a relationship without communication. Communication can be verbal and non verbal. Communication is what harmonizes the uniqueness of two individuals so that a third entity, the relationship, may be created. The quality of your relationship is first determined by the quality of your communication. Communication is the invisible thread that makes the dance of relationships possible.

communication

When our partner talks to us, we figure out the best course of action. Do they just need to vent? Do they need their pain to be validated? Do they need to be felt, seen and understood through active listening? Do they need to feel protected and loved? Are they actually looking for advice? (rarely) Do they want to explore a philosophical subject? (rarely)

We strive towards achieving the best balance in sharing our problems and worries. We share vulnerably what troubles us for deeper intimacy, however we are careful not to overwhelm our partner with our challenges. We develop a sense of how much our partner is able to handle without being dragged down. If they get triggered, they will make our state worse and not better anyway. We accept the fact that our partner has limitations just as we have limitations. We put our individual problems into the right container, as we understand our partner is sacred and should not be the recipient of our own dysfunction. We make it a priority to share the positive aspects of life over the struggles. We develop a habit to see the glass half full rather than half empty without living in denial.

In the medical profession, the Hippocratic oath teaches us to abstain from all intentional wrongdoing and harm. I believe the same applies to intimate relationships. While it is impossible never to hurt an intimate partner that is so close to us, we commit never to do it intentionally. And if we do hurt them, we become introspective so as to understand on how not to do it anymore.  On the opposite, we commit to do everything in our power to bring more joy and happiness into their life.

Kindness is the antidote for shame. Kindness promotes safety in the relationship. When communication and interaction with our beloved is infused with kindness, we relax. We need less time alone to recharge because we are able to do it even more effectively in their quiet presence. Kindness allows an intimate relationship to become a refuge.

kindness

Authenticity comes with responsibility. We become aware how speaking our truth or acting from our authentic self may negatively impact our partner. We anticipate their reaction so that we can best communicate about our needs while minimizing negative impact for them. For example, if you have an urge to climb the Himalayas, you do it in a way that will guarantee your safety and at a time when your spouse can have extra support at home with the children.

Please be careful with what you are committing to because a broken promise can permanently damage the trust in the relationship. Trust is the foundation of intimate relationships. It takes one hundred consistent positive actions to earn trust but one failed promise can demolish everything. So be aware of your limitations. I recently saw a young couple where the woman was struggling with sexual inhibition because of a traumatic past of sexual objectification. We realized that she needed more space for her sexual healing so the young man committed never to initiate sex anymore and that he would leave it entirely to her. This idea came from a noble aspect of him however he was unaware of other parts of him that were unable to hold this promise. As a result, I suggested that they schedule sex once a week intentionally and leave the rest to her. This way, he will not be completely starved sexually and he could more easily create the space she needed for her sexual healing.

A relationship agreement is a wonderful way to clarify in writing how a couple can maximize happiness for each other. It brings focus and consistency in their efforts to nurture the relationship. It needs to be light and flexible for spontaneous love but precise enough to foster commitment. I encourage the couple to write an update of the relationship agreement every year as people keep changing and evolving. It should however never be used as an instrument of control, but as a gentle reminder for the partners’ dedication to love each other in the best way possible.

4. Conflict resolution

conflict resolution

Shame is like a hot potato. We throw it at each other because we are afraid to get burnt. Arguments escalate the same way as we throw back and forth the burning shame to each other. Here is an example. The husband arrives late from a long day at work and a business dinner with clients. Wife says “The kids were acting crazy tonight. I am exhausted. I hate living with an absent husband. You are never here with us”. The husband feels ashamed. It triggers his self-worth issues so he responds “Well, there needs to be someone here to pay for the mortgage, and your weekly visit to the hairdresser”. Now this triggers the wife’s insecurities that she is not good enough, and she feels guilty to take care of herself so she goes into a fit of rage. Owning the shame is what breaks this circle. The husband could have simply responded “Yes, I feel bad that I let you down tonight again. I understand you need a caring husband on your side to raise our beautiful children. I am sorry”. Then she may vent a little bit more her frustration but there is no more escalation. This couple can come close again.When we need to give feedback on something that is bothering us in the relationship, we have to learn to do it in a vulnerable way and by taking full responsibility for our feelings. “I cannot stand my life with an absent husband. You are never here with us” becomes “I am struggling with the fact that you are so busy at work. I feel I am distancing myself from you because we do not spend enough time connecting with each other”. “You are such a nagging bitch” becomes “I am starting to struggle with my self-worth because I feel I cannot make you happy no matter hard I try. I am starving for appreciation and connection”. “You are so selfish and only thinking of yourself when you have sex with me” becomes “I felt very alone and objectified when we had sex last night. I am starving for a deeper connection between us. I want to feel that we care as much for each others pleasure as we do our own”. This approach mitigates shame and allows for the beginning of a conscious discussion instead of an argument.

