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You will have no regrets.

The well-known psychologist Abraham Maslow spent his entire professional career seeking the answer to what people live for. From the results of his studies, he concluded that people live for survival, security, personal relationships, prestige, and self- development. How uninspiring.

Through the years, I have asked the question: What are the values that men and women use to guide themselves into their intimate personal long-term relationships? Much to my dismay, Maslow's conventional wisdom is correct.

Men and women construct ideal images within their total self that steer them into their relationships. Carl Jung believed that these unconscious images were by and large constructed from repressed thoughts. In men, these were the feminine characteristics that society disapproved of men developing. In women, these were the masculine characteristics that society disapproved of women developing. I believe Jung's approach is an interesting theory, but the actual cognitive activity explaining our development of personal projections remains mysterious. Many researchers have weighed in on this notion, none being the definitive authority in this matter. Regardless of the mental mechanism that forms projections, all of us are positively or negatively excited when we see something in another person that is a projection residing in our unconscious mind.

It's interesting to hear ill men and women describe the character of their spousal relationships. Almost everyone recalls their parent’s relationship in reference to their own personal marriage. It seems that every one of them references a mother and a father; that is where the common aspects of their personal maturation ends. The rest of their individual imagery, related to their idea of spouse, is peculiar only to them. It's a function of their biography: layers and layers of personal experiences with their immediate and extended family, friends, enemies, classmates, work associates, professional service providers, law officers, teachers, celebrities, and perhaps, criminals. Each individual creates an ideal mate and projects that image onto another person who has some kind of magnetic attraction to them.

Our lives are filled with bumping into other people and nature's subtle energies in all walks of life. We bounce our projections off hundreds and hundreds of people in a lifetime, only to choose to root intimacy in relationships that initially carry our personal fantasies as well. Someone looks like they might fulfill our dream.

Most often, we have unrealistic expectations of the other person, but our beliefs emanate from our unconsciousness, we have no control over them. It doesn't take long to experience conflict, especially if some sort of monogamous commitment is made. Time reveals all wounds. There is one common undeniable fact when someone creates an ideal image under Maslow's value schedule and enters into intimacy with that person: the relationship will be filled with disillusionment. Something about her eyes, or her low cut dress revealing her large breast size, attracted the man's projections. Something about his square jaw, or his low cut pants revealing his chiseled abdominal muscles, attracted the woman's projections. Once the imperfections of the real person are realized, and compared to the expectations, the challenge is set. Reality always peeks through.

Patients recite excellent biographies of their illnesses along with precise chronologies of their disillusionments. To most patients, these two life stories are unrelated. A closer look normally shows a direct correlation between the increases in symptomology from their illness, and disillusionment from relationship conflict. I have witnessed time and time again that each significantly ill person who is involved in a contentious tension filled relationship stays fixed to their fantasy-filled projections. They overtly deny reality. These patients convince themselves that their decisions to stay with their toxic spouse are about survival and security in their time of need, despite the lack of emotional support. With their fingernails deeply dug into the cliff, they hang on to their projections. Perfection is inhuman.

Women who associate domestic survival, security, and prestige with monogamy seek wealthy men to provide them their dream. They also see their spouse as someone who is willing to support their path of personal development, separate from their relationship. Wealthy men seek to purchase a beautiful wife, regardless of her intentions. An attractive wife is often thought to be a beautiful oven in which to bake a child. And his projections of submissiveness and dependency create an illusion of domestic imprisonment. Never mind that neither of the two like each other. In the long run, this absurd but common inauthentic connection is disastrous.

Women, who are profoundly ill, while feeling trapped in a dysfunctional monogamous relationship, discount the impacts of the emotional roller coaster on their physical and mental stability. Men deny their illnesses, and demand that they "suck it up" and "move on." Even more disturbing, some men believe that if their wife would just give birth to their child, all would be reset, a new start for both of them, a miraculous healing. Much more bizarre, some women, desperate to hang on, actually try to follow their husband's demands since they are naive to the impacts of childbirth and child rearing on their overall health. It's a bad scene.

In most of these cases, each member of the marriage entered matrimony with a set of fixed projections that were absolutely unrealistic. Illness befalls all of us, regardless of our healthy intentions and plans for our future. We are all vulnerable to our projections, even more vulnerable when we deny reality. When illness befalls us, it signals our fragility, we feel our mortality. If anyone is ill and involved in a compassionless relationship, the truth will peek through. The constant recurrent disillusionment will accelerate the progression of the disease. The illness's chokehold will tighten, recovery will evade them, and their mood and motivation will go deep into the darkness. The only way healing will return is for the compassionless relationship to end, one way, or another.

It's human to project one's personal fantasies onto all of our relationships. Unfortunately, we seldom bump into a recipient of our projections that can actually manifest our ideal image. The healthiest way to enjoy life's experiences is to release ourselves from casting projections on others, and shed all of those projections that have been cast on us. If you're ill and in a relationship with someone who denies your illness, get some distance between you. If that's not possible, find a way to experience some compassion for the other person, embrace your situation, even if all of it stinks. You may not get any better, but you may not get any worse.

I suggest all of us see other people and ourselves in terms of true authenticity. Try to keep your projections to a minimum, or at least recognize you have them. Experience reality just as it is. You will have no regrets. Ever.


Posted by Katie Reed at 2:12 PM
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