“A person is a relationship of which the other is infinite . . . what will the Psychology Department make of that?” — Sebastian Moore
“Marriage is the clue to human life, but there is no marriage apart from the wheeling sun and the nodding earth, from the straying of the planets and the magnificence of the fixed stars.” — D.H. Lawrence
A friend recently shared how she had been moving beyond the fear of abandonment in her romantic life by “owning” her emotions instead of acting them out in reactive ways. It went along with being able to express her needs cleanly without trying to control the outcome. This is basic boundary work, which keeps therapists in business for those whose budding egos were engulfed or invalidated in the past (by various forms of possessiveness or rejection).
The result of such wounding of the relational capacity can lead to confusion about where the other leaves off and the self begins. As the psychology department would have it, my friend would be at the mercy of a partner’s mirroring, both positive and negative, until she can be “self-validating” and stand on her own two psychological feet.
Fortunately, she is also a spiritual seeker, shorthand for the shift happening within her from valuing emotional solace, sensual craving (of natural creature comforts) and ego empowerment above all; to putting faith, self-transcending love and alignment with divine will first . . . then letting those priorities guide her journey of the heart.
Personal boundaries are indeed important for negotiating the needs of security/survival, esteem/affection, and power/control embedded in the human psyche. However, it’s still a model of love based on “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” and runs into trouble when the scratching is not enough or too much, opening the emotional wounds it originally promised to heal. It still defines a person as limited to personal self-interest no matter how truly engaged she is in genuine relating.
Yet the nature of love is to expand. It ultimately draws us beyond personal boundaries toward a transpersonal dimension of being, that which we call God, the deeper call of passion opening us to the eternal and the infinite. We are made of stardust as well as personality structures and character traits. If this sounds far-reaching, it is, and gives us a choice between contracting or expanding our very sense of identity in response.
Think of concentric circles, with “me”-centred needs capable of being extended to the interpersonal, or “he/she” recognition of the other, when love becomes a trade-off of mutual caring. Then visualize the next concentric circle identified with the mature “we” making our marriage, family, community, nation and religion the source of allegiance.
Yet we are still intimately bound to the infinite other. It is the love for the divine “thee” which is the limitless circle informing everything within it, and which opens our hearts to a passion beyond the personal, where our fullest sense of personhood is to be found. “Whoever does not love . . .” in ever-expanding circles of self-giving, “does not know God, because God is love” (1 Jn: 4).
Speyer is a Benedictine Oblate as well as clinical supervisor of e-counselling for a major employee & family assistance program, and creative director, InnerView Guidance International (IGI). He also directs a documentary series titled GuideLives for the Journey: Ordinary Persons, Extraordinary Pathfinders. http://www.guidelives.ca/ Connect with Cedric on https://www.facebook.com/cms94 or via email@example.com