fragile heart

A relationship is fragile, and has potential dangers from outside (life circumstances and other relationships) or inside (incompatibilities). The couple cannot be naïve about them and instead should develop full awareness of what is menacing their union. Some of these negative external influences could be: toxic in-laws, friends not in support of the relationship, difficult stepchildren brainwashed by a jealous ex, a very demanding boss, health or financial issues, or civil unrest. Relationship threats related to various incompatibilities are even more challenging, and it takes conscious communication and a lot of flexibility not to affect the relationship negatively. While most of the time together should be focused on positive aspects, it is critical to acknowledge what could have a negative impact and not sweep it under the rug. Love is precious but it is so fragile. Awareness will advert many dangers.

I am often asked the question on what to do when both partners get triggered at the same time. Ideally, both partners should isolate in a separate room to figure out their personal trigger. It can take the form of journaling, meditation or another healing modality. In this case, the partners are incapable of being a helpful container so it is best to do the work alone. Then they can come back together later and share what they have learned in a vulnerable way after they have calmed down. However, someone with an anxious attachment style may feel even more triggered if his or her partner disappears when a conflict occurs. In this case, I recommend they stay in the same room together as they work separately in silence with their own triggers.

It is a paradox but to be able to handle conflicts successfully, we should not be afraid of conflicts. If we give in because we are afraid of our partner’s negative emotions whether it is rage or despair, we are abandoning ourselves. Nothing gets solved this way, and we keep repeating the same unconscious patterns over and over again. It is natural to be afraid but a conscious relationship demands that we do not act from a place of fear. We acknowledge the fear but we continue to act from our highest truth, no matter what the consequences are. If our partner is not able to love us enough to handle our authentic truth, then we need to accept the fact that we may be better off with a different partner. Many teachers have said that fear and not hate is the opposite of love. Let’s learn to embrace conflict rather than running away from it. Let’s bring as much conscious awareness as possible during the conflict so that we can learn from our disputes.

love me with my hairy arms

It is natural to have preferences in the way our partner looks or behaves. We can express our personal preferences however we should never use any form of manipulation such as intimidation or blackmail to control our partner’s behavior or looks. We need to respect their free will and wait for them to take this action from their own volition. Let’s say your girlfriend does not shave her underarms and you find this unattractive. You may express your preference however if she is genuinely attached to her armpit hair, you should let it go. If this is a reason for you to break up with her, then she is definitely better off without you as it shows you are unable to love her the way she is.

Rather than seeing a relationship trigger as a curse, we need to rewire ourselves to see it as an opportunity. A trigger can be seen as a long and strong rope to recover lost and buried aspects within us. They can teach us invaluable lessons, promote self-knowledge and personal healing like nothing else. They bring to our awareness existing problems that need to be addressed. They help us improve our communication. If tackled properly, they help us deepen the intimacy with our partner.

conscious relationship

Conclusion

Intimate relationships are challenging but there is nothing else that has the potential to bring us as much happiness, growth and wisdom. A conscious relationship is the ultimate reward of many years of trying, failing and learning to love. This is why many forms of art have been obsessed with romantic love and intimate partnership. It is the most beautiful reminder on this earth of the rapture of divine love. Never give up on the dream to love and to be loved.

Moving from a dysfunctional codependent relationship to a conscious one – Part I

View the video – Read by Britany

premature baby

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We were born dependent. First, we were one with our mother in her womb. Then birth separated us from her. We had to start breathing on our own.  As we grow up, we learn to move on our own, to feed ourselves, to make our own decisions and live our own destiny. Little by little, we are learning autonomy however we still long for the primordial desire of fusion with our own mother. Our parents did the best they could but they passed onto us their own deficiencies so we arrive to adulthood in a state of incompleteness.  Love acts as a powerful spell because we feel incomplete and we are desperately looking for a better half to fill our void.

Falling in love is the subconscious drive towards completeness. Without this incentive, most of us will simply not have the courage to work on our shadows (mostly transgenerational). This is why intimate relationships are so difficult but also so rewarding. Shadow, more than light, is the foundation for the powerful attraction between lovers. Because we are all so afraid to change, nature gave us the perk of sex to incentivize us towards evolution. Nature gave us the ability to experience the ecstasy of integration at a physical level so that we may want to experience it at an emotional, mental and spiritual level.

