Sunday, December 30, 2007


In keeping with Maria Wojtczak’s work on ‘finding our passion’, I have been thinking about 6 pillars of the authentic self. The first I refer to as

drawing up on on capacities of the “real” self that pull you through setbacks and enable you to keep moving ahead toward the goals that you have set for yourself –the capacity to experience a wide range of feelings deeply with liveliness, Joy, excitement and spontaneity.

A women that I worked with recently reminded me of many of the plucky, courageous and creative individuals I have met at SJN --she had handled many obstacles at a major turning point in her life – despite much opposition from her parents, her boyfriend’s pressuring her and threatening to leave if she didn’t move in with him and her advisor leaving the university a year before she was finished her thesis.

Abigail was able to draw upon key capacities of her self that pulled her through these setbacks and enabled her to move ahead toward the goals that she had set for herself. She knew that choosing a career that was not in line with her father’s wishes was a wise decision and best for her; the “real” self provides the experience of emotions both good and bad, comfortable or not-so-comfortable. These are an essential part of life which the real self does not create barriers against or go into hiding from. It accepts the wide range of feelings and is not afraid to express them. Abigail had learned early in life that self-activation would bring positive responses from her environment.

This is the first part of an article that I will be posting on my website -- "James and Carla's" story is based on my experience with real life couples -- the names and a few details are always different to protect confidentiality:


It was a second marriage for James and Carla. It was urgent that they make it work. It had been a whirlwind romance beginning with a fantasy—It started with candlelight dinners with wine, walks along the canal, hand in hand, critiques over films, gazing into each other’s eyes over cappuccino at Starbucks. At the time it seemed like it would never end. But now it was slipping away. The fight always started the same way and somehow lately it had seemed to escalate. This morning Carla had screamed out a torrent of accusations at James and he had done his usual part by slamming the door to his office. In the last six months things had seriously deteriorated.

Carla and James knew the “rules” – they knew about the 5-1 magic ratio -- that partners need five positive interactions for each negative one. They had read that intimate relationships are vital to growth and development. They agreed with the research that positive close relationships help inoculate partners against the stresses of life. Other couples seemed loving and happy. So what was happening to them?

James and Carla’s experience is not unique – it mimics that of so many couples. It begins with a fantasy like the candlelit dinners -- But slowly the fabric becomes eroded. The bickering begins – the nagging and blaming and criticizing – the inevitable struggle for control, the fights. Marital researcher John Gottman has identified four attitudes that can lead to relationship distress and even dissolution. He calls them the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’: Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt and Stonewalling...... (to be continued)