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THE SPIRITUAL CONNECTION Newsletter
Published monthly by Anthos Publishing for
Benjamin B. Conley
"Accepting life as it is, nurturing the positive,
and limiting the negative."
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Table of contents:
1. Message from the Editor
2. Article: How Love Gets Lost
3. My New Year's Gift to You All: A free copy of my book,
Success in Marriage.
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1. >> Message from the Editor
Thanks for inviting me to your e-mail box - I hope
you will enjoy this issue of The Spiritual Connection Newsletter.
It is based on the belief that the key to joyful living is acceptance
of all that is, canceling the effort to force ourselves and others
to be what we and they are not.
Welcome to a number of you who have subscribed in
the past three months. I hope you and older subscribers will be
forgiving of my not sending a newsletter in October, November, and
December. During that time I had pneumonia, but have fully recovered,
I think partly because so many of you held me in your prayers. For
that I am deeply grateful.
This newsletter continues a series on the meaning
of love. Topics for future newsletters will be "Is Love Real?" "The
Vibes of Love," "Telesomatic Love," "Are
Love and Empathy Innate?," and "Larger
Lessons of Love."
I will respond with pleasure to any comments on
what I have written. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And feel free to forward this newsletter or a copy
to a friend.
Benjamin B. Conley, M.Div., LMFT
LOVE GETS LOST:
Five Basic Threats
When we fall in love, we experience the loved one
as the one who heals us, who makes us whole. This is a wonderful
experience, and gives us a subjective sense of "completion" of our
lives up to that point of our personal growth.
However, we tend to fall in love (or pick a partner
in another way) with someone who is familiar, "my kind of person,"
similar to the people with whom we grew up. So we find ourselves
in love with someone who has many of the same assets and limitations
we experienced with our mother, father, grandparents, aunts, uncles,
brothers, sisters, teachers, the ones who
were a significant part of our childhood world.
When this surprising reality becomes apparent, that
our loved one is not as ideal as we once believed, we may be dismayed,
as well as already married and perhaps with a child born or on the
way. Then we have a dilemma, a new awareness that we fell in love
with someone who is not, in important ways, the ideal we once envisioned.
In the primitive part of our brain, we then experience
the other person as a threat to our well being, to the degree to
which he or she does not match our expectations. We have a built-in
response to viewing our partner as a threat: we get ready to
fight for what we want, or we run away to escape the pain of unrequited
Fighting or running
away creates, in turn, a threat to the other person, a threat to
the survival of the relationship. We may fight by using physical
force, by criticizing, by using contempt and ridicule, or by being
intrusive and trying to manage the other person's life. We may run
away by some means of rejection, such as leaving the relationship.
As methods to achieve a warm, loving, close relationship, all of
these methods fail. Let us consider the use of each method to get
what we want from our partner.
One temptation, when we are frustrated about getting
what we want, is to use the primitive method of force. "I will make
you be the way I want you to be and tell you it is the way you
should be." A natural response to force by the other person is self-defense by pushing back in the opposite direction. "Don't tell me what to
do. You're not my mother (or my father)."
A power struggle follows, to determine who will force
whom to comply with what is sincerely believed
by each person to be the desirable and "proper" way to be, to act,
to think, and to feel.
One of the areas in which the power struggle shows
up is in the care of children. Each of the parents may want to deal
with a particular situation differently, including the use of more
or less force, sometimes even physical force.
With step parents in particular, the children may
not want to take direction from the step parent, and may frame the
issue, fairly or unfairly, as one of force: "You can't make me."
While force can establish compliance based on fear,
force never establishes loving relationships, whether it
is the use of physical force or psychological force. We may try
to force the other person through manipulation, an appeal to fear,
or an appeal to shame and guilt. The result may be compliance in
the short term.
However, force invites a response of self-defense
and counter attack, not a loving or desirable response. The power
struggle that ensues from the use of force turns the other person
into an enemy, and destroys intimacy in the relationship, instead
of creating love and mutual support.
Another primitive method of self-defense that threatens
relationships is one we all have experienced: withdrawal, the other
side of the fight-flight response to danger. Instead of fighting
to force the other person to comply, withdrawal (flight) may be
used to defend against being forced, or may be used as punishment
to make the other person change (I'll reject you if you don't do
what I want). Withdrawal involves the rejection of the other person
and is usually perceived by the person being rejected as hurtful.
won't be reasonable and be the way I want and need you to be, I
will reject you." Whether the rejection is intended as punishment
or as self-defense, the result is the same. Intimacy is reduced
and emotional distance is increased in the relationship. Withdrawal
creates more of the hurt associated with not being loved.
use other, related methods to attempt to gain the love we want,
even though they backfire and create more pain. Three other ways
to attempt to manipulate others using psychological and emotional
1) use of contempt, devaluing the other person.
2) intrusiveness and domination, taking responsibility
for decisions that belong to the other person.
3) Criticism and blame, telling the other person what is
"wrong" with him or her.
All three may be used in the attempt to create closeness,
but each one creates danger and enmity instead, in its own way.
Let's take a closer look at each of them.
With contempt, another method destructive of intimacy,
we treat the other person as if he or she is not important, that
what he or she says doesn't count, that we would rather not be bothered.
This may not be the
message that is intended by the person communicating, but it may
be the message that is communicated. It often happens because a
person may be preoccupied with his or her own concerns, focused
on his or her own point of view, to the exclusion of the other's
concerns and point of view.