Orpheus

I re-read recently the story of Orpheus. He was a demi-God, a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion. Even he could not bear the loss of his wife Eurydice. After he failed to retrieve her from the kingdom of Hades, he wandered randomly as a hermit and inconsolable, he fell prey to the Thracian Maenads. Romantic love is by far the most fulfilling experience here on earth, but it is also the most fragile. It is dependent on the free will of another human being because without genuine reciprocity, it is not a relationship. Even when both lovers are connected, many external events or people may disrupt their passion: parents, status or financial issues, visa issues, ex partners or children, illness. When it is not something external, even if they love each other very much, they may face incompatibilities that they may be unable to solve such as a different attachment style, power struggles, ineffective communication, different vision for life or preferences,  or children conflict for recomposed families. And even when everything aligns, death may take away one of the lovers leaving the other one in utter despair.

Until we are able to love ourselves and experience autonomy, we are limited to be in codependent relationships. These relationships will still help us to grow and develop but a great deal of suffering is typically associated with them. The great attraction between the lovers is proportional to their own lack and incompleteness. These relationships have amazing potential as the partners commit to grow and to do their inner work. But they will feel miserable if they resist their own expansion. They both need to realize their own incompleteness with humility, and support each other personal growth.

From my personal experience, I would like to describe the characteristics of such relationships.

At the base of the dysfunction is always the lack of SELF-LOVE. Because we do not love ourselves, we feel dependent on our romantic partner to experience love. This weak sense of self will manifest in the following forms:

self love
  • Inability or unwillingness to give space

Even the most compatible partners will have some areas where they diverge. They may not like the same type of food, enjoy different set of activities or may want spend time with different people. People who are insecure will interpret mistakenly the unwillingness to join in an activity as a sign that they are unlovable so they will put pressure on the partner to stick together even if this means that one of them will miss out on something important for him/her. This will build resentment on both sides. Other times, we may not be in an emotional state to provide adequate support to our loved one. In this case, it is best to recommend that they see a good friend or a therapist. Unfortunately, the partner will interpret this as rejection or abandonment. Of course, giving space should be more the exception than the rule otherwise there may not be enough compatibility to hold the relationship together. At the same time, it is natural for conflicting needs to arise in the course of a relationship; so giving space to each others to meet these needs separately will release considerable pressure.

  • Distrust

We all have weaknesses so we cannot be trusted in all areas. If you do not trust your partner to take the garbage out every Monday night because he is often distracted, then it is fine to give him a gentle reminder because history has proven that he is likely to forget. However, if we cannot trust our partner in aspects that are fundamental to us in the relationship, we should either work on our trust issues or exit the relationship. Without this underlying trust, there cannot be a relationship. Here are some examples of what could be a deal breaker for a couple but it varies from relationship to relationship and I highly recommend that the lovers discuss them clearly before fully committing to each other: sexual infidelity, emotional infidelity, physical or emotional abuse, circumcision of the children, caring for aging parents or stepchildren, providing financial support, regular sexual intercourse, emotional intimacy & affection. What may be a deal breaker for one couple may be insignificant for another so communication is key. The first step however is to know your own boundaries and love yourself enough not to violate them, even if this means letting go of the relationship. We can only trust our partner if we can trust ourselves.

false persona
  • Projecting a false persona

Because we believe we are unlovable, we create a false persona in order to get that love we are desperately starving for. This however is a recipe for disaster. This is very common with men.  Where they are in the courting mode, they perform lots of actions that they would simply not do in an established relationship: offering thoughtful gifts, organizing breathtaking dates, spending more money than they can afford on their beloved, being ultra gentle and considerate. Then, once their object of desire gets attached to their false persona, they relax and a less attractive personality surfaces. Inevitably, the lady feels duped and this is not a healthy foundation for a relationship. Being yourself from the start will limit the number of dates you may be able to get however what is important is the quality of the relationship and not the quantity. Here are some examples of not so innocent white lies.  We may pretend we like some activities or food we dislike, or we exaggerate our wealth, success or sexual performance. It is just a question of time for your mate to know you intimately. If she or he fell in love with a false persona, she or he will surely leave once she or he discovers your true self because this is not what she or he signed up for. Ensure to only display behaviors or attentions in your courting phase that are sustainable over the long run not to disappoint your loved one down the road.

