Christi Taylor-Jones Psychotherapy Web Site

June 18, 2017

Blog on divorce – Intro


If you picked up this book, you may be thinking of ending an important relationship in your life, or maybe you already have. If you were the one who was left, you may feel heatbroken or relieved. You may feel confused, scared or hopeless. If you were the one who did the leaving, you may feel a sense of freedom and joy, but also guilty, insecure, afraid or any combination of feelings.

Rarely do we experience a singular emotion when we end a significant relationship. Sometimes our feelings are in conflict with each other. One moment we are filled with anger and resentment, the next moment we feel sad and sorry for our partner, for the loss, for how we were, how they were, and for getting involved in the first place. Even if it was an abusive or unhappy marriage, we may experience a wide range of emotions when it finally comes to its inevitable end. The reality is that long-standing, abusive and unfulfilling relationships seem to activate the opposites even more than “once-happy” unions that simply lost steam. That’s because outer conflict tends to reflect inner conflict. How we are with each other outwardly reflects how we feel inwardly. A highly conflictual relationship often signals inner turmoil, as well as outer distress.

The seeds of conflict begin long before the relationship ends; they’re sown at the beginning, often before we even met. Then suddenly it seems to have reached a critical mass. Something has to change: something has to die, in this case the relationship itself. The idea that when one door closes another opens carries a kernel of truth, but it’s limited because it assumes that the door opening is better than the door closing. For that reason, the fear of regret looms large.

In our ideal fantasy we believe that we will grow from our experiences. But hope that we can minimize the growing pains. Yet, for true psychological growth to occur things must first fall apart, really fall apart. The old way must completely die. In alchemical terms the old king or ruling principle must be sacrificed. That which contained us—our beliefs, our dreams, our fantasies and our projections must all undergo transformation in service of a larger perspective.

According to this view, transformation is borne of intense inner reflection and confrontation with oneself. It requires an understanding and appreciation of the psychological and spiritual forces that brought us together and are now calling for our separation.

When we pick a partner we pick more than that person. We pick a whole constellation of values, complexes and projected parts of ourselves as well as fantasy expectations of how things will be. This then becomes our reality, a reality that contains us, that makes us feel safe and whole and fulfilled. Separating from all that thus feels like dismemberment, as if we’ve lost a physical, tangible part of our being. It feels like death, and it is. You may be experiencing that death now, and it does no possible good to say it won’t last forever because when you’re in it, it feels like forever. That’s how we know we’re in it. And that is not an altogether bad thing. In fact, it’s the beginning of what can become a transformative experience, if we’re willing to fall to the depths of it..

When we separate, we have an opportunity to sort things out, to separate one thing from another so that we can see more clearly where we’ve been and where we’re going. We can become curious about what happened; what brought us together and what pulled us apart. What drew our lover to us? What drew us to him or her? Was it our ego that sought relationship or something else? Perhaps the Self? Were we attracted to our partner’s persona or to some other projection of who they were? What part of us is now compelled to end things? Is it the ego or the Self? And what parts of us still belong to our partner? Which parts can we not extricate from the relationship and why? Most of all, we may ask what now contains us, now in this dark time when we seem to have lost everything?

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung distinguished what he called our persona (the image we present to the world) from our true self (the unique constellation of human potential). If we become too identified with our persona, or self image, we lose a sense of who we are. Jung described the process of separating out who we think we are (including our acceptance of who others think we are, or who we think we “should” be) from who we truly are (our unique self), as a process of individuation. Individuation, according to Jung, occurs over a lifetime. It is therefore not a goal that is achieved, but an ongoing journey, one that may be undertaken consciously or unconsciously.

Certain events in our lives may push us deeeper into this process. A death or a break up with a significant other can serve as catalyst, plunging us into deeper layers of the psyche– into a confrontation with the ego which ultimately results in a more conscious relationship with the Self. According to Jung, the Self is the center of the personality, that inner guiding force that some call the god within. When we are connected to that source, we are in sync with our true purpose. This may seem a lofty idea, but our true purpose may not be the one we would choose or even the desired one. In fact it choses us more than we choose it. Furthermore, developing a closer relationship with ithe Self does not necessarily translate into happiness as normally defined, but as wholeness. According to Jung, wholeness, not happiness is the goal of life. When we are connected to the energies of the Self, we are connected to all human potentialities. We are connected to the whole of who we are.

Unfortunately, the journey to the Self involves a defeat of the ego and thus results in a subtantial amount of suffering. This suffering feels like death, which is why images of the crucified Christ and other religious figures often depict the process of individuation. The suffering is not for suffering sake, however. It’s more like growing pains or the pain of birth. For this reason, one does not attempt to end the suffering per se but to tolerate it until the true meaning of the suffering is revealed.

At this point, you may ask, what could possibly be meaningful about suffering? Who needs it? To heck with individuating; I just want to put all this pain behind me and move on. While that is certainly understandable, it is short sighted. Moving on without taking inventory of what happened can cheat us out of a richer experience. The reason for suffering is that it is essential for transformation and rebirth. Without death, there can be no rebirth. Without reflecting on what went before and what the psyche is aiming for now puts us at risk of replicating the past, often with someone or something just like we have now. There is no growth, no rebirth in that. There is only a continuation of the same sorrowful story.

You may now be saying to yourself, “But wait a second; I was not the source of the problem in my relationship. It was my partner’s fault. If he or she had not been unfaithful, alcoholic, critical, passive, abusive, violent or even evil then things would have worked out.” The problem is that you are the one who chose your partner or, more accurately, something in your psyche of which you were unconscious chose your partner. Are you curious what that is? If so, this book may be for you.

There are many questions to ponder when a relationship ends: What was the psyche wanting or needing? Why did it lead me to this particular person? Why not someone else? Was there something I was supposed to learn? Did he or she carry certain qualities that I needed to develop in myself, even if those qualities seemed vile or distasteful? Is there an aspect of my partner that I need to develop in myself in order to complete me? Can I become whole without him or her? Was my desire for this relationship driven by some psychological complex in me, some shadow part of my personality? Did I project my shadow onto him or her so I didn’t have to own it? Are all the reasons for the demise of the relationship conscious to me? Were there maybe some unconscious forces at work here that are bigger than either of us? If so, were they for better or for worse? Can I be whole all by myself? And who is this being I call my self? These are among the many questions that if explored fully can lead to greater understanding of who you are, why you entered this relationship and why you now need to leave it.

Answering these questions is a major undertaking; it’s a kind of self examination that requires courage, more courage than just leaving a bad relationship. Making relationship with oneself takes the greatest courage of all.

As you may already surmise, this book is not about getting over a lost love. It is not a how-to-book about surviving divorce and separation. It is not even a standard feel-good book about how to be happy following a failed marriage. It is instead a description of the journey involved in turning a painful experience into an opportunity for transformative growth. It is about emerging from relative unconsciousness into a person who is both conscious and capable of truly taking up the mantle of his or her life and living it as it was meant to be –to the fullest. It is about becoming a whole person onto yourself, rather than the other half of another person.

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