THE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIP
Key Extracts from Lecture 180
© The Pathwork® Foundation 1999
The principle of unification… cannot be executed with another human being unless it has first been applied to one's inner self. If the divergent parts of a self are not approached according to this truth and ambivalence not faced, accepted, and understood within a self, the process of unification cannot be put into practice with another person. This is a very important fact which explains the great emphasis of this pathwork on the primary approach to oneself. Only then can relationship be cultivated in a meaningful and effective way.
In this lecture I shall try to outline some elements of dissension and unification between human beings and show how these parallel the individual process. Before doing so, I should like to say that relationship represents the greatest challenge for the individual. For it is only in relationship with others that unresolved problems, the difficulties, and conflicts that still exist within the individual psyche are affected and activated. It is because of this that many individuals withdraw from contact with others, from interaction with others. The illusion can sometimes be maintained that the problems arise from the other person when one feels disturbance only in their presence and not when by oneself. Being alone elicits the inner call for contact, and the less contact is cultivated, the more acute the longing becomes. So, this is a different kind of pain – the pain of loneliness and frustration. But contact makes it difficult to maintain the illusion for too long that the inner self is faultless and harmonious. It requires mental aberration to claim for too long that it is due only to all others and not to the self when problems arise in relationships with others. This is why relationships are at one and the same time a fulfillment, a challenge, and a gauge to one's inner state. The friction that arises out of relating with others is a sharp instrument of purification and self-recognition, if the self is so inclined. By withdrawing from this challenge and sacrificing the fulfillment that intimate contact is, many aspects of inner problems are never called into play. The thus resulting illusion of inner peace and unity has even led to concepts that spiritual growth is being furthered by isolation. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, my statement must not be confused with the fact that intervals of seclusion are a necessity for inner concentration and self-confrontation. But these periods should always alternate with contact, and the more intimate such contact is, the more it bespeaks of spiritual maturity.
When sharing is wanted on the basis of receiving only according to one's own terms while the self is really (although secretly) unwilling to do any sharing, longings must remain unfulfilled. People would be well advised to consider their unfulfilled longings from this point of view rather than indulging in the usual assumption that one is unlucky and unfairly put upon by life.
It is only the spiritually more developed person who is capable of realistic, undualistic perception. He may see that either one of the involved parties may have a deeper problem, which does not eliminate the importance of the possibly much lesser problem of the other person. He will always be willing and able to search his own involvement whenever he is negatively affected by a specific relationship no matter how blatantly at fault the other one may be. A person of spiritual and emotional immaturity and crudeness will always put the bulk of blame on the other regardless of paying theoretical lip service to the above-mentioned process. All this applies to any kind of relationship: mates, parents and children, friendship, business contact, whatever… It is only when one begins to truly assume self-responsibility by looking at one's own problem in the contact and by willingness to change, that freedom is established and relationships become fruitful and joyous.
A contact between individuals in which the destructiveness of the lower developed one makes growth, harmony, thriving of good feelings impossible, or in which the contact is overwhelmingly negative, should be severed. As a rule, the higher developed person assumes the necessary initiative to do so. If he does not, there must be unrecognized weaknesses and fears which need to be faced. If a relationship is dissolved on the ground that it is more destructive and pain producing than constructive and harmonious, it should be done when the inner problems and mutual interactions are fully recognized by him who takes the initiative to dissolve an old tie. This will prevent him from forming a new relationship with similar underlying currents and interactions. It also means that the step of severance occurs as a result of growth rather than as a result of vindictive spite, fear, or escape.
Difficulties and fear arise to the exact degree that he still projects his difficulties in relating on others and still renders others responsible for anything that goes against his liking. This can take many subtle forms. One may constantly concentrate on the faults of others even though, at first glance, such concentration appears justified. One may subtly overemphasize one side to the exclusion of other aspects. These and other distortions indicate projection and denial of self-responsibility for difficulties in relating – hence dependency on perfection, consequently fear and hostility for feeling let down. My dear friends, no matter what wrong the other person does, if you are disturbed, there must be something in you that you overlook. When I say disturbed, I mean this in a particular sense. I do not speak of clear-cut anger that expresses itself guiltlessly and which does not leave a trace of inner confusion and pain. I mean the kind of disturbance that comes out of and breeds further conflict. But in spite of my having warned you repeatedly about overlooking your own part in the conflict, it is most difficult for people to look within and find the source of the disturbance in themselves… The game of making others guilty is so overall that it constantly passes by unnoticed. It is so taken for granted.
Only to the degree that you undefensively explore, face, and accept your own problematic reactions and distortions, negativities and destructiveness, can you refute someone else's guilt-projection. Only then will you not be drawn into a maze of falseness and confusion in which uncertainty, defensiveness, and weakness may make you wither in retreat or be overaggressive. Only then will you no longer confuse self-assertion with hostility and flexible compromise with unhealthy submission.
…when men and women stay together for a longer period of time in a more enduring and committed relationship, the maintenance of bliss, and even increasing it, entirely depends on whether the two people involved relate to one another in the terms discussed before in this lecture. Are they aware of the direct relationship of enduring pleasure and inner growth? Do they use the inevitable difficulties in the relationship as yardsticks for their own inner difficulties? Do they communicate in the deepest, most truthful, self-revealing way, sharing their inner problems, helping each other rather than placing mutual guilt on each other and whitewashing themselves? The answers to these questions will determine whether the relationship falters, dissolves, stagnates – or blossoms.
There is a mechanism in a relationship between a man and a woman that can be likened to a very finely calibrated instrument that shows the finest and most subtle aspects of the relationship and the individual state of the two people involved. This is not sufficiently recognized by mankind, not even by the most aware and sophisticated human beings who are otherwise familiar with spiritual and psychological truth. Every day and every hour, one's inner state and feelings are a testimony to one's state of growth. To the degree this is heeded, the interaction, the feelings, the freedom of flow within and toward each other will blossom. The perfectly mature and spiritually valid relationship must always be deeply connected with personal growth. The moment a relationship is experienced as irrelevant to inner growth, left on its own, as it were, it must falter. Sooner or later it must falter. And that is the fate of the majority of human relationships – especially the intimate one between two mates. They are not recognized as a mirror to inner growth, so that the relationship gradually wears out. The first steam evaporates, and then nothing remains. Either overt friction and dissension or stagnation and boredom will wreck what was once promising. Only when each one grows to his ultimate, to his and her inherent potentials, can the relationship become more and more dynamic and alive. This must be done individually and mutually. When relationship is approached in that way, it will be built on a rock and not on sand.
…fear of intimacy implies rigidity and the denial of seeing one's own share in the difficulties in relating. Anyone who ignores these principles or who only pays lip service to them is emotionally not ready to assume the responsibility for his inner suffering – either within a relationship or because it is absent.
So you see, my friends, it is of the greatest importance to recognize that bliss and beauty, which are eternal spiritual realities, are available to all those who seek the key to all problems of human interaction, as well as to loneliness within their own hearts. True growth is as much a spiritual reality as profound fulfillment, vital aliveness, and blissful, joyous relating. When you are inwardly ready to relate to another human being in such a fashion, you will find the appropriate partner with whom this manner of sharing is possible.
May these words be the beginning of an inner new modality to meet life, to finally make the decision, ‘I want to risk my good feelings. I want to seek the cause in me rather than in the other person, so that I become free to love.’ This kind of meditation will indeed bear fruit.