  • Over reliance on the relationship for important needs

A mistake that many men providers do after getting married is to rely solely on their wife to organize their social life while all their energy is focused on work. If for any reason, their wife leaves them or even dies; they are left alone or completely unable to take care of themselves emotionally. The same applies for financial needs if one partner gets used to a certain lifestyle with the inability to earn money on their own. Too much dependency creates insecurity and a tendency to compromise oneself for the benefit of the relationship because we feel incapable of sustaining ourselves outside the relationship. It is healthy to be attached to someone special and it is natural to grieve when this person disappears from our life but we need to know that we have the ability, resourcefulness and the resilience to bounce back given enough time to heal. This certainty takes self-love. Unfortunately, life is unpredictable and tragedy can strike inadvertently. A certain level of dependency is healthy in a relationship so that both partners can focus on their strengths however not to a point where a person is unable to function at all without their other half. Where there is too much dependency, breakups end up being much more difficult than necessary and the abandoned partner may become revengeful and obsessed with terrible consequences.

annoying husband
  • Fixing the other person

People with lower self-esteem may feel ashamed about who they are but do not have the strength to face it. It is less dreadful to keep focusing on other people’s flaws and keep fixing them. As they focus on their partner’s weaknesses, they get distracted so that they may not see their own flaws. They resent aspects of themselves but their ego cannot admit it. So they keep projecting their deficiencies onto others. They find compliant tormented souls that are well too aware of their imperfection and actually enjoy the constant reproaches because this reminds them of their early abusive family environment where they were repeatedly put down. Constant nagging is a relationship killer. We have to put at least ten times more pressure on ourselves for positive change than our partner. Let us inspire them with our own example. And when we share constructive feedback, it is best to address it vulnerably in the first person (i.e. I feel unloved and taken for granted when you make plans without including me)

self promotion
  • Constant self-promotion

People who believe something is wrong with them have an ego that needs to hide and repress their perceived imperfections at any cost. They do not believe their value can speak for itself so they use every opportunity to express how good they are, how much they are doing for the other person, how successful they are, how much money they have, how educated they are, how good of a parent they are, how good of a cook they are, etc… When you are certain of your own value, you are happy just being and there is no need for self-advocacy. And if people are unable to see your value unless you are claiming it, you may have an inflated sense of self or it may be time to renew your circle of friends.

In the second category of characteristics of codependent relationships, we do not trust the universe to bring someone even more special after we complete the healing of a painful breakup. So we resort to manipulation to keep our partner chained to us at any cost and there are many forms of CONTROL we can exercise:

  • Deprecation

If we keep denigrating or criticizing our partner, it will lower their self-esteem. They will lose their self-confidence and they will not believe that anyone else will be able to love and appreciate them. They should just be comforted that we stick around for them. This is one of the favorite tools used by narcissists. The recipient of such abuse needs to remember that if there is genuine love & attraction, there is mutuality so one partner is not entitled to feel superior. It is likely that the two partners are replaying the abuse of their childhood whether as a victim or a perpetrator, which are two sides of the same coin.

jealousy
  • Jealousy

This is one of the indications of possessive love.  While it is natural to have sensible expectations on one’s partner, jealousy is the irrational fear of losing the object of love of which we have become dependent. So we need to limit them  (as well as their well-being and personal growth) when we should be the ones working on our limited beliefs and insecurities. We forbid them to interact or even to appreciate beauty from people of the opposite gender. We punish them emotionally through stonewalling, anger or withdrawing affection when our jealousy is triggered.

  • Power play and emotional blackmail

Every partner in a relationship typically has assets that are desired by their significant other. It may be money, beauty, sex, fame or skills. It is natural for lovers to benefit each other as long as giving comes from the heart. Manipulation comes from our transactional mind.  This is the type of actions that the transactional mind will take. We purchase a nice bag for our wife before we ask her to go to a wild bachelor party in Las Vegas with our best friend. We give her a nice massage to get sex afterwards. We buy her beautiful flowers because she is suspecting that we are having an affair with a colleague. We let our husband have sex with us so that he will stop stonewalling us. It is best to express one’s needs and concerns directly instead of resorting to manipulation. When the relationship stops feeling fair, we can communicate about it in a vulnerable way rather than punishing them without any explanation. They will probably not understand, and it will make things worse. When we do something in a transactional way, it would feel off from our partner’s perspective. She or he would feel objectified and then resentful. We will then feel unloved, confused or rejected, not understanding why our partner is always dissatisfied. It is a no win situation.

peer pressure
  • Peer pressure

We are wired to accept as truth what the majority thinks. A manipulator will often draw family members, colleagues or friends that are already loyal to them to prove a point and show they are right. Someone who is sincere will be patient with their loved ones and use logic to share their perspective, or draw from experts’ neutral opinions. For this reason, a couple should be weary to live with family or community members especially if they will automatically side with one party in case of a conflict.

