Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bill Plotkin, Soulful Relationships

"In soulcentric romance, rather than attempting to make the other fit their preexisting fantasies, the lovers revel in endlessly exploring the mysterious nature of the Other in the here and now. The only relationship the lovers presume is the one they have earned through their unfolding conversation. They anticipate no potential relationship result (e.g., monogamy, polygamy, cohabitation, marriage, children, economic or professional advancement) as being preferable to any other. Any such intent would interfere with the deepening experience of true contact. Neither tries to unilaterally make the relationship more comfortable for himself or herself, because doing so would interfere with their being present to the magic of true conversation.

Soulful romance is held like a fragile flame in the unflinching gaze and steady embrace of the lover as he is revealed to himself and to his beloved in each moment of the dance. As in the unfolding of any sacred mystery, there is no telling what might happen next but there is a faith that whatever it is it will unfold with authenticity and integrity, and whatever happens will deepen the journey of both parties.

James Hollis suggests that both the value and process of soulful romance rest in what he calls radical conversation, in which one intends, continuously, to discover more and ever more about oneself and the other. Through such an exchange between two mysteries, one draws nearer to the central mystery of life. Hollis lists three components to such a soul-to-soul encounter:

1) The partners must assume responsibility for their own psychological well-being.
2) They must commit to sharing the world of their own experience without reproaching the Other for past wounds or future expectations. Similarly, they are to endeavor to hear, without feeling defensive, the experience of the Other.
3) They must commit to sustaining such a dialogue over time. . . . Only radical conversation, the full sharing of what it is like to be me while hearing what it is really like to be you, can fulfill the promise of an intimate relationship. One can only engage in radical conversation if one has taken responsibility for oneself, has some self-awareness, and has the tensile strength to withstand a genuine encounter with the truly Other.

Loving the otherness of the partner is a transcendent event, for one enters the true mystery of relationship in which one is taken to the third place--not you plus me, but we who are more than ourselves with each other.

Radical conversation has emotional, imaginal, sexual, and spiritual dimensions as well as verbal ones. And the conversation is approached not only with skill and intent but also with innocence and wonder. Neither the other nor the self is a fixed thing. The bottom is never reached. One hopes to be forever surprised.

But of course it's not all delight and ease. Far from it. We are constantly discovering how we project our shadow--both its light and dark aspects--onto the other. The dance of soulful romance always includes owning back those projections and transferences. Our relationship will expose all the places we are emotionally blocked, blinded, wounded, caged, protected, or otherwise limited.

Invariably, upon first bumping--or crashing!--into those constricted places, we'll feel fear, anger, hurt, shame, or guilt. Eventually, we learn to recognize these emotions as opportunities to learn about ourselves and sometimes the other. Rather than avoiding these emotions, we dive into them, thereby discovering the holes in our personalities, the places that need attention if we are going to move toward wholeness.

These holes are the wounds we refused to feel earlier and that we avoided by means of our Loyal Soldier's survival strategies. In our romantic relationships, we keep running into these holes because they are the relationship's growing edge. We have the choice either to write off our partner or ourselves or to examine our holes. Healing another layer of our sacred wounds reclaims the promise of our lives.

The candidate for soul initiation learns that soulful romance keeps her in direct communication with the unknown, that it uncovers her sacred wound, that it reveals her shadow, and that it opens the door to ecstasy and union with the beloved of the soul. She learns that sexual love is a spiritual experience as well as a carnal one. She learns to look into her lover's eyes and see not just her friend and sexual partner but also a reflection of her own animus (i.e., the inner man who serves as her guide to soul) and also, perhaps, a reflection of the divine lover."

- Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche

1 comment:

  1. As someone who has covered his work previous, I am writing to see if you would be interested in receiving a review copy of Bill Plotkin's new book Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche which we will be publishing this April for consideration. If so I would be happy to ask his publicist at New World Library to send you either the PDF or the physical book in March when we get them hot off the press. If this is of interest, please reply to this email with your mailing address, a direct link to your blog, and the format you prefer!

    Here's more information about this ground-breaking book...

    What do we need to know and understand to help facilitate lasting positive change in our individual lives and communities? How can we revolutionize our understanding of what it means to be human and revive our abilities to realize our potential and transform our contemporary cultures?

    The enclosed advance reading copy of Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche (New World Library, April 15, 2013) by cultural visionary, author, and wilderness guide Bill Plotkin addresses and answers these key questions of our time.

    “We’re being summoned by the world itself to make many urgent changes to the human project, but most central is a fundamental re-visioning and reshaping of ourselves, a shift in consciousness,” writes Plotkin. “We must reclaim and embody our original wholeness, our indigenous human nature granted to us by nature itself. And the key to reclaiming our original wholeness is not merely to suppress psychological symptoms, recover from addictions and trauma, manage stress, or refurbish dysfunctional relationships, but rather to fully flesh out our multifaceted, wild psyches, committing ourselves to the largest story we’re capable of living, serving something bigger than ourselves.”

    In Wild Mind, Plotkin introduces a map of psychological wholeness that is rooted in nature’s own map of wholeness. The book offers an elaborate field guide to becoming fully human by cultivating the four facets of the Self and discovering both the limitations and gifts of our wounded, fragmented, and shadowed subpersonalities.

    I look forward to hearing from you about this possibility! Please don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions.


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