In discussion of Chapter 7, I ended last week on the notion of safety between conscious partners. The authors state: “Safety is the necessary and sufficient condition, the sine qua non, of a conscious partnership.”(p.157) “The Space-Between is the environment in which a conscious partnership is created and real love is born. It must be toxin-free and generously nurtured if its inhabitants are to not just survive, but thrive.” (p.157)
How is that safety achieved?
Safety is achieved and maintained by 3 practices:
- The Safe Conversation Process
- The Zero Negativity Process
- The Affirmations Process
They will devote a chapter to each of these three later but touch on them here.
Conscious Partners in the Safe Conversation Process
Conscious Partners Practice the Safe Conversation Process
The Safe Conversation process is “the singular therapeutic process used in Imago therapy … the core structure is three sequential steps: mirroring, validating, and empathizing.”(p.158)
“We will make the case that monologue, not dialogue, is the language of unconscious relationships, which includes intimate relationships and most other relationships on the planet and has been the dominant form of communication for all of human history. Monologue is vertical and parallel; it demotes the other, making them unequal to the speaker and, therefore, unsafe in the relationship by triggering anxiety – the source of all our symptoms. For that reason, throughout human history talking has been among the most dangerous things human beings do and listening their most infrequent activity.
In Imago Dialogue, the unconscious power dynamic is inherently shifted. One person is talking without criticism, and the other person is listening without judgment, and both are connecting around and beyond their differences. … Because it is lateral and consists of taking turns without competing for the stage, it creates equality and therefore a safe environment in which couples can talk without fear about anything that they are experiencing, from challenges to joys. We call it the language of the Space Between.” (pp.157-158)
Conscious Partners Practice Zero Negativity
“Conscious couples get it that Zero Negativity is essential for reliable safety because they know that negativity is to an intimate relationship what cancer is to the human body, and that negativity is much more common than cancer.”(p.160) “To remove the toxin of negativity from their relationship, conscious couples take a Zero Negativity pledge by which they commit to do their best to adhere to the mindset, attitudes, habits and behavioral exchanges that establish relationship safety”. (p.162)
If either partner experiences negativity they “use whatever tools are required to quickly and effectively restore connecting in their relationship when they are anxious or otherwise experiencing difficult emotions.”(p.163) “A sign of a conscious and thriving relationship is how quickly couples can restore connecting.” (p.164)
The Affirmations Process
Conscious Partners Practice the Affirmations Process
What the authors discovered in their own relationship but also in working with couples, was that removing negativity wasn’t enough. The brain experienced a kind of vacuum which tended to cause anxiety and the temptation to reengage in the familiar negative behaviors.
The solution was “to fill that void with a behavior that would make our brains feel safe. In other words, provide our brains with a new behavior that would serve as a new defense. So, rather than a negative behavior, we used one that was positive and affirming. … We experimented with implementing a set of positive behaviors that we later called the Affirmations Process.” (p.165)
What Conscious Partners Know & Do
The rest of the chapter is devoted to What Conscious Partners Know and What Conscious Partners Do. For example,
Conscious Partners know:
“Safety is nonnegotiable for thriving in their relationship.
They are different from each other and will never be the same. Similarity is as good as it gets.
They need to remove all forms of negativity that show up in the Space-Between; instead of picking a fight and using negativity to get what they want, they ask their partner for a Dialogue.” (p. 168)
And Conscious Partners do:
“Reconnect quickly when there is a rupture by saying, “What can I do to restore connecting?” And they do it immediately.
Close all exits and make their partnership their top priority.
Express joyfulness, full aliveness, and wonder by playing and laughing a lot.” (p.170)
These are clues for us brought up in a more individualistic culture, of what a conscious partnership looks like in practice.
They end the chapter with: “Some of the shifts that come out of the transformation to conscious partnership are more tangible and practical. We frequently notice that conscious partners appear to be healthier, both physically and mentally: they eat better, exercise more, go to the doctor less, and tend to be proactive action-oriented people. Having experienced what it’s like to be liberated from a self-imposed prison – which is exactly what the power struggle is – many couples find themselves drawn toward improving others aspects of the world, beyond their partnership.” (p.173)
Ultimately conscious partnerships contribute to the emergence of a relational civilization. In Chapter 8 they go on to examine the developmental challenges to creating such a conscious partnership.