A good relationship takes maturity, experience and SELF-AWARENESS. Here are some of the difficulties that couples may face unintentionally because of their lack of wisdom and personal development

  • Projection

Our intimate partner is our closest mirror. As such, we often interact with the person in the mirror, which is ourselves, instead of our lover. If we make a list of what annoys us in our partner, we will find undoubtedly aspects of us that we have repressed and judged severely. A lot of the attraction we feel for our partner comes from the fact that they express naturally what we have repressed in us. Unfortunately, instead of bringing these aspects back to the conscious mind for positive manifestation, we irrevocably repress or shame these aspects in them, reproducing in them our own fragmentation. Never forget that your intimate partner is for the most part your repressed self, and as such they have invaluable lessons to share with you if you can pay close attention.

projection
  • Needs’ conflict

We may have a tendency to impose our needs over our partner’s needs or on the opposite, put their needs before our own. Both approaches are not sustainable. People can only repress their important needs for so long. First, it takes a commitment for spouses to understand their important needs and communicate them clearly to each other. Then they should creatively think on how to meet all of their needs creatively. Partners are intimately connected so dissatisfaction in one will immediately surface in the relationship  to impact the other. By helping your significant other to get their genuine needs met, you are helping yourself to enjoy a more harmonious relationship. And an affectionate relationship will dramatically improve your quality of life and personal happiness.

double standards
  • Double standards

“Do as I say but not as I do” is the opposite of positive inspiration. It does not work with children and works even less with our partners. In a relationship, double standards can be allowed and will not build resentment only if both partners are consciously aware of them, and it feels fair to them. There are some double standards that may be customary, such as a woman waxing but not her husband. It may be accepted for one spouse not to contribute in cleaning the household if they are the one that brings in all the income. All these agreements have to be made consciously and not assumed because this is the way we were raised. There are some other double standards that may be more problematic. In recomposed families, one spouse may want a lot of focus and attention on his/her own children while feeling very uneasy around his/her partner’s children.  They may want to be the center of attention of his/her partner while providing little care for him/her. Or they may want all of their social time to be spent with his/her friends and not their significant other’s comrades. This is the fastest way to lose credibility. The Golden Rule of treating others as oneself is found in many religions and cultures for a reason.

  • Idealization followed by demonization

This is unfortunately common to so many relationships. At the beginning of a relationship, we can only see the positive in our beloved but give it a couple of years, and we can only see the negative. Then the break-up happens, and we make them literal monsters. People do not change that much and chances are that the person we adored is the same one that we now detest. We just applied a different filter. We shifted from the awareness of our own inner greatness revealed by this person to the projection of our own ugliness. The person you love is just as imperfect as you are. If you were with them, it means they were your match for the time being so demonizing them is nothing different than criticizing yourself. It is best to acknowledge with humility and truth their qualities and shortcomings, and realize that they have a lot to say about you too. Let all feelings of disappointment, anger, sadness and betrayal run inside of you because this is important for your healing, but once these emotions have run their course, strive for objectivity and truth. Forgive them in order to find peace within yourself.

splitting
  • Expectations

Expectation is the other relationship killer. As an example, we have had a long day and we expect our spouse to take care of us when we come home. It is likely that your spouse will have had the same hard day and has the same expectation. This inevitably will lead to a dispute. We always need to come back to the relationship with the intent of giving. If we are unable and we need to receive, let’s express it authentically and vulnerably. Let your partner have the freedom to not support you if they are too drained and not in the right state of mind to do it. As a general rule, you should have 10 times more expectations of yourself than your partner. This will help you receive with gratitude all the little things they do to improve your life. 

don't leave me

It is now easy to see why these types of relationships are the source of so much struggle and suffering. Love feels like a curse. Our loved one drives us insane but we cannot live without them. We are so afraid to be abandoned, or of their emotional reactions that we make a lot of compromises that hurt our personal integrity. As life’s pressures increase with children, financial & professional challenges, or illness, the dysfunctions in the relationship appear even more clearly. The relationship acts as a magnifying glass for our traumas, and our own shortcomings. The only solution is to be introspective, evolve, improve and grow in self-love and self-awareness. Then we will be able to transform our relationship or attract a new one that feels good.

Read part II

Is parental alienation an extreme form of the Oedipus complex?

