Toppling a House of Cards, Building Strong Relationships


In my last post I said that understanding and compassion can heal dysfunctional relationships. While I know this is true, I also know that some relationships are not worth saving. The problem is how to tell the difference between those with healing potential and those that are truly toxic.  Some relationships are vehicles to higher consciousness; others are accidents waiting to happen.
Evolving into beings who can protect ourselves from negative influences and live in loving intimacy with our true selves and others is extremely difficult, partly because of our natural inertia, and partly because our need to preserve our ego edifice is so strong that we automatically see whatever challenges it as the enemy. The stronger the challenge, the greater our resistance. This stalemate can be prolonged indefinitely until we are pushed to our limits and either give up and drop out or begin a search for a newer, healthier edifice.
The in-between time of escalating conflict which inevitably shows up somewhere between the first-blush attraction and final solution to relationship problems is a danger zone filled with daunting obstacles. The good news is that they can usually be overcome with perseverance and inner work. The bad news is that inner work entails more suffering than some egos can endure and those who cannot tolerate the tension will put an end to it one way or another.
In her brilliant book, Psychic Energy, Jungian analyst M. Esther Harding has written, “The individual with adequately developed ego is competent not only to overcome obstacles in the outer world and so to make a satisfactory work and social adjustment, but also to rouse himself from the inertia that saps his energy even before he makes the attempt to tackle the external problem. For the ego is the function that man has developed to deal with this primary inertia.”
Our inner and outer relationships do not grow stronger by resisting, repressing and pretending, but by overcoming our inertia and cultivating self-understanding and compassion. Aspiring to these qualities is one thing;  actually possessing them is quite another. A goal is a detached mental construction, like a house of cards built by a growing ego. But using our energy to act on our goals brings ego strength and maturity. Until we acquire the self-discipline to rein in the conditioned reflexes of our raw instincts and emotions, our high ideals have no practical value. As one of my favorite sayings goes, “You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to show up!”
The compulsion to evolve from unknowing to knowledge and from passive indifference to active love is the motivation behind every seeker and every authentic religion. Likewise, the goal of all psycho-spiritual practices is to acquire enough self-restraint to set aside our ego’s desirousness and inertia so that we can grow, unite with, and lovingly serve the miracle of Life in all its manifestations.
In writing this post I realized the time has come to share some special news that illustrates the rewards of persevering in psycho-spiritual practices.  In midlife my discomfort grew so strong that I redirected my focus from the outer to the inner world. Years of strengthening the relationship between these two parts of myself gave me the knowledge and courage to follow my true passions. As a result, I became a published writer. Today I’m thrilled to announce that my newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other and the World, will be issued from Larson Publications in June of 2012! Without inner work, this dream of mine would never have been realized.

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0 Responses

  1. You wrote: “The in-between time of escalating conflict which inevitably shows up somewhere between the first-blush attraction and final solution to relationship problems is a danger zone filled with daunting obstacles.”
    Brilliant observation, perfectly expressed.
    Congratulations, Jeanie. I can’t wait to read Healing the Sacred Divide.

    1. Thanks, Charlie. Every now and then I get it right! Hopefully after 17 years of working on Healing The Sacred Divide I finally got that right too! Jeanie

  2. Hi Jeanie,
    Congratulations on the book! I am looking forward to reading it. You truly are an inspiration.
    The thing that jumped out at me the most in your post is the idea of the strengthening process taking hard work. I believe one of the reasons it’s so hard is because we have to do the work consciously. For years, I unconsciously “programmed” my mind with negative, self-defeating messages and would unconsciously get myself into harmful, abusive relationships because pain, suffering, toxins were what I was used to, what was oddly comfortable and familiar. If I was ever going to be free; indeed, if I was ever going to survive, I needed to change how I thought. For decades I told myself things like: “I can’t. I’m too small, dumb, poor, unathletic, unskilled, unpopular, undisciplined, unlovable, unattractive, unworthy…” Every day I told myself these types of messages and I didn’t know I was “programming,” my mind. Now being more of the nature type, I much prefer organic rather than mechanistic metaphors for the mind. I prefer to look at my mind as a garden rather than as a computer. So for years I planted and nurtured weeds of negative self-talk, noxious, deep rooted, fast spreading, self-talk. And it was very nearly effortless. When I first began changing how I think I resisted telling myself positive things. Things like: “I can because I think I can.” I said to myself: “That’s dumb. That will never work. Too quaint. That’s just auto-suggestion mumbo-jumbo.” And I knew right then it must be good for me for I had trained my mind to rethink something that it so out-of hand refuses to do. So I began to do it. What I learned is that I had been using the principal of auto-suggestion for decades already, unconsciously yes, but I was using it. Filling my garden with weeds. Snuffing out the beauty. So I tried something new. The old way no longer worked. I repeated positive phrases all day. I wrote them down, put them my car, and carried them with me. I took advantage of being a kindergarten teacher at the time and read Watty Piper’s “The Little Engine That Could,” over and over to my students. They loved it, I loved it, we drew pictures of the Little Engine, sang songs about the Little Engine, and acted out the Little Engine. I even decorated a can with the words “I Can” on it and filled it with glitter, and poked a couple tiny holes in the top. Whenever a student said, “I can’t.” I went over, got the “I-Can-Can,” and sprinkled them with magic, “I Can Powder,” and low and behold they could do whatever it was they thought they couldn’t do. So changing how I think is possible, changing old destructive patterns of behavior is possible, especially when reinforced with supplemental playful activities and the loving support of people like you, Jean. It also needs to be nourished by creative pursuits, and other types of nurturing inner and outer work. And the reason I didn’t like it at first was because it’s hard. CONSCIOUSLY trying to replant beautiful flowers in the garden of my mind meant hard work. It meant weeding out the negative ones. Discipline. It took discipline. But the persistence and repetition, conscious repetition really works. Eventually it becomes unconscious, second nature, and pretty soon you have a wonderful, fragrant, brilliant wild-flower garden—a paradise-right there in your mind (and heart). Thanks again for your positive reinforcements. 🙂

  3. Yes, it is hard. Practically everything in us wants to sink back into the comforting mud of unconsciousness. We think things will be easier in that womb, but they never are. Have you ever had the dream of trying to get somewhere but your muscles just won’t work and your legs feel like lead and you keep slogging through water or mud that clings to your legs and slows you down to the point you can barely move ahead, yet you keep trying? That pretty much summarizes what the ego’s up against when it wants to become more conscious. Yet it can be done if we just keep plugging away, and as you note, the rewards are beyond anything you could have ever hoped!
    Stay conscious, my friend.

  4. Congratulations, Jeanie.
    Your discipline in overcoming your own inertia to focus on your inner work, which led to your writing and sharing your growth with the greater world, is a remarkable gift to so many of us.
    I look forward to reading this latest accomplishment. Yes, a true accomplishment from an ever-emerging, integrated soul.
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Sally, I treasure your kind words and hope my book will be as much of a gift to others as you say my blog is. Both have been works of love! I have come a long way but I see the road ahead and it stretches far, far into the horizon. I hope for many more years of traveling, emerging, integrating and writing. How is your dreamwork coming? I’d love to hear more about it one of these days. Greetings and blessings to my Memphis friends! Love, Jeanie

  5. Congratulations, Jeanie! I’m excited for you!
    And I am looking forward to the day that I can tell folks that my synchronicity journaling book is being published.

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