Issue 102 –
Where Has Love Gone: Part 7
Personal and Impersonal Energy: A Bonding Natural
Hal & Sidra Stone
The way that people use personal and impersonal energy is a major contributor to bonding patterns in relationship. We have spoken a bit about this, but now we wish to add further to your knowledge of these particular energy patterns.
Let us, first of all, define what we mean by these terms.
Personal energy refers to a way of being with people that is related, friendly, and warm. Most important, the recipient of personal energy generally experiences a true contact with the other person. When we use personal energy, people feel received by us; they feel personally acknowledged.
Impersonal energy, on the other hand, is objective. It is focused more on ideas than personality. It is less concerned with whether or not a person is being received. With personal energy, we tend to move out toward the other person. With impersonal energy, we hold back more; we are more contained. Impersonal energy might be described as more objectively based and certainly having less to do with feelings.
These two contrasting energies create a bonding field day in relationships. Let us see how this might look.
Maurice and Beth Ann are married. In addition to being very much in love with each other, they are also very different from one another. Maurice is a high school teacher in the physical sciences. Beth Ann is an elementary school teacher. Her friends would describe her as warm, loving, caring, and always available for personal contact. Maurice is not at all personal, does not express his feelings easily, and many of their friends would call him aloof.
In the intimacy of their bedroom, Maurice is able to let down and show his more feeling and vulnerable sides to Beth Ann. She is able to bring her more impersonal energy to the work situation in planning her time and taking care of the necessary details, but that is the only place her impersonal energies are available.
One Sunday morning Beth Ann receives a call from a friend who is very upset and in need of help. Being the warm person that she is, her first reaction is to invite her friend over to talk, which she does. This happens quite spontaneously, and as soon as she hangs up the phone, she has a funny feeling. She has not talked to Maurice about it, and she feels guilty because she knows that Maurice likes his privacy, especially on a Sunday.
At this moment she enters into a full blown guilty daughter attack. Such a pattern is guaranteed to bring out the punitive father in the man. She thinks of going to her friend’s house. She thinks of cancelling. Within seconds she is totally frazzled, in a full daughter bonding to the withdrawn/impersonal father in Maurice.
Interestingly enough, all this is going on inside of Beth Ann. However, Maurice is a part of the bonding pattern, too, even though he knows nothing about what is going on in this particular situation. They have danced this energetic dance many times before.
Let us examine this bonding pattern from Beth Ann’s perspective. In her family upbringing, the modeling that she experienced was all personal. The family environment was very loving and caring; few limitations were ever set. Her mother was almost saint-like in her willingness to help people, and her father was passive and accepting. She had two brothers, the older one of whom was quite withdrawn, a bit of a recluse.
Beth Ann was the center of the family, the real star. The problem was that she had no experience with impersonal energy. She had no ability to separate herself from the feelings and requirements of another human being, one of the gifts of impersonal energy. She blended with people totally when she was with them, and their feelings and problems and lives became her feelings and problems and lives.
The problem was not that she said yes to her friend that Sunday morning. The problem was that it was not she who said yes! Her primary selves said yes, and since she was identified with her primary selves, there was no self on the other side that could bring a balance into her life.
Of course, Beth Ann married her disowned self; we all do. What is necessary is that we appreciate why this has happened. We must learn to recognize what it is that we have disowned, so that we can begin the job of embracing that energy and making it a part of our reality. Otherwise our partner remains forever stuck with our projections.
When Maurice finds out what Beth Ann has done, he is very angry. He is not used to showing his anger, and so he withdraws into his favorite place, his impersonal self. Impersonal energy does not have to be experienced as withdrawn. It can be used in a way that is simply an objective, straightforward way of being. However it is seen in relationships in its withdrawn form with remarkable frequency.
Men are particularly expert at this kind of withdrawal, and if a woman has no connection to her own impersonal energy, she is repeatedly forced into a pleasing and guilty daughter.
For many men, the identification with the impersonal and withdrawn father is an amazingly effective way to punish naughty wives and turn them into victim daughters. It is also a beautiful way to keep a man away from the reality of his own vulnerability.
Beth Ann was in a full daughter identification when she told Maurice about the call, so it would be natural that he would hook right into the father side.
From Maurice’s perspective, it is clear that his primary selves are more impersonal and rational. He has disowned the feeling and more intimate selves that are carried by his wife. In his family upbringing, feelings were not safe to express. His control side emerged as a primary self when he was very young, as a way of protecting his vulnerability from a disturbed family environment.
To fulfill himself, and the relationship, Maurice must separate his awareness from his primary self and begin to embrace the selves on the other side. Otherwise, Beth Ann must forever carry these parts for him. At yet a deeper level there lies his vulnerability. When he discovers what Beth Ann has done, his inner child feels hurt and abandoned.
From the standpoint of the child, the most insignificant appearing incident is experienced as total betrayal, as abandonment. If we are not aware of this, we can see what chaos this unconscious vulnerability can play with our lives.
We can see in this example the remarkable opportunity that relationship gives to us. The very things that exist between couples that cause disturbances and upset and trauma, when looked at from a different vantage point, bring with them the possibility of redemption.
Maurice says to Beth Ann: “I can’t stand it when you are so weak and when you can’t ever say no!” Yet her very inability to set limits, the way she blends, her compassion and feeling, all of these selves are begging for redemption in him. He has not been able to reach them in his personal life before the marriage. Now he has his chance to heal himself, if he can but step back and see Beth Ann as the teacher that she is for him.
Relationship as teacher! That is the key over and over again.
It is not enough for Beth Ann to keep falling into the daughter role with Maurice. He is her teacher and when she recognizes this, then she can say to herself: “There is something in Maurice that is missing from me. I must discover in myself the ability to step back as he does, to be less personally involved, as he is. Then I will have more choice in my life as to whether I say yes or no to a friend.”
One of the things that makes this more difficult to appreciate is the fact that the redemptive energy is seen in its more negative form. Beth Ann’s feeling side tells her that she must not be cold and impersonal like Maurice. Unless she understands that the impersonal energy is channeling through the withdrawn father, she will have a difficult time staking her claim to this impersonal energy. We each need an understanding of bonding patterns to be able to appreciate the quality in the other person that is causing the problem for us.
The ability to embrace in ourselves the opposites that are carried by our partners and friends shifts relationship dramatically. There is much less stress, more conscious time with one another, and the development of a much more profound intimacy.
The work we do to understand this amazing process of bonding is well rewarded. It can heal old wounds. Relationship itself changes dramatically because there is the excitement of joint exploration that brings an added dimension to the interaction.
There is plenty of misery in the world of personal relationship, and particularly primary relationships. It seems clear from our experience, however, that a lot of the misery can be cleared away if people are willing to do the ongoing work necessary to develop consciousness in relationship. It doesn’t happen automatically.