...OR RELATIONSHIPS: THINGS JUNGIAN. Carl Jung, citing many ancient traditions, indicates that within every man there is the reflection of a woman (his anima), and within every woman there is the Reflection of a man (her animus). Because we are not often aware of this, we tend to project our sexual opposite onto our partners (although different in gay relationships, degrees of "masculine" and "feminine" dimensions are distributed in the relationship). So a man will find a woman who suitably fits his inner feminine. Jungian analyst John Sanford writes, "...a woman who carries such a powerful projection is pleased, at least at first. She feels flattered and valued, and though she may be dimly aware of it, enjoys a feeling of considerable power. The woman usually regrets the situation in time, however, as she experiences the disagreeable side of being the carrier of another person's soul. She eventually will discover that the man begins to suffocate her. If the woman projects onto a man, she is fascinated by him, drawn to him, sees him as the ultimate man and ideal lover." She can become larger than life to her, but this can result in missing out on "the creative flame within herself, having displaced it onto the man," writes Sanford. The man may also feel this as flattering, but can soon feel overwhelmed by what may feel clingy and demanding at its worst. So what feels good and draws us together may also drive us into conflict. The solution does not have to be ending the relationship. Self-exploration and discovery can enhance a relationship by learning what we project and learning to communicate effectively when we feels someone may be projecting onto us.
Many relationships aspire to be equal, or draw lines of authority as their religious customs and beliefs direct. However, sometimes a closer look at relationships reveals a different story. The balance of power, whether we prefer to call it that or not, is important to know for us to live with each other. Sometimes the seemingly over-dominant partner can be like the child who demands that everything be their way. Also a very dependent individual who seems to wield no power, can demand constant attention--this can be very powerful. Knowing our roles and how we work together is very important to the harmony (as well as the working out of the disharmony) in a relationship. Many couples have a real knack for this. The late president Gerald Ford was once asked something about who was more in charge in his marriage, and he answered (I roughly paraphrase) that depending upon the day or the task, it could be 75% himself and 25% Betty, or 25% himself and 75% Betty at another time. This appears to illustrate the flexibility and perhaps the communication necessary to respond to the demands of the relationship. The more this evolves with communication (particularly when the balance of power is promoting resentment) the more a couple can effectively work together. Probably more important than fixed roles, is communication and understanding what those roles will be.
“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike,” writes J. K. Rowling. Withdrawing with contempt, a cold-shoulder, taking "time-outs" from a conflict and never returning to them, and out-right stonewalling another can be a sign of deeper relationship difficulties. When I work with couples who exhibit these behaviors (of indifference) in my practice, it is much harder to to help them improve and can sometimes be what relationship researcher John Gottman calls one of the "Four Horseman of the Apocalypse." Gottman is referring to stonewalling as a sign that the relationship could be on its way out. Emotional investment, even negative behaviors such as anger, hostility, even hate, can indicate there is still a large emotional investment in the relationship. There is still room for saving a relationship where emotional investment still exists. Although unpleasant to experience such negative expressions, at least there is an indicator of where your partner is at. They still might be saying, "I don't like you or this relationship right now, but I would like it to be different." Indifference or cold emotional withdrawal is harder to gauge and may be signalling an end to investing further in the relationship. Although hard to know for sure, this should be assessed to see if the relationship can be preserved or not.
steve harris, phd
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