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.