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What the mind/body connection teaches us about relationships.
Balance - Contrast - Complementarity
Of the most important things we need to know about life, having healthy relationships is foremost. So where do we learn this vital information? It's easy to identify relationships that aren't working, a short read of the newspaper, fifteen minutes of the evening news broadcast or just standing in line at the grocery store reveals the difficult and sometimes tragic results of a relationship gone wrong. So what does a healthy relationship have? From my perspective, each of us, in our mind/body existence, are given a natural example of the potentially perfect relationship.
The essential elements of all healthy relationships are balance, contrast and complementarity. Effective application of these elements give us tools to interact with family, friends and coworkers, and how we treat ourselves.
In order to illustrate the mind/body relationship think for a moment about your body as a vehicle and your mind as the driver. The next time you get into your car, consider the relationship you have established with it because of the cooperative and collaborative agreement you have with it, you accomplish your purpose of being transported from point “a” to point “b”, and whether it's in a Lamborghini or a Ford, the results are the same. The mind/body relationship with your ”self” is the journey you are on and the people in your life are passengers for the trip. Are you having fun yet?
Balance. What is balance? One physical definition is “the equalization of forces”. In other words, neither the body or the mind dominates or assumes complete control. If you've ever experienced a stuck gas pedal wildly accelerating, had to push a car you've failed to fuel, or the frustration of an exhaustingly long trip, and in spite of “cruise control” your hands on the wheel – literally in “co-operation”. In a healthy relationship sharing responsibility is more productive than dominance or control.
Contrast. Night and day, sweet and sour, sharp and dull, old and young. Contrast is what helps us examine and experience one thing by knowing it's counterpart. Though not always an opposite, contrast is an inescapable acknowledgement of the other side of the coin, the “flip side” of what is known versus the unknown. Contrast helps us get clarity about our own identity by providing a framework of reference that makes us distinct from our surroundings. A healthy relationship creates a backdrop in our experience of life so that we might more clearly define and know who we are.
Complementarity. It would be ludicrous to get behind the drivers seat and just sit there, waiting for the trip to start. Why? It is the interaction of all of the components involved that makes the difference. Complementarity is the harmonic blending of balance and contrast into action. It is the reason that apparently impossible things can happen – the reason you can “drive” to St. Louis in 5 hours. When we focus on complementarity in our relationships, conflicts created by power struggles and insecurities created by differences dissolve. In a healthy relationship strengths and differences are assets that make the sum greater than its parts.
In my work as a psychotherapist www.healthepath.com, I often remind couples or individuals I am working with, that most people know more about maintaining a car than a relationship. That is primarily because we too often accept relationships as a “given” part of life, whereas a car is something we work for, and need to know how to take care of. Our learning about relationships “just happens” through observation and experience (primarily trial and error) and when we do ask for advice we generally don't consult the experts.
The next time you find yourself unhappily stuck by the side of the road, the mind/body owners manual of relationships might be the first place to look.