Human Relationships

Transformation is always a challenging process for us to contemplate and embrace, for the psyche tends to revert to its most stable forms, the familiar older ones that have been tied in the crucible of time. New forms are dangerous and unstable, leading to a loss of identity and an onslaught of strong emotions, and we become susceptible to the will of another who may feel threatened. To relate to deeper levels of awareness, one would have to take responsibility for new areas of their psyche, where they might harbour resentment and negative thoughts, feeling anxious and out of control.

Relationship transformation can only begin when we acknowledge our projections, distorting them and our own realities.

We can only know fragments of the truth about ourselves and others and deny their spiritual essence through these projections. Our personal consciousness is a reservoir of disowned contents and processes, which can be experienced as separate parts in normal space and time. These psychic contents, “Archetypes”, are spontaneous organising structures of the impersonal layers of the collective or objective consciousness. Archetypal processes create a “third ” area between people in a relationship, where projections can be separated from the transformation working in the “intermediate realm.”

To understand the transformative potential of the “third area,” we can turn towards alchemy and symbolism to grasp the nature of the unconscious. The belief in a fundamental unity is based on an essence that connects the quality of opposites, mind and body, love and hate, etc. A kind of illumination is normally needed to “SEE” the opposites, discovering order out of chaos. The union of opposites operates in a medium, a subtle body, a substance grosser than ordinary matter and less spirited or finer than spirit; it is between the two and comprised of both. The subtle body lives between the spirit and matter, where imaginal insight is activated as “oneness” and is processed.

The culmination of objectivity and subjectivity, the awareness of the mystery of chaos, derived from experiences of ritual initiations, such as in puberty or religion. The initiate experiences a new reality and emotional realm, serving new-found ideals and undergoes a quantitative change. One has to experience the darker emotions of terror and dread, creating confusion and anxiety, to initiate the quest for change. The experience of terror is likened to “Death”, creating chaotic states and entry into the numinosum. The prima material enters into turmoil and upheaval as the spiritual essence awakens. The clash between progressive and regressive forces dissolves old structures and organisations from infantile to adult maturity.

Human madness, a component of the human being, is linked to the vicissitudes of the primordial eros, which is in constant conflict with one`s destructive instincts and impulses. When eros prevails, it becomes passion and love; when inhibited, it becomes bound in neurosis and psychosis. When denial, idealisation and the mind/body split fail, the psychotic parts intrude into the fragile conscious personality, oscillating between opposites and intense emotions. The psychotic areas are extremely stressful, struggling to create some form of continuity and stability. Fusion and separation of opposites can occur with extreme rapidity in the psychosis, creating panic and confusion. The opposites behave as anti-worlds, where cognition can lead to awareness of each other and destroy previous perceptions. The opposites are felt as a split, with each vying for attention, a void where energies are dulled and consciousness is difficult to maintain. When the opposites are apprehended and integrated, a new union field can be experienced; a coniuntio is contained and processed.

Within the psychosis, the individual may attempt to salvage old structures and beliefs to avoid the dark bondage of the abyss and experience the intrusion of guilt, shame and abandonment. If the psychosis can be contained and exposed, one may be able to trust the other and form new relational dynamics. The fusion of power and impotence controls the individual`s fragile yet steely structure as the bonded opposing forces and qualities are confronted, creating confusion and disorientation. Unable and unwilling to separate, this element of madness will forever conflict, disconnected and disassociated. Only when ego-consciousness enters into the unknown and uncertain madness can one tend and heal the destructive behaviours. One can regain control and loosen one`s distorted beliefs and delusions to be transformed.

The interactive Field

The third area, the interactive field, is the transference dyad where one has worked through the process of reflection, acknowledged their issues, have been enlivened by phenomena and the presence of divinity. A “sacred Marriage ” of transcendence, where the opposites have been separated, dissolved and integrated into a new realm. Within the conuintio, the two parties can feel a current inherent within the field, in which they feel alternatively pulled towards, then separated, from the other person. As we enter the field, we become aware of an imaginal world where we surrender the ego`s control over to a higher presence but not fusing with the present. The “third area” transformation may be a blessing or a curse. The field is dominated by broken links, intense affect and dark opposites, difficult to focus and contain, where we may lose any sense of connection and reality. The field dissolves the rigid structure, allowing new energy to create new meanings and options for transformation. As the defences within the field diminish, the client can make emotional contact and grow in empathy and consciousness.

Avoidance of the Nigredo

The experience of the conuintio can lead to the creation of a kinship libido beyond the normal transference of illusions. The client may be freed from torment and left with unresolved energies, unable to feel the true pain and conflict within a compromised relationship. The resulting nigredo, the death and purification following the union state, can lead to confusion, distress and emptiness. The nigredo will lead to the death of old structures and the terrifying effects of psychotic parts. People sensitive to feelings of abandonment or betrayal will resist the nigredo and try and maintain false unions. As we deal with psychotic parts and fragmentation, we are dealing with chaos, devoid of meaning and emotional deadness, difficult to acknowledge, contain and assimilate.