The implicit message we may communicate with or without
meaning to is, "I am not interested in understanding your point
of view, just in your understanding my own." Or, "I understand your
point, but you don't seem to understand mine." Sometimes, of course,
the message is a blunt, "What you say is not worth listening to.
What I have to say is the important thing."
is the message many children have received from overworked and distressed
parents who either could not or would not take time to pay attention
to their children. In more tragic instances, parents have acted
as if, or told their children outright they should not have been
When we use contempt
as the method to get our partner to "shape up," we are encouraging
self-denigration in our partner and conformity to our wishes as
the price of interest and love. The result is more pain in the relationship
on both sides, more hurt, and more bitterness.
Intrusiveness does create one form of intimacy in
a relationship, but it also creates resentment that ultimately leads
to rejection and a loss of intimacy. With intrusiveness, we treat
our spouse as if he or she is incompetent to manage responsibility,
needs to be rescued and told what to do, and should be given directions
about how to do things and manage his or her affairs.
This takes various
forms, like telling one's spouse what to do when driving (without
an agreement to do so), or telling what the other "should" do, or
making decisions that affect the other without consultation and
An attempt to control the other person by making decisions
for him or her may reflect the relationship that person had with
a parent who did not know how to encourage a child to grow up and
take responsibility. Some parents try to control their children
after they have grown up, since to do otherwise would seem to the
parent that his or her life has no meaning after caretaking is completed.
Applied to one's partner, this technique of trying
to make him or her "do the right thing" creates or contributes to
a power struggle, resulting in anger, rebellion, and ultimately
less intimacy in the relationship.
5) Blame and Criticism
Blame is a destructive element in relationships, occurring
when one partner criticizes or places blame on the other instead
of taking responsibility for what he or she has done wrong. The
goal of the one doing the blaming and the criticizing is to get
the partner to change and do what he or she wants instead. The goal
is very desirable, but the method creates the opposite of what
As methods for getting one's needs met, blame
and criticism do not work, and are destructive of the relationship,
since the one being blamed or criticized will be likely to:
become compliant, which will create resentment and
later conflict, or become passively withdrawn, which creates a new
problem of loss of closeness in the relationship,
fight back, which escalates the conflict to a higher
level of intensity, or
leave outright, either physically or through emotional
distance, which tends to create enmity and bitterness and will destroy
Blame can be thought of as an attack on a person,
as in saying, "You're stupid," "You're really messed up," or "You're
a loser." This attacks the person's being.
Criticism can be thought of as an attack on a person's behavior, rather than the person as such, as in "You shouldn't have said that," or "You
never do anything right." Both blame and criticism give negative
results when a close and loving and cooperative relationship is
The next newsletter will include my essay on "Is Love Real?"
(c) 2002 Benjamin B. Conley
Benjamin B. Conley is a pastoral psychotherapist,
author and speaker. To subscribe to this FREE "Spiritual Connection
newsletter," visit http://www.anthospublishing.com
3. My New Year's Gift to You All
At no cost to you, because you are a subscriber
to this newsletter, you may download one free copy of my book, Success
in Marriage, until January
I use Success in Marriage as a text/workbook
for the four hour preparation for marriage workshops I conduct several
times a year. An exercise in the back of the book is filled in by
the participants with their personal information to explore how
their life experiences have colored the way they relate to their
partner in the present.
If you would like a copy, just click on www.AnthosPublishing.com,
and then click on the Free e-Book
button. Follow instructions on the next page. Your name and
email will be confirmed against our subscriber database so you can
download Success in Marriage as a PDF file that you can read
on screen or print out on your printer.
If you have a friend who might like a copy of Success
in Marriage, please ask him or her to subscribe to my newsletter
by going to the website at http://www.AnthosPublishing.com
and subscribe there. I will put the name and email in our database,
and send a copy of this newsletter, explaining how to download a
Even better, I will send a free printed copy
of Success in Marriage with each copy of The Spiritual
Connection: Values, Faith, and Psychotherapy that you order
at the regular price of $29.95, with both books mailed with free
shipping: a $45 value for $29.95.
If you think Success in Marriage would be
useful in your work with couples and would like to purchase multiple
copies, please email me for a discounted price for the number of
copies you need. Or, after January 30, your clients can download
the e-Book per copy at http://www.anthospublishing.com/books/successinmarriage/#
for $4.95 per copy.
4. Books are available with free shipping at
Anthos Publishing has made all of Benjamin Conley's
books available at www.anthospublishing.com.
They are available in softcover shipped
by media mail, or as E-books, that can be downloaded
to your computer at half the price.
The books you will find there are
THE SPIRITUAL CONNECTION: Values, Faith, and Psychotherapy, Taking
the Fear Out of Being Close, Making Relationships Work, Success
in Marriage, The Meaning of Love, and Affirming Feelings.
You can read the table of contents for each book
to see more clearly what it is about. You can also
read an excerpt from each book so you will know what
it is like before ordering. Be sure to check it out.
If you received this free newsletter from a friend,
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And that's all for this time. Thanks for reading.
Please feel free to forward this letter to a friend or colleague.
Wishing you inner contentment,
Benjamin B. Conley
Accepting life as it is, nurturing the positive,
and limiting the negative.
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