Feeling Lost? Part 2
Here’s a Map
Linda: In a committed relationship that means a great deal to us, it’s not so easy to walk away when difficulties arise. These difficulties tend to be the strongest around areas of disagreement. When we stay to face off with the hot energy that surfaces around our differences, we are fully engaged in the Power Struggle stage. The archetypal name is Warrior. In this stage we learn about competition, setting boundaries, and taking a stand.
Power struggles are our efforts to control each other, attempts to get our partner to be something that he or she is not, to push him or her into the being that we glimpsed when we were in infatuation stage. Accompanying the deeper level of commitment is fear, which we are acting out in power struggles. The underlying premise is that the other person is the source of our fear, and if we control the other person, we won’t have to feel afraid.
This stage of relationship can be ghastly and many people lose their relationship when the power struggle is intensely heated and prolonged. To achieve a good relationship it is necessary to develop an effective fight style and to learn to share power. We practice the skill of self-discipline in order to stay engaged in a painful situation until a wider perspective is gained. We learn to negotiate differences, rather than trying to change our partner, and to acknowledge our lack of control. We are called upon to practice the fine art of letting go. The task of this stage is to cultivate courage.
Struggling for power, we find out a great deal of what is true for us. But there is a truth that can only be discovered when we are alone and undistracted by our partner. At times we need to let go of the relationship temporarily, for a few hours, days, weeks, or even months, to go exploring deep inside ourselves for a period of self-discovery. This is the stage of individuation. The archetypal name in Wanderer, for in the old fairy tales, the hero leaves the comfort of family and community to strike out alone to find his destiny. He experiences loneliness, and may become lost on his journey. When we feel our loneliness, we don’t attach ourselves to another to avoid the feeling of discomfort.
In the Wanderer stage we separate from the symbiotic form that our relationship may have grown into, to be a unique separate individual again. The symbiotic form of relationship is not bad or wrong but it is limited. It serves a significant purpose when two people are establishing their couple-ness, joining their interests and mutual life-styles. But high functioning relationships maintain a way for each of the pair to be an individual, with a clear and separate identity.
In our culture the critical wandering stage is grossly neglected. This is a terrible shame, as individuation is critical in developing a sense of self as a fully functioning individual. By honoring the urge to explore and discover more truth about what we really are, we are free to bring more of ourselves to another. Obtaining a sense of identity does not happen just once in adolescence. It is a process that we go through time and time again, if we heed the call of the wanderer.
One day we can wake up and feel like something is not quite right. It may happen after we have played out a lot of the other myths in our lives, about finding happiness from the external world by becoming successful, making money, having a family, or doing what it is that we were programmed by the culture to do. At some point, we find ourselves looking at our life and saying, “Is this it? Is this all there is? Is this what I get for being a hard worker, or for being a good girl, or for being productive or for doing what I am supposed to do? Something is missing!” It can be a profound opening to make a very powerful shift in our lives.
We do not necessarily have to leave our job, our marriage, move to another state, change our name, or shave our head but something in us is calling us strongly to respond to it. It sometimes requires us to physically go somewhere, or we may go inside ourselves where we spend time meditating, writing in our journal, or in therapy, looking at ourselves in a different way. During this time of introspection, we are definitely going to be much less available to our partner.
In the archetypal stories the heroes leave the security of home and community because they feel called to wander. They slay dragons and meet up with strangers on their journeys. The modern day wanderer is much more apt to take an inner journey as what Sam Keen calls a “psychonaut”, to make a journey into the psyche to discover their identity. This can be a difficult stage in a relationship because the wanderer tends to be extremely absorbed in the process and not thinking about meeting the other person’s needs. A wanderer cannot be taking care of many of the practical things in life. Trust and good communication help us negotiate this stage.
A kind of deadness happens to relationships if we don’t heed the call of the wanderer. Vitality starts to slip away and we are left with the empty form. We live out the days playing the roles politely but the juiciness of life is missing in the relationship because we are not honoring who we truly are. In the individuation stage one becomes an integral person rather than merely fulfilling the role of husband or wife. The task of this stage is to master autonomy and learn to be apart, with love.
Stay tuned for Part 3…
Linda and Charlie Bloom are excited to announce the release of their third book, Happily Ever After . . . and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams.
Praise for Happily Ever After:
“Love experts Linda and Charlie shine a bright light, busting the most common myths about relationships. Using real-life examples, they skillfully, provide effective strategies and tools to create and grow a deeply loving and fulfilling long-term connection.” – Arielle Ford, author of Turn You Mate into Your Soulmate
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Bloom, L. (2017). Feeling Lost? Part 2. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 25, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationship-skills/2017/04/feeling-lost-part-2/