the journey home

The Journey to Home

All relationships begin, and end, in separation.

From the very beginning, within the safe and protected confines of our mother’s womb, we are connected to the pulse and rhythm of another. And then we are torn from the mother, separated from the cosmos, separated from a blissful state of universal connection, separated forever. And we close all the relationships of our lives through the separation that we call death. That morbid awareness is even presented in the marital ceremony, reminding every couple who are just then searing eternal devotion that, inevitably, they are also committing themselves to loss.

All too soon, one of them will leave the other, and I am not referring to divorce. According to recent statistics, the man will die approximately seven years before the woman. Or, by chance, she may go first. One way or another, both will suffer the loss of relationship. If both go down in a fatal plane crash, one could say that they were together, but still, in the end each loses the other, suffers the loss of relationship, or at least that most felt expression of it – the caring, attentive presence of one to the other.

Perhaps even more significantly, they will have spent their lives in the context of a deeper, more subtly lost relationship. They will have spent the majority of their journey in life suffering the loss of relationship with their own best selves. We live our lives estranged – from others, from the transcendent, and worst of all, from ourselves. On some level, we all know this. We know that we are often our worst enemies. We never stop seeking to reconnect, to find that home again, and in the end we simply leave it in a different way. Maybe there is no home to which we can return. We can’t return to the womb, although some try, and there are many who are not confident of a future heavenly home. So we live, always homeless, whether we know it or not.

In the past 35 years, as a psychologist and Jungian analyst, I have witnessed legions of narratives, listening to a vast range of life problems, conflicts, traumas in every domain of human existence. The greatest number of issues that individuals bring to their work address the matter of relationships. Is this a sign of its importance? Surely. Is this a sign of how overrated relationship is? Perhaps. Is there something happening beneath the surface that requires the reframing of such frequent, often urgent questions, something that puts them into a larger context? Yes, definitely.

Much of my work with individuals and couples in intended to provoke thought on a deep level and to serve to temper the generalized fantasies about relationships that circulate throughout our culture. While I do my best to help individuals and couples manage the varied conflicts that must emerge in the course of their life together, I strive to evoke deeper reflection on the nature of relationship, to provide a challenge to an enlarged responsibility in relationships, and to inspire a desire for personal growth as opposed to the fantasy of “rescue” through others.

If there is a single idea which permeates my work with individuals and couples it is that the quality of all of our relationships is a direct function of our relationship to ourselves. Since much of our relationship to ourselves functions at an unconscious level, most of the drama of our relationships to others is a function of our own personal habits and values. The best thing we can do for our relationships with others, then, is to render our relationship to ourselves more conscious.

This is not a narcissistic endeavor. In fact, it will prove to be the most loving thing we can do for our partner. The greatest gift to others is our best, most developed, selves. So, paradoxically, if we are to serve relationship well, we are obliged to affirm our individual journey.