Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Feeling Stuck in a Relationship? How to Move Forward — & Why, 2

October 28th, 2015 · feeling stuck in a relationship

As we saw in Part 1, feeling stuck in a relationship can be a major turning point in an individual’s life journey — so much so that it often has the character of a major life transition.

feeling stuck in a relationship

To confront and begin to move through the awareness of stuckness in a relationship is often a profoundly transitional event.  It may result in the end of a relationship, but it will almost certainly result in a significant psychological shift in ourselves, quite possibly also in the other who is in the relationship with us, and in the transformation of the relationship itself.

Is It Them or Is It Me?

When I feel stuck in a relationship, how much of it stems from me, and how much from my partner?  If, for instance, I become aware that my relationship always stays in “the shallows” or that it lacks passion, the question arises, what is my role in creating this stuck state?  And how much stems from the way my partner is in the relationship?

Relationship and the Call to be Oneself

Psychology professor and Jungian Verena Kast has written about  the inner archetypal image of the relationship of the creative and receptive (or “masculine” and “feminine”) elements that we all carry within our unconscious psyche.  This is both an image of our inner psychic wholeness, and a reflection of what we’re looking for from a partner in relationship.  Often the partner to which we’re attracted has particular strengths and qualities in areas where I experience a lack within myself, and, similarly, I have strengths in areas where they may experience a lack.

So far, so good.  However, the problem comes in our need to separate or inner image of relationship, and our actual relationship with our partners, from the emotional impact of the experience of our parents and their relationship.  This is what Kast and many others refer to as our parental complexes.  We can think of a complex as a powerful emotional “knot” or “program” that can interfere with an emotional situation in which we’re involved, and can hijack our perception of the situation and our emotional response to it.  Complexes can completely distort our view of a situation, and our response to it.  Few complexes are more powerful than our parental complexes.  And depth psychotherapy knows that few situations involve the parental complexes more than our relationships.

Am I seeing my partner for who they actually are, or are my perceptions shaped by complexes based in experience of my mother and/or father?  Opening up the complexes creating stuckness may require us to look at parts of ourselves that are not entirely easy to look at.


The Myth of the Sacred Marriage

Stuckness may take me to the archetypal core of why was I initially attracted to my partner.

Kast points out that, on the unconscious level we are all subject to relationship fantasies stemming from the mythological image of the sacred marriage.  This archetype involves images of the marriage of the eternal masculine and feminine, often portrayed as a marriage of the gods. There is danger in identifying my relationship with the perfection of the sacred marriage, and in expecting my partner to live out these incredibly high ideals — as if he or she was a god.

Such a union of opposites is something that has to take place within my own being, and, viewed in that way, is one of the images of  the journey to wholeness we call individuation.

To journey to wholeness we have to accept all of ourselves, strengths and flaws alike, and we have to accept our relationships for what they are, including where we feel stuck in a relationship.  In this kind of therapeutic personal work, we confront our own real lives, and tke responsibility for them.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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Feeling Stuck in a Relationship? How to Move Forward — and Why

October 19th, 2015 · feeling stuck in a relationship

Many people enter depth psychotherapy because they’re feeling stuck in a relationship.  Relationships are vital to us, but they cause genuine suffering when they aren’t working well.

reeling stuck in a relationship

How do you begin to move beyond relationship stuckness?  And why is it so important to do this?  These questions apply to all intimate romantic relationships, regardless of sexual orientation.

What Does Feeling Stuck in a Relationship Look Like?

Very often, but not always, people know when they are stuck in a relationship. There are some standard situations that therapists and in fact almost everyone would describe as being stuck.

The relationship that is completely loveless would be the most obvious example of this. So would relationships that are physically or emotionally abusive. Then there is the relationship that is actually dangerous in terms of physical, emotional or financial safety (addiction issues particularly come to mind here.)

However, in addition to these very obvious, glaring examples, there are relationships the just feel claustrophobic for lack of a better word. A person may certainly feel that their relationship is stuck if they have a strong sense that they can’t really be themselves in their relationship. Another, related criterion would be if a person does not feel seen or valued by their partner.

feeling stuck in a relationship

So, What’s the Big Deal?

So, why does feeling stuck in a relationship really matter so much?  Well, University of Zurich Professor of Psychology and Jungian analyst Verena Kast has done some very important research with people in mourning for the loss of a long term partner.  This research demonstrates some very striking things.

Her work shows that, very often, there are very powerful unconscious fantasies that underlie relationships with romantic partners. When we understand these powerful fantasies that bind us to the partner, something within us gets liberated, and we are able to meet our lives much more creatively.

Understanding these fantasies enables us to see what it is that gives a relationship vitality, and also allows it to impart meaning in terms of our development as individuals.  What is more, these fantasies also explain the feelings of rage, stuckness and sterility when the partner does not match up to, or in fact actively sabotages, the unconscious fantasies.  These are all important dimensions of individual psychotherapy concerning relationships.

Feeling Stuck in a Relationship: The Individuation Story

If your relationship with a significant other feels like a roadblock on your individuation path, that likely means that the relationship need some very close attention, probably leading to a deepened understanding of both yourself and your partner.

feeling stuck in a relationship

            Relationship Claustrophobia

A question that people often have is, should I be exploring this kind of issue in individual therapy work, or in couples’ work?  I would strongly recommend starting with individual work, as it will clarify a person’s understanding of themselves, which enables the person to see the true nature of the relationship much more clearly.  If doing couples’ work makes sense afterwards, the individual will bring a great deal more insight to it, after having done some individual work

In the second part of this post, we’ll look more closely at the issue of figuring out “what’s really coming from me, and what’s coming from my partner?”, and we’ll examine more on the whole question of relationship, stuckness and the call to be oneself.

As C.G. Jung said, being in close relationship with someone is essential to seeing and understanding our deepest selves and our own individuation process.  Stuckness in relationship, while undeniably painful, may be offering us an important pathway to our true selves.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike © Helena Van Den Driessche ; Sheila Sund ; sirenstaff ;   
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)