THE HEALING POWER OF RELATIONSHIPS - exploring relationship issues and the importance of counselling or psychotherapy for some couples
By Shari Rhodes
Intimate relationships provide the opportunity for deep growth, healing and learning. They can
serve as a mirror or reflection of the deeper issues, feelings, wounds and patterns we carry within
us. Though we can process our emotions independently, growth is often accelerated in
relationships because they highlight and intensify those hidden aspects of ourselves that
sometimes we are unable to see on our own. Most often the perfect partner isn’t the one we are
looking for, but the one we are with right now. Our partner is often a reflection of ourselves.
I think Intimate relationships are scripted or predestined to present at a certain time to work
through specific life lessons. Many of us have a unique life script or “soul Contract” involving a
predestined choreography to be played out with a partner to uncover emotional blockages that
inhibit full self-love, understanding and acceptance. I think there are three possibilities of the
prescripted path. Some people are meant to walk alone and work through their lessons
independently. Some are destined to have a life partner or series of significant mates, but choose
to avoid intimacy or commitment in order to not experience the confrontational emotional material
that relationships often bring up. And for many of us, the partner is placed is the front position to
reflect and uncover the emotional terrain (the pain, anger, fear, rage, jealously, passion,
resentment, defenses, etc) that serve to keep us from seeing and embracing our full true self.
These “blind spots” are often reflected in what bothers us most about our partners. Sometimes
he or she will push at the wall protecting old hurts, the internal places where we feel grief, shame,
anger, vulnerability, fear and fragility. At times, we wont want to feel those feelings and will push
against our partner through arguments, conflict and turmoil to keep that wall in place. Other
times, the wall will crack open and we feel unhinged, exposed and open and want to shut down
and hide again. Relationships are a repetitive process of opening and closing, challenging us to
feel more fully the whole range of emotions and their corresponding issues and traumas. It
sometimes becomes a power struggle between defenses when the vulnerable places have
become hit and recognized, placed in full view. It is easy to externalize blame and project all
sorts of “crimes and misdemeanors” onto our partner”. We get angry that the rubbish wasn’t put
out, the bills haven’t been paid, we don’t get enough support with the housework or the kids, and
she/he doesn’t listen, isn’t emotionally available or doesn’t understand. It becomes all too natural
and comfortable to externalize blame outside ourselves and make the other person wrong for not
giving us what we want. We want to feel safe and defend against what hurts and doesn’t always
want to be seen. We may storm and rage, scream, yell and blame, focus on anything but that
which touches, confronts and threatens the fragilities and hurts of the innermost vulnerable child
who has been hurt in the past. We fight against opening when we don’t trust or feel safe.
Relationships can push at us to challenge our sense of ourselves, comfort zones and the
protective image of who we think we are. Relationships hit again and again at those contracting
walls of self-preservation. However in the protection, we close off and are often left feeling
dejected, unnourished, frustrated and unsatisfied. By objectifying the issue and not looking back
at our own relational patterns and behaviors, we lose the opportunity to gain self-awareness and
insight about ourselves and where we shut down. Staying hidden behind our defenses and walls,
we stay closed to the deeper connection.
Many of us carry unintegrated emotional traumas and wounds that are stored on a DNA, Cellular,
visceral and unconscious level of awareness in the body. We learn about relationship and what
we think we are entitled to by modeling what we learned as children growing up. For some of us,
growing up was a delight, a series of fond memories filled with love, support, encouragement and
fun. With the validation and nurture of healthy and high functioning parents, they have been able
to build self-esteem and thereby create nurturing relationships that don’t push so hard at the inner
wounds. These types of relationships tend to flow easier, are emotionally lighter, have clearer
communication and don’t require as much conflict to resolve issues. However for many of us, our
childhoods were not so clear cut or easy. Many of us had to face some kind of difficulty or
disappointment that let us down. For example, if our parents were emotionally unavailable, shut
down, critical, abusive, alcoholic or simply not there, we can internalize that we are unworthy of
love and emotional support or can’t rely on others to be there for us. We may shut down a part of
ourselves and not feel safe sharing our innermost vulnerability, rawness or authentic selves with
another. Some of us may feel the need to protect that fragile inner child and try to be strong and
do it all on there own. Many may not feel safe to disclose the deepest parts of themselves from
the old hurts growing up.