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Mythology and neurosis have a common essence. The myths are a symbolic expression of the unconscious universal dramas. As such, they reveal many secrets into our psyche. Mythology is a projection of the collective unconscious and these archetypes manifest even more strongly when their awareness is limited.

Oedipus and the Sphinx

The Oedipus complex is a concept of psychoanalytic theory from Freud. It is inspired by the Athenian tragedy, Oedipus the King, by Sophocles. Oedipus could not escape his fate of marrying his mother and killing his father. When expressed in a healthy way, the child’s hatred for the opposite-sex parent and unconscious sexual desire for the same-sex parent urge the young adult to leave his parents’ nest to start his own life, and look for a compatible mate to start a family. The son leaves his father’s home that has become too restrictive for his own development, and finds a woman that shares many attributes of his own mother in order to heal his own childhood traumas. The father represents what is being rejected while the mother represents what is desired.

While mothers are just as affected by parental alienation as fathers, for the illustration of this article, I will refer the mother as the alienator, and the father as the targeted parent. There are many ways a case of parental alienation seems to evoke the Oedipus complex literally:

  • When the father is alienated, the son is used as a weapon of war by the mother to psychologically kill the father in the children’s mind
  • After the father has been eliminated from the family structure, the son becomes the new de facto husband of the mother. The son is heavily enmeshed and is asked to fill the void left by the father
  • Oedipus father, king Laius, attracted misfortune to him and his family because of his dark previous deeds against Chrysippus. King Laius is also the one ordering the killing of his own son Oedipus. The targeted parent’s tragedy can always be traced to unresolved traumas of his own past and this is what he needs to heal to change the alienation dynamics. He cannot see himself only as a victim but needs to take responsibility for his part in the alienation
  • Oedipus becomes obsessed in finding the killer of King Laius (before he realized that was him) whom he replaced as the new king because the Oracle said this unsolved murder is responsible for a plague in Thebes. In the same way, the alienated child’s life is plagued by self-hatred as he was forced to reject his father from his life. He does not realize that many of his psychological and intimate problems are directly related to the alienation of his own father.
  • In the Oedipus play, Jocasta eventually commits suicide after realizing the horror of incest by marrying her own son, the killer of her husband. Alienators are often very tormented as they eventually realize the psychological damage they have done to their children out of revenge
  • When Oedipus eventually learns that he is his wife’s son, he enters a fury and wants to cut his mother’s womb with a sword. This symbolizes the rage of the alienated child towards his mother when he finally realizes how he has been manipulated for so many years
  • When Oedipus becomes aware of the tragedy of his fate, he makes himself blind by piercing his eyes with golden pins. The alienated son is also torn by guilt about his own actions, in particular his harsh rejection of his father and his blind enmeshment with his mother. Seeing the truth may be so brutal that he may decide instead to shut down his conscience.
  • Oedipus’s sons Eteocles and Polynices end up fighting for power and killing each other. His daughter Antigone commits suicide. The alienated child carries with him the psychological damage coming from years of alienation. As an adult, he is likely to experience similar unfortunate events in his own family life because of transgenerational trauma
Blind Oedipus in exile with his daughter Antigone

The light of awareness has however the power to lift away the curse of parental alienation. As they mature, the alienated children have the ability to see the truth of their childhood, accept the limitations of their parents and start the process of forgiving them. Then, they will be able to break the cycle of abuse and abandonment to give their own children a life that is not plagued by intimacy issues.

What are transgenerational traumas and how do we transmute them?

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Healing legacies of pain

There have been a lot of studies that have attempted to show that mental illness is genetic. For example, two percent of the population is bipolar. However; the probability of a person being bipolar raises to fifteen percent if they have one parent that is bipolar and to fifty percent if they have two parents that have this condition. I have facilitated hundreds of healing sessions. Therefore; I can explain why we get this correlation. From my perspective, this is not about genes but about the psychological condition of the people raising us.

The first important thing to understand is that, as a child, we are all wired to bond with our primary caretakers, typically our biological parents. This bonding is critical to our survival and our primitive brain has instinctively learned this behavior through many thousands of generations. In ancient times, children that erred away from the protection of their parents would be eaten by predators and their genes would be lost. So naturally bonding between parents and children became instinctive to improve survival rates. In order to attach to their parents and feel safe, children need to make their parents right, perfect and good even when there are far from being exemplary. This is how all transgenerational trauma get passed from one generation to the next.

