Sex and relationship therapist Juliet Grayson, in her book Landscapes of the Heart, talks about the way we all experience two competing drives: one for bonded intimacy, the other for autonomy. When we get the balance right, we can feel close and connected to our partner yet at the same time autonomous individuals in our own right.
There’s a very simple group activity I often use at the beginning of a workshop. We stand in a circle and tune in to our uniqueness, our individuality, as we stand upright, embodied in the world. Eyes closed, we then reach out to either side of us to hold hands with the person to the right and left of us. It feels different. We are still unique individuals, and yet we also experience a sense of the group – that we are ‘One Tribe’, ‘One People’. Language neatly reinforces this feeling: ‘I am One’ can mean that I am feeling unique and whole, but it can also mean that I feel ‘at one’ with something more than myself. And with this exercise I can become aware of the fact that both meanings can apply at the same time. I can sense a ‘Oneness’ that includes both a sense of my wholeness and uniqueness AND a sense of Oneness, ultimately, with all beings, all of life.
This simple exercise grew out of experiencing these two feelings whenever I stood in a ritual circle and held hands, and I can see now how one level of explanation for these two feelings could be that in this instance we are expressing our drives towards both autonomy and ‘bonded connection’, as Juliet calls it.
I’ve interviewed Juliet about her work and I’ll put the interview up on this site soon, but in this Tea Session we explore what it means to be a creature who experiences these two drives. When they are operating harmoniously, we are self-sufficient AND emotionally connected to others. When we are having problems with them, we can experience debilitating fears of being abandoned or smothered.
Now here’s an interesting thought: perhaps the mystic tendency within us, the Mystic sub-personality if you will, is responding to the drive towards fusion with another. After all, what is the mystic’s aim if not to fuse, to be lost in the embrace of the Beloved, to become one with the Great Mother/Father? What then of the magician within, the Magician sub-personality? She or he wants not to return to the Source, but to go out into the world of Creation, of form, to create and co-create – to be of use and influence in the world. Does this make sense to you? If this triggers any thoughts, I’d love to hear from you!