Empowerment in Relationship

Having sat with many clients over the years in couple counselling, I have noticed a particular, repeated phenomenon with both partners. Both were thinking that their behaviours were reactive and their partner’s behaviour was a character flaw.”

Obviously to only apply the ‘reactivity rule’ to oneself, indicates that one feels like a victim to ones partner’s moods, behaviours, actions and words: “I may be indulging in ‘bad’ reactive behaviours but I can justify this because my partner set me up. I am usually a ‘good’ person if it would not be for the treatment I receive from my partner.”

We are, in that moment canceling out a perspective that includes the inter-subjective dimension of personal relationships. We are experiencing ourselves as less powerful than our partner. In the language of the Hoffman Process we describe this as our Emotional Self, having regressed in age and experiencing ourselves as a ‘child’ in relationship to our meaningful other.

It is usually our Emotional Child’s lack of emotional robustness that then needs our Intellectual Self to employ defensive strategies and we start projecting a whole lot of unresolved childhood issues on to our partner.

  • To mention a few: If we had an abandoning parent/s, the emotional child can easily be activated when our partner is either physically or emotionally not present. We can either become demanding, blaming or become passive and go into moods of helplessness, which may lay a “guilt-trip” on our partner.
  • If we had very critical or angry parents, our EC might get scared of any form of ‘confrontation’, we will withdraw or pretend that everything is ‘ok’ but become silently resentful.
  • If we had parents that were smothering or emotionally overstimulating the EC can easily get overwhelmed by any request from our partner, seeing it as a ‘demand’.
  • If we had violent or emotionally erratic parents the EC might get easily frightened, resulting in hyper-vigilance which can cause our partner to have to ‘walk on eggshells’ in order in order to keep the peace.
  • If we had parents that made us emotionally responsible for regulating their feelings or the families’, the EC can easily feel like a failure or inadequate in not being able to always moderate and ‘keep the peace’ with everyone.
  • These scenarios are more complicated because our partner’s also have their own history and when faced with our unresolved emotional issues can easily get triggered into their own ‘childish reactions’. This can set up a continuous cycle of reactivity against reactivity.

How to get out of this dilemma? Both partners need to take responsibility for their own feelings and childhood conditioning. Others can provide triggers for us, but our emotional reactions are 100% ours.

To be able to hold this perspective in consciousness requires inner work, such as the Hoffman Process provides. We are more than feeling and thinking, we are consciousness and we are of the Light. This transpersonal initiation of the H.P., gives the individual a sense of wholeness in our existential aloneness. From this perspective we can then investigate and understand our reactivity and our behavioural compensations without going deeper into toxic self-criticism. We understand that we are not our behaviours and reactions. It is easier then to ‘own’ our trespasses against our partners and ourselves and of course our partner also needs to own their own reactivity. This creates a mutuality from which we can deepen our love for each other.

What still astounds me, having worked with couples for over a quarter century now, is how little thought is given to the ‘couple’ as such. In relationships most people see only themselves and the other. However there is another entity and that is the couple relationship itself. In business we have developed all sorts of systems that defines the business: mission statements, vision for the business, business plans, values, code of conducts, SWOT analysis etc. We know that these things are tantamount to producing successful business partnerships and ongoing productivity. However most people (even if they come from such an educated business background) do not apply the same strategies to their ‘couple’. A mutual, democratic inquiry about the values and the mission and vision of the ‘couple’ can alleviate enormous stress on the partners. To be able to do this successfully however requires us to take care of our individual childhood scripts, so that we can come from a perspective of equality. Without equality in relationships we will end up in a continuous power-struggle, which usually only ends when the couple breaks up, only to be repeated in a new configuration.

The only way out is consciousness through mutual self empowerment.