Child bonded with parents

Let’s say someone had some severe spankings from his father when he was a child and continued to have a good relationship with him throughout his adulthood. Unless there was conscious work done around these punishments, this person had to make his dad right as a child to continue bonding with his father even despite the fact he was beating him. Therefore he started developing beliefs such as “Dad is right punishing me because I am bad” or “Dad beats me because he loves me and is making me a better person this way”. These beliefs get subconsciously anchored in the inner child and will resurface in adulthood. Such a person will have a high tendency to reproduce the same physical punishments on his children because his inner child still believes that loving someone means beating them at times. They could also attract violent partners because deep in their subconscious mind, beating equal love. Or they may simply suffer from low self-esteem because they had to make themselves bad to keep dad good.

One of my clients was raised by an unstable borderline narcissist mother. She would give him severe beatings even after he became physically stronger than her and could have easily defended himself. He learned to always stay in control, de-escalate arguments and never express anger to sooth her neurosis. His mother was very sexual and flirted often with him when he was a teenager. He felt very ashamed with his sexual attraction towards her and buried those feelings too. As a result, he has been married twice to severely borderline women. The first one committed suicide and the second one left him for another man after destroying his life emotionally and financially. His inner child had to make mum perfect and good so he had to make her erratic behaviors, her rages, her constant dramas and her collapses as something good or even sexy! This is why he has been attracted to women like his mother all his life. When the scary and dangerous behavior is displayed in a potential mate, he feels irresistibly attracted. This is why we say falling in love and not jumping in love. Sexual attraction is more driven by shadow than conscious compatibility.

Borderline Angelina Jolie

One of my other clients was abandoned by his mother when he was 9. His mother felt unloved in her marriage, met a new romantic partner, and wanted to give a chance to the promise of love. He had been deeply hurt by his mother’s sudden disappearance but he had to justify his mother’s behavior because he had to continue to love her. Later in life, he got married and had children. When his own daughter turned 9, he also broke up his marriage, fell in love with another woman and moved out of the state. He actually did not see anything wrong with his behavior because his mother did this to him, and his mother could not have done anything possibly wrong. So he passed on his own abandonment traumas to his children because he subconsciously had to make his mum right and good. Actually his mother had been herself abandoned by her own mother as a young child too.

Vaillant healing an African woman in Cameroon

When I was in Africa, I provided healing to a number of people who had been abandoned by their parents and given away to an aunt. This is actually common practice in some parts of Africa as children are often seen as objects or helpers. This old custom is not frowned upon, but does considerable psychological damage because these children believe there was something wrong with them to be given away. They wonder why they were given away instead of their biological brothers and sisters. These abandoned children have to make this harmful practice normal or even beneficial to keep a good image of their parents. Consequently, they have a tendency to repeat the same pattern with their own children. This is how unhealthy behaviors get passed from generation to generation. This is why 80% of juvenile sex offenders have themselves been victims of sexual abuse. Horrors such as incest also get passed through the family line in the same way. Incest victims are more likely to enable the same dysfunction with their own husband later in life. By failing to protect their own children from sexual abuse from their partner, they are making dad right again. This sick behavior comes from the unconscious need from the child to bond with parents at all cost. Unfortunately, these aspects get frozen in time and stay at a very immature level of development. They cycle of abuse then continue.

When we are abused by someone we need to love, we fragment and we bury the traumatic event into our subconscious so that our conscious mind can just remember a good, protective and flawless parent. The mind then files the traumatic subconscious memories in the same category as love/fusion/safety/connection/affection because they are the values we associate with a loving parent. The mind not only buries all the traumatic memories but also all emotions that come with them. Fear, grief, anger, despair and many negative emotions get buried at the same time. Instead of being released with the body for healing purpose, these discordant vibrations go deep within our psyche to poison it.

Some other times, the conscious mind is not able to accept or justify the abuse anymore, so it will go the opposite way and demonize the formerly loved caretaker. The child becomes obsessed in not being like the abusive parent. He rejects all good aspects of him too. From all good, the parent becomes all bad. All aspects of the parent within the growing child become then repressed but they still exist in his subconscious mind. Self-hatred and denial develop within the individual. As a result, she or he is even more a match to attract romantic partners or co-workers displaying the same attribute as the rejected parent. The law of attraction always reflects the individual inner world whether it is conscious or not.

African polygamous priest

One of my other clients had a father that was a womanizer. This was a source of distress for his mother and him, and from the time he was a teenager, he cut all contact with his father and he judged his behavior very severely. He was very righteous and became a successful pastor in a church. He was a model in the community and led an exemplary life with his wife and two children. As he was a gifted orator, he attracted a lot of attention from the churchgoers. Ten years into the marriage, he felt however that his sexual life was unexciting and unfulfilling, and that he was missing out. He could feel the sexual energy of these young women looking at him like he was the eighth wonder of the world. The pull to experience adultery was getting stronger and stronger, and he felt more and more confused and haunted by the devil. One day, the temptation became too great and he had an affair with another married woman that attended his sermon regularly. He felt very tormented as a result. By being obsessed about not being like his father, he had actually made these aspects control him.