However traumas are not forgotten, but rather stored in some other place lying dormant until the
next emotional trigger causes all the associated feelings to resurface. Often the conclusions we
make as children, in response to how our parents treated us, are what we later create in our
relationships as adults. By becoming aware of our emotional issues and the unmet needs as a
child, we can gain insight and clarity about the blind spots (areas where we don’t feel safe to
show and express ourselves) and where we are still stuck in terms of not receiving all the
nourishment we want or feel we deserve. It is often hard to see within ourselves where those
blocked areas of development are. If there is a particular trauma from the past such as physical,
emotional or sexual abuse, often we get stuck at the time of the occurrence of the trauma which
is referred to as a “Frozen Need”. What often manifest is a re-creation and re-triggering of the
same emotional response of the wounded child as the adult in the adult relationship. For instance
with a past with an alcoholic father who left the child at eight, she may re-create repeat dynamics
with emotionally unavailable men dealing with addiction who cant make a commitment. Until the
trauma is released and cleared from the body, the old traumas will resurface again and again in
relationship. Often if the issue is not dealt with in one relationship, the same issue will present in
the next and continue to repeat itself until it is resolved.
Oftentimes models for relationship and abusive scenarios are carried down through the family
lineage. We learn old behavioral patterns that have been repeating themselves through
generations. It is quite common for patterns of discipline or abuse to be repeated down the
geological line. The abused child then becomes the abusive parent, the alcoholic father becomes
the alcoholic son or our parents were shut down so the children become shut down and on it
goes. The cycle continues. We often observe our parents style of relating and model their
behavior as our own also carrying the values down the line. However we have the opportunity
with awareness and insight to change those patterns and instilled family dynamics, thus breaking
the cycle of learned behavior and discover healthier ways of relating. That is why it is important
to recognize through our partner’s behavior and the feelings that come up what the reflection is
really about for our growth and learning.
Unless we choose to take responsibility for our choices and what manifest on our life screen, we
will remain stuck in old repetitive patterns and not grow. We can only heal the past through
honest self-reflection and examination by taking full responsibility for the creation of the
interactive dynamics that have been set up. By being willing to face ourselves squarely in the
mirror, owning our own creations, we can then look at our behavior and make another choice.
We don’t have to accept the reflection of our old wounded selves or limited relationships that
don’t nourish all of who we are. Some people recognize that the relationship isn’t working, but
choose to over stay because they are afraid of being alone, losing the financial or emotional
security of their partner being there or they don’t have the resources, knowledge or confidence to
feel they can make it on their own. Many don’t believe there is anything else or better. The
relationship, even if it’s abusive, is all they know and they don’t know how to move on. Many
people get stuck and don’t know a way through. However reaching out for the right support such
as talking to a counselor, clergy or friend, it is possible to make a stand and choose to let go of
the past and re-create anew. We can move past the old patterns and not allow relationships in
that no longer serve our highest growth. We can make healthier choices and perhaps say no the
next time an abusive or nonsupportive potential mate comes along. By being conscious of our
patterns and learning to love ourselves more fully, we can choose higher functioning relationship
dynamics that fill more of our needs.
Often we block the fullness of intimacy by not feeling deserving or worthy of having the whole lot.
Some of us fear that if we were really seen in our secret vulnerable place that maybe he/she won't
love me, or think we are intelligent, sexy or good enough. We all have fears, blocks and
resistances and push against claiming life’s full abundance. Many men and women deal with
self-esteem and body image issue and don’t feel attractive, sexy or safe opening fully sexually.
Many people shut down their natural instinctive sexual responses for fear of being rejected,
making too much noice or not being good enough to be fully loved up just as they are. Many don’t
feel safe opening. They may not trust and manifest blockages in their bodies to shut down.
However it is everyone’s birthright to feel fully loved. Intimacy provides the opportunity to go
deeper into ourselves and share our innermost vulnerability and secrets with another, to let go
and allow the spontaneous outpouring of ourselves. Often we don’t give ourselves permission let
our passions out, to scream and experience ecstasy.
