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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What is Undefended Love Part 2

This is part 2 of the excerpts from the book Undefended Love by by Jett Psaris, PH.D and Marlena Lyons, PH.D.

The role of compassion

As we begin to unmask our negative self-images, we can feel a great deal of hurt and the fear of being hurt further. We may also experience self-loathing rising from the shame and assumed ugliness associated with our initial inability to absorb this new information. Usually, we contract around these feelings. We want to protect ourselves, run away, hide, defend, attack or go to sleep. Staying with this investigation in a nonreactive way requires something special, something to help us hold our ground and observe the truth exactly as it is, without trying to change it.

But we are extremely vulnerable organisms and our knee-jerk reaction to seeing a truth that is confusing or threatening is to remove ourselves immediately. What can we do about this? Our hearts naturally want to be open, but when exposed to deep pain we behave like wounded animals - our instinct is to close down, escape and protect ourselves. Emotional pain can be a powerful obstacle to our hearts being open in a completely undefended way.

And yet our fear, pain and even self-loathing is precisely what we need to approach if we wish to be less defended. "The distance from your pain, your grief, your unattended wounds" remarks authors Stephen and Ondrea Levine, "is the distance from your partner." Our discomfort is a great indicator, pointing out the places where we are disconnecting from ourselves and from each other.

Compassion is specifically helpful in facing our fears and allowing us to remain committed to the truth. Compassion is the personal ally that will help us take on the difficulties we face as we strive for a completely undistorted view of ourselves. Its purpose, simply put, is to allow the heart to stay open in the face of fear and pain. It allows us to tolerate these uncomfortable feelings so we can restrain our impulse to avoid or control them; it allows us to remain open to the present moment.

Closeness, a safe container

There is nothing wrong with using our relationships to work through issues of dependency. In fact, relationship may be the best place to work through them. What we are concerned with here is not that we are dependent but the level and duration of the dependency. The ability to move beyond an "other-focus" requires that we remain attentive to the feelings and reactions stirred within us, rather than turning our attention toward our partners to the exclusion of ourselves. Our closeness becomes a safe container, a kind of greenhouse in which we feel secure and supported to look at ourselves while we are developing our own self-reliance. Ultimately we must leave the warmth and comfort of these controlled conditions, recognizing that it will be harmful if we try to stay safe for too long. We must remain mindful that these are temporary supports - training wheels - and that our dependence on them must be incrementally released as we develop greater balance and self-reliance. Through vigilant self-examination of our impulse to blame others for the discomfort we are feeling, we can get closer to exposing our negative self-concepts for what they are. We must remain mindful, however, that to develop the inner resources necessary for undefended intimacy we need both support- in the form of closeness - and the absence of support - times when we feel abandoned, betrayed and unwelcome.

The mutually supportive context of a close relationship provides the constancy that is necessary for us to begin shifting from an outer-directed life to one that is inner-directed.

Tomorrow will be the last 3 book excerpts, they will be on "Agreements: How they can prolong closeness and prevent intimacy," "Dissolving our defenses" and "Intimate allies."

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