When we hate a parent, it is like hating oneself because we had to internalize them at an earlier age to deal with the abuse. So we create a war within oneself and in a war, there is never a winner, only losers. We cannot kill these internal aspects without hurting ourselves. These aspects still needed to be expressed but because we made them unacceptable, they had to hide deep in our subconscious. Because of this, we are only able to experience them through projections, just like this righteous pastor who would judge infidelity so severely.

There is a better way and it is neither in idealization or demonization of our primary caretakers. Truth will set us free. This truth lies in accepting that we will always love our parents and when we have the courage to see their flaws, limitations and good qualities for what they are, without judgment, we will be liberated. When the truth of our past gets revealed, our conscience grows. We then allow the same aspects within us to surface in our conscious mind for integration. For example; if your father is a sociopath, it is likely that you would have aspects of you that are very insensitive and shut down. If you are able to see and observe these sociopathic behaviors in your father with compassion, then you are able to have the same awareness about your own insensitive behaviors and make the choice not to act upon it. This is why awareness is everything in the process of integration and healing. These aspects of ourselves may be repurposed and used consciously. For example, there are some situations in life when we need to think and not feel (ie when dealing with toxic people or situations). This would be a good time to bring our sociopathic part. A romantic dinner is not a good place for it! Alternatively, we can recover the pain that we felt being raised with our aloof father. By doing so, we are able to develop more awareness to make people around us feel more supported, cherished and nurtured. Every part of us, even the most hurt and undeveloped, can grow and increase in vibration if we have the courage to objectively see our flaws and how they impact others.

Honest not perfect parents

Before we can reach this state of objectivity with our parents, it is critical that we allow ourselves to feel all the emotions about them that we have repressed since our early childhood, whether they are feelings of rage, hate, envy, pity or fear. We express all these raw feelings to ourselves through meditation or to a skilled therapist. Through this process, we become aware of them, and the light of consciousness will automatically transform them into higher emotions such as sadness, acceptance or even gratitude. However, this process cannot be rushed and we need to stay authentic about how we truly feel. If we are able to see our parents’ imperfection with compassion, it means we have made our own generation more conscious, which is expected of us. It shows us the progress we have already made. We also want our children to go further than us. One of the most important things we need to do on this earth is to transform the transgenerational trauma that came from our family line. This is what will bring us the most happiness, joy and inner peace.

Integrated family

Someone who is not at peace with his parents cannot be at peace him/herself. It does not mean we need to have frequent interactions with them, because in some situations, it would not be self-loving if we have toxic parents. Peace is above the polarity of adoration and detestation. It sits in the middle. It can make space for both perspectives without judgment with full awareness. It is simply interested in the truth. There are many extraordinary people that had very abusive parents. Just like the lotus, which grows from mud, our soul grows from life struggles and we have the power within us to transform the most unsavory into the most sacred.

From the difficulties of our childhood, we learn important lessons that we can share with our children and our community to make this world a better place. We can extract the most wisdom from the most painful life situations. When we suffer, we cannot stay stagnant and it has the potential to accelerate our growth as long as we do not get broken in the process. We need to see transgenerational weaknesses as unexpressed potential. A sex addict can become the most amazing lover, violence can be channeled into athleticism or a desire for peace, the perpetrator or the victim can become protectors. We need to accept that we were co-created by our ancestry (earth/matter) and God (heaven/spirit). To become whole, we cannot reject one or the other; we need to integrate both together. Healing our ancestry is to transcend the polarities that we inherited from our genealogy in terms of abuse, abandonment or neglect. It is to recognize that all these parts exist within us and stop judging them. Through the miracle of unconditional love and presence, they can start growing again and mature. Eventually inner torment will make way to a lasting inner peace.

Most of us spend the first half of our life very heavily influenced by the transgenerational traumas of our family line. As we heal these fragments, we can start living a more conscious life from our authentic self. We become more anchored in the present, more sensitive to what actually is, in the moment, instead of living through the filters of our upbringing. Things begin to flow naturally and the scope of possibilities expands dramatically as we are not limited by our ancestral traumas anymore. It is then that life takes on a completely different dimension, and we are then free to be the expanded, transformational and joyful beings that we came here to be.