The Purpose of Relationships
The purpose of relationships is to increase your “differentiation”, and reach your full human potential. To have a better relationship, and to really love consciously, you need to learn to be different.
Your ability to have deeper passion, bliss, and realization requires that the other person is seen exactly as that – other. They are not you and you’re not them – you’re different things, different egos.
Making peace with the ego world is not done by trying to get everything within the box of how you want things to look. It is about actually admiring and respecting the fact that a different person has a different box.
What is Differentiation?
Differentiation is the ability to self-manage one’s emotions. In other words, one does not need another person to confirm or affirm, one doesn’t need another person to validate you.
Differentiation is confidence that comes through experience and through actually meeting situations in a way that you recognize you are alone and independent. The differentiated person has the ability to choose their own direction, involvements and activities. They do not need the people in their life to be there to validate their choices.
Differentiation does not mean that you become a highly individualistic person who doesn’t care about or connect with others. Well differentiated people have and form strong emotional bonds because they don’t need to run away. They don’t need to self-protect.
Our Partner, Our Worthy Opponent
In a relationship, you pick the person who has just the degree of differentiation to be supportive of you, in the sense of growth and unfoldment, but also not so supportive that they just become your lap dog. Your inner search for liberation will not stand for a lap dog.
You tend to get together with people who have about the same level of differentiation as you do because they are your worthy opponent.
You pick people in relationships to help you see your blind spots, to help you see where differentiation needs to occur in order for you to become more blissful, more unitive, more integrated in your understanding.
Your relationships help you see where you end up in a knee-jerk anger/substitution/overly-argumentative position, in other words, where you’re not differentiated.
How to Increase Your Differentiation in Relationships
The way you increase your differentiation, growth and health of your relationship is by working on how you meet each other in conflict (not just when it feels good between you).
The very nature of engaging with somebody when you’re not on the same page brings up feelings of anxiety, discomfort and insecurity. It makes the ego feel disconnected. You’re not really sure you’re on solid ground, so you run to food, sleep, entertainment, books, work, etc – somewhere where you don’t have to relate to another being.
When disagreement arises, the ego attempts to get back to ‘fusion’, a sense of comfort & security. It tends to avoid honest, vulnerable communication – everyone has different strategies to feel safe again – eg by shutting down, pandering to, or fighting. However it can’t really be comfortable because underneath the ego knows it is avoiding something.
To grow your differentiation you basically need to practice the ability to be in a situation of conflict, struggle, or disagreement and not feel threatened, dismissed, ignored, or diminished in the process. Learn that it is okay to have a different point of view, an argument or struggle and not feel your harmony is dis-served.
Through training (we find meditation, karma yoga & therapy to be useful), you can gradually grow an inner sense of unruffled calm, compassion and equanimity. You can develop your being to the point that you can have an energetic debate, struggle, argument and be okay with that, and not need your partner or friend to validate you, nor you them. You can be honest, open and vulnerable with your needs, while hearing and accepting theirs.
Transcending the ego, not identifying with the ego, makes for a state of graceful conflict. This allows you to reach your full potential, alone and in relationship.
Recommended Reading: “Passionate Marriage by David Shnarch for more about differentiation.
Recommended Courses: Live teachings on Conscious Love in Calgary, May 12-14, 2017.
Doug Duncan & Catherine Pawasarat are modern day teachers of transcendence. Their work with students draws upon Buddhist, Western Mysteries, modern psychology and other traditions. If you found this article helpful, consider sharing your gratitude by making a gift of Dana to the Teachers.
If you would like to receive updates and new posts, sign up to their mailing list.