When I incorporated my practice 16 years ago I had to give it a name. I called it Grace Center for Psychotherapy, LLC. Through all my evolutions (and regressions) religiously speaking over the years, the concept of grace has remained a constant. For me it means being granted enough times around the sun to have the privilege of getting to know my family and friends and self better. Inherent in the process, of course, are varying measures of making mistakes but also varying measures of success. Hopefully I’m learning something. Hopefully my family and friends and clients are the better for it!
I’m writing to you today because of something I’ve been learning recently. Something that effects you – whether you are a client or just a reader of my blog – or both. Those of you who see me regularly have begun to see and feel the change. I’m writing this post as a “heads up” to you. We are making a course correction.
You can liken the approach I’ve had for the last several years to the practice in medicine of treating symptoms. Popping pills can bring great relief, but they generally don’t quite get to the issue. I have come to see the core ideas I’ve studied and practiced (under the tutelage of David Schnarch – author of Intimacy and Desire) – that you are all very familiar with (the concepts of high and low desire partner and the ensuing power struggles, mind-mapping (and mind-fucking), and normal marital sadism, etc. etc.) as symptoms – as only a small part of a much larger picture.
That much larger picture includes our families of origin and an understanding of just how much influence they still have on us today. All the problems we face in our relationships have something to do with the spread of the natural anxiety in and through our family systems. When we become students of the way this anxiety spreads – and the role we play in absorbing and/or spreading it – we can get closer to not being quite as controlled by it.
Going back to our families of origin is a tremendous help in understanding where we came from and how we function. We can make as many promises to ourselves as we’d like that we aren’t going to be like them, but this is wishful thinking. In fact, the more we avoid getting to know our families in meaningful and peaceful ways, the more insular we become, the more difficulties we have with our own marriages and children. The distance we maintain from our parents has the effect of increasing the natural anxiety on our nuclear families, becoming too high to manage.
The act of accepting that we are a part of something much bigger than we are – something that started well before we were born – a current, a tide that has 100 years of mental, emotional, and genetic momentum is helpful. We can’t fight the flow, and we needn’t in order to find relief and growth. It’s much like the idea of floating through a riptide, rather than trying to swim out of it. The more we struggle and strain, the more tired and demoralized we become. The secret to surviving a riptide is to stop fighting it, and to learn to float.
When we can accept our parents – not take them so darn seriously – we can make a real study of where we came from – we can find ways to get to know our parents as people – and to get to know ourselves in the process. I guarantee you’ll be surprised at the ripple effect. It tends to humanize not only them, but us too!
What does this mean for the blog? More posts – I’m re-launching this thing! This is still a differentiation-based approach, and I’ll be writing about several new (and I believe more effective and longer lasting) ways to do that work.
For now have a look at a book called The Eight Concepts of Bowen Theory by Roberta Gilbert. You can get it on kindle or paperback. She also has one called Extraordinary Relationships. And then there’s always Friedman’s Fables. I think you’ll find them all highly enlightening.
If grace has something to do with lots of chances to get this thing “right,” it also has something to do with the beauty of the process. I hope you will come to enjoy it as much as I do!