Working through somatic intelligence is concerned with the working of the soul, the energy and life within the space of the relationship, and how we experience the energy. In the energy field, new perspectives emerge which can be examined, illustrated and integrated. The active state can establish new structures and foundations with the new constellated energy. The psychic unconscious provides us with imagery and the process of mental integration, whilst the body, the somatic unconscious, is experienced as discomfort, tensions, arousal and feeling of embodiment.

Seeing with a larger vision of the self, we can see through the ego, an imaginal insight beyond the scientific concrete perspective of the ego. The alchemical process works simultaneously with the opposites in the middle realm, the subtle body or the interactive field. This process does not seek social or economic adaptation, ego strengthening or sexual relationships; it is the quest for the soul and the culmination of a sacred union. We must give up everything we know and believe in embarking on this journey, where the old personality is dissolved, and we have enough courage and willpower to survive the chaotic state. The soul experiences a level of numinosity as it endeavours to incarnate into space and time, creating chaos as one shifts from lower to higher consciousness. As the soul travels its path, it encounters early trauma, where madness lurks and anxiety, panic and fear reign.

The descent into matter and embodied life can bring on a flood of unconscious material characterised by dangerous and dissolving states. The experience of two opposing serpent heads, with conflicting messages and intensity. Can we stand and fight the engrossing terror whilst still having the humility of being overwhelmed and accepting our fear? A place where partial truth can become possible, where a paranoid rigidity can pass, as we embrace the ordeal to fight our inner demons.

The ego cannot contain opposites; this presence stems from the self, where the split opposites struggle for a vision amidst dissonant fields.

The person one sees when the psychotic part is enlivened always wears a mask, as they can’t see beyond the duality unless they can see beyond the psychotic part. Such psychotic behaviours may take the form of intrusion or withdrawal, where one believes they are sane and just, serving a higher purpose. The psychotic part creates a Dionysian strangeness, full of mystery and danger when encountered and acknowledged; one is asked to rebuild the psyche. Dionysis is the split of the gods, death, emptiness, and life and fullness. When the opposites are held together, distance gives way to closeness and emptiness to fullness.

As we approach the chthonic life, it threatens the masculine solar world, diminishing as we enter into our bodily depths. Only lunar feminine consciousness, the imaginal light, will suffice to see in the dark, where consciousness comes from the heart. At a chthonic level, experienced as a strong erotic field is normally ignored by the mind /body split. A state of fusion or sexual intrusion may trigger these erotic elements, where one may descend into an empty void. With the split, the body may give a different message to the mind, creating confusion and disharmony, generating anxiety and distress. The split message will each try to be the whole story, creating anti-worlds and a double-bind where one cannot choose or win. Confronted with two impossible choices, unable to integrate and unite them, one must leave the battlefield to protect their soul.

Dark Side of the Conunitio

The fusion of the conunitio can be very dangerous and terrifying, as the shadow side is confronted and integrated. Death, the nigredo, and the blackening of the psyche follow the union state. The prima materia is refined into the embodied self. If the opposites do not combine as they must be resisted with rage, incest taboo or withdrawal, a bizarre state that denies meaning and concretisation of affects is manifest. The denial of eros is an act of self-mutilation, as suffering is denied, and the death-rebirth cycles are stopped in their tracks. Any acts of confrontation and inquiry will develop anxiety, which implies leaving the world of fantasy and possibility.

Ego desire is the most dominant element to impede the purification within the conunitio, which puts consciousness to sleep and seduces all faculties to merge with the objects. The slaying of the dragon and the transformation of the impulse with the integration of opposites must endure the dreaded shadow and separation of the fusion states.

  • Narcissism – Fusion is maintained by controlling the object, and separation is maintained by arc defences and introjection, which wards off all affective involvement.
  • Borderline – the distance dilemma is resolved in radical shifts towards fusing with the object, sensing terror and loss of identity, and recoiling into a distant, withdrawn state. The object now carries the projection of dread and extreme danger.

When the defences fail, psychotic ones emerge, where one can no longer negotiate fusion drives, unable to stay fused or separate. The conuintio leads to the release of high-order energy into the conscious personality and the creation of disorder, which can break down rigid defences. The overwhelming intrusion of emotions means one can no longer stay fused, but so is separation, which generates mad areas of the psyche and leads to seld murder and castration. Spiritual illumination can yield a constancy of purpose, a soul with faith in the process and goal even amidst the darkest nights. The self has started to gain an interpretation of its sexual and aggressive nature, brought to bear via imaginal sight. To stabilise the internal structure’s change requires the death of the union, embracing the nigredo and creating an enduring form. We learn to endure the interactive field, the field dynamics, affective states and relationships and the transformation itself.

The new structure can recover from attacks of abandonment, anxiety, panic and fear experienced as psychic death. The resurrected self contains a mystical element, a transcendental emotional intensity of passion and relationship, thriving upon wisdom and insight.

Schwartz- Salant, N. (1998) The Mystery of Human Relationship: Alchemy and the Transformation of the Self, Routledge; 1st edition