Many of us learn values from our families, teachers, culture, media and religion that it is not ok to
claim our voice and make noise, that it is taboo, wrong, selfish, dirty, not adult or dangerous to
loose control and have our authentic selves be fully seen by another. Many of us shy away,
sabotage the relationship, put on weight, yell at our partners and create all kinds of reasons why
its not ok to let it all out, open, spark, and come out to play. It is a risk and takes great courage to
be naked, not only in body, but with all of our emotions, to share ourselves, our anger, agony, joy,
passion, sadness, laugher and to let our true voice out. It takes trust to make sound and express
the bestial, more wild and decadent parts of ourselves, to be fully touched, witnessed and seen. It
can be frightening to open our skin in front of another and allow ourselves to be held with no
image, protection or defense.
However this is a vital part of life to be able to open and share fully and authentically with another,
to be present, naked and open in the moment giving our beloved permission to see and reflect
back the mirror of our true selves, to witness the unseen aspects of our inner selves. It’s about
exposing raw emotion and being ok. Ways to enhance intimacy in partnership include tantra
sexuality, massage, yoga, meditation, creativity, couples and personal counseling, workshops,
nature walks, traveling, going out on dates, self help books for couples, holding each other,
quality time and open communication. Making the choice to share your innermost secrets and
feelings with your partner can deepen the connection and heal of hurts that have stayed locked
inside for too long.
Even though the romantic fantasy picture of finding the “white knight in shining armor” and having
the perfect relationship sounds wonderful, the reality of relationships is that they can be hard
work. Though they have many wonderful bits, often they involve moving from one challenge to
the next and working through points of tension and conflict. Life challenges present where there
is unexpected redundancy and the mortgage has to be paid, a child or partner gets ill or disabled,
there’s a death in the family, the car breaks down, hormones change, an accident happens, the
unexpected crisis occurs and stress is triggered. Life can be unpredictable and precarious at
best. We never know what is going to happen around the bend. These life challenges can
create havoc in relationship placing even more stress on holding the intimate connection
together. Yet somehow we must go on. It is not easy. Sometimes we are pushed to our limits.
However as difficult as life challenges can be sometimes, circumstances provide the opportunity
of deepening spiritually and discovering our own internal strength, tenacity and courage. We
build character. Relationships then become about the journey, rather than the goal itself. The
challenge is accepting this and learning to be ok with the hard stuff, recognizing that too is part of
the process of learning more about ourselves. Challenging circumstances push and pull at us
and can throw us off-centre, but by choosing to become conscious and stand back as a witness
to what’s happening rather than losing ourselves in the drama, we can gain greater perspective
and clarity as to how to move through. The truth is - life isn’t perfect. Relationships aren’t
perfect. We are not perfect. Couples need to communicate and work together to ride the
turbulent waves of life.
It is our birthright to celebrate our magnificent selves and fully express all of who we are in our
relationships. Healing is about integrating and unifying all aspects of ourselves and allowing full
expression. Many of us feel more comfortable showing certain parts of ourselves like our strong
self-sufficient and independent side over vulnerability and emotion. However its important to
allow the spontaneous flow of expression naturally with no barriers or control, trusting all parts of
ourselves and celebrating all of who we are. It’s about forgiving ourselves for our experiences or
choices in the past recognizing that we are human. Life is only a game, a series of experiences
for our growth and learning. There are no mistakes. It’s ok to forgive ourselves. We are all doing
the best we can. At the end of the day, it’s about putting the past stories down and living our life
as fully as we can, letting go of the self-beat up and self-flagellation. Its about seeing the
beautiful soul that we are, loving ourselves and holding our own inner child, recognizing that we
are deeply loved and loveable just as we are and that is enough.
All articles are copyright to Shari Rhodes and are provided solely for personal use..
These articles may not be reproduced without the permission of the author.
Please contact Shari Rhodes if you wish to make commercial use of her writing.
Shari Rhodes has been an international Intuitive Reader for the past 30 years. She is currently a citizen of both the United States and New Zealand. Shari’s purpose is to support people to grow and move forward in a positive direction with greater clarity, self-empowerment and self-confidence. She offers readings, workshops and public talks. She is available for sessions in person or over the phone at (027) 6295469 You can email Shari at firstname.lastname@example.org,, or visit her website at www.intuitivereadings.co.nz