Human Relationships, Intimacy, Love and More
Let's face it, relationships are hard work. But as human beings we need to be in relationship: we have an inbuilt biological drive to be in contact with other human beings.
As children we grow up in a complex matrix of relationships which to a large degree will shape who we become as adults.
Later, we dream about romantic relationships; as teenagers we get excited about our first attempts at sexual relationships, and these first sexual encounters are an important rite of passage into adulthood.
As adults we look for committed long term relationships, and most of us envisage happiness as being part of a relationship (whatever that may look like).
What no-one ever tells us is that relationships are hard work. You could compare a relationship to a dance between two partners (or in some less orthodox cases more than two) where each partner is listening to a different tune and rhythm and they are dancing according to a different set of steps.
To make the endeavour workable, possibly even graceful and good fun, a lot of resilience, trust, negotiation, willingness to compromise, skill and humour is needed.
Again, this isn't really stuff that is taught to us beforehand, and we often believe that a relationship is supposed to save us from all our problems, rather than throw all our failings into greater relief.
So where does that leave us? Probably with a lot to learn, but also with a great opportunity for personal growth and shared happiness.
The bottom line for me is that when relationships do work they are fun and a source of great pleasure and security, but when they don't they can make one rather miserable.
On the whole, though, they do work - or at least can be made to work - with the right skills, and in co-operation with your partner. And for many of us, few things in life seem to be as worthwhile as investing in one's relationship.
If you're having persistent trouble with your relationships, we do recommend counselling as a good way to re-establish the lines of communicating and harmony within an intimate relationship.
The power of the feminine in the male psyche
One of the problems that men face in their lives today is that they do not really know how to relate to women.
When you think about the early experience of a boy child, the influence of the feminine is extraordinary. As James Hollis says in his book, Under Saturn's Shadow - The Wounding And Healing Of Men: "...the mother is the place of origin, locus of parturition and omphalos of our world.
Such "torrents of ancestry" are entrusted to the fragile vessel of a single person, a woman, who phenomenologically communicates the mystery of life itself and who, in the specific relationship between mother and child, embodies all sorts of messages about our relationship to the life force.
The mother's biochemistry in utero, the treatment of the child by his mother, her affirmations or denials of his personhood, are primal messages to boys about their own being."
He goes on: "Not only do we share most of our early, formative days and years with her - the more so if fathers are distant or not there at all - but her role is replicated by teachers and other caretakers who in our culture are still primarily female."
The power of the feminine, as he wryly observes, is immense in the psyche of men.
So how are we to become adult men, emotionally and psychologically, especially since we have no men's rites of passage or male initiation rituals in our society?
In previous ages these rituals were the method by which boys became full members of society.
They literally took the boy away from the mother and inducted him into the society of men, teaching him what he needed to know to live in his society.
And there are other implications of the absence of rituals and processes for men to become full, adult members of our tribe.
The first is that the penis becomes a weapon to use against women, rather than a tool for the unification of the sexes in an act of love or procreation.
Hollis has observed that the patriarchy is a way in which men defend against their powerlessness, and therefore, if that is true, the penis also become a weapon which men use to defend the patriarchy as well as oppress women.
Boys who did not separate from that earliest bond with their mothers will not have a good relationship with women in later life.
Since they did not individuate as autonomous men who can stand on their own two feet and relate to women as equals, they will be constantly living in the shadow of their fear of losing mother, or the archetypal woman she represents in their heads.
Every interaction with women will be overlaid by the fear of separation, of abandonment, that a small child feels when he learns that mother is a separate being who can go away - and when she does, his needs will not be met. He may, in fact, die.
The degree of this primal fear is enough - more than enough - to dictate that these still psychologically mother-dependent men do not relate to women in adult life as free agents, but that they supplicate, adapt or control women.
Moreover, because we do not have the initiation of older men to guide us in what we shall become as we grow up, we seek out roles and careers which reinforce our sense of self - at least superficially - while still denying us the fulfillment of an occupation that our soul craves.
In this way, therefore, the lives of men are just as governed by restrictive role expectations as are women's.
In addition, if a woman is living out her own unfulfilled wishes and desires through her child, then his life becomes governed by a second set of expectations - the ones she his mother was not able to manifest in her life.
An unconscious desire for the "safety of mother" leads men into difficulties in the expression of their sexuality as well.
Sex, whether oral sex or vaginal intercourse, becomes weighted with an infantile need for bodily contact and nurturance, rather than the proper expression of powerful male sexuality.
And as men become aware of these infantile aspects of themselves, they push the woman they are with away, so as to remove themselves from the source of their fear.
In this way, a man's relationship with his internal mother complex becomes manifest as an alternating attraction and repulsion to the woman he is with in his life now.
But this is not all. A man may experience too much of mother as well as too little. If as a child he experiences the inability of his mother to meet his needs, he may develop separation anxiety as an adult.
Most often it manifests as a fear that he is just not good enough. He may become angry at her: she was not there for him. Then, without understanding why, he becomes angry at women in general.
If his mother was overwhelming, he becomes angry at the implicit violation of his soul which takes place - then, later in life, he responds with anger to anything which appears to mirror the invasion of his soul which took place when he was a child.
As an adult, the women in his life respond to his need for nurturance and then understandably are repelled by his anger when he feels invaded - an anger which is often disproportionate to the woman's actions.
Such men are likely to experience sexual dysfunction in later life, including premature ejaculation and other ejaculatory disorders. These can be addressed, but often it is necessary to resolve the underlying conflicts first.
Last updated September 10 2022
In our work we use the Jungian principles of Shadow and Archetypes and the concepts of Emotional Wounding. These concepts allow us to access the deep emotional wounds which play out in all of us as unhelpful repetitive patterns of behaviour, even though we might wish to think, feel and act differently.
The concept of archetypal energy is a useful one because it allows us to see the various parts of ourselves as semi-autonomous energetic forces which can act independently of each other. The switch between these archetypal energies often goes unnoticed: we identify with the energy in which we find ourselves at any one time, and we do not notice ourselves switching to another state. Then we respond form where we are, not where we would like to be.
The development of emotional maturity certainly requires us to examine the wounds which trigger us to move into one or other of these archetypal energies. For example, assuming that the primary archetypes can be listed as King or Queen, Lover, Warrior, and Magician, then the energies of rage might be triggered by a move into Warrior. The energies of grief might be triggered by a shift into Lover. Knowing where you are and how to move out of these energies by conscious choice is critical to good emotional health. This is the art of good shadow facilitation work - to enable a person to access the appropriate emotional state at will.