The Myth of the Edenic Relationship
Photo Credit: Photo by Andrei Lazarev on Unsplash
All relationships begin in projection. This is true of ALL relationships. We all seek that which validates our life script. No relationship is coincidental and every relationship serves a purpose for the unconscious wounds that one carries. We all secretly covet a rescuing by the other in all our relationships – whether with parents, sibling, friend, spouse, lover, work, institution, community or God. The connections that we seek outside are the connections that we yearn to access within us.
One of the greatest myths of our time is that of the Magical Other – the notion that there is that one person, one job, one soul-mate, one god who will save us from the ravages of childhood, read our minds, meet all our needs, and protect us from pain and suffering. We live a lifetime of searching for this Magical Other who will parent our wounds and spare us the agony of standing face to face with ourselves as we mature. Sadly, popular culture (movies, books, music, etc.) reinforces the message of the perpetual search for Magical Other, of losing the other, and of starting all over again. Naturally, the search for the Magical Other is hardwired into our minds from the first breath we take in the earlier experiences and connections with the primary caregivers.
So what is this obsessive fascination with the other all about? Simply, it is the process of being caught in a perpetual cycle of projection. Our attachment to the notion of the completing other is an unconscious projective identification with the innate desire to recover the lost paradise of childhood, and the original participation mystique with the primary caregivers. What we “see” and “love” in the other is some aspect of ourselves; what we “fall in love with” in the other is none other than an aspect of ourselves that is reflected back to us from the other. Those we connect with the most and establish as the completing other usually embody the capacity to engage in us the unconscious images of the self and the other as these play in the ideal life script that we had once conjured. What we see in the other is merely a re-cognition or a re-knowing of what we once knew and forgot, repressed, denied, or dissociated from. The health and hope of any intimate relationship will depend on each party’s willingness to assume responsibility for his/her unconscious material. In reality, nothing can be more difficult! The chief burden on any relationship derives from our unwillingness to assume responsibility for the baggage that we carry and from the immensity of this responsibility! It takes great courage to ask the fundamental question: “What am I asking of my partner that I ought to be doing for myself?” If I am expecting my partner to be the good parent and take care of me, then I have not grown up. If I am expecting my partner to spare me the effort of living my own journey, then I have abdicated from the most worthy reason for my existence! Of every projection we must ask, “What does this say about me?” What we are asking of the other, we are obliged to hold ourselves accountable to.
As we come to the realization that our symbolic mother of primal complexes – the charged energy within us which longs for security, nurturing and suckling on the marrow of life – is dead, and once we recognize that any relationship Garden of Eden grounds is untenable, we arrive at the blissful state of free-flowing being. It takes tremendous courage to relieve our partners of the Eden expectation and to share with them the gift of the best version of ourselves we can be. When we live true to our own personal journey, we free the other to his/her own tasks in life. Such is the heroic love of courage, of honoring the other, and of growth in relationship. This love is transformative rather than regressive, and when attained, the journey of relationship to the other takes on serious depth and substance. When we relinquish our projections and our never-ending search for happiness through the other, we are free to love. And when we are free to love, we are present to the magic embodied by the other, for the other, and not as the magic that is projected back to us. Without this free form of love, we remain trapped in the prisons of our childhood complexes and can only live in the shallow surfaces of life.
Releasing our fears of losing the other and relinquishing our quest for the search of happiness in relationship is to step into the symbolic life with the other, “ To abandon the ‘going home’ plan is to open up to the mystery of the encounter with the other and to free the relationship for its highest service to us. For those of us who are fortunate to experience disinterested, purposeless love, relationship will be transformative. Even with the loss and conflict that come with it, relationship will be rich and deep. In such a relationship, we are able to bless those who have hurt us the most, for with this hurting, they have contributed to our enlargement and transformation. We may even love them and love their otherness, even as we struggle to walk the path of our journey, wholly and authentically.