to meet with Benjamin Conley at his office, 1881 NE 26th Street, Suite 221, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33305
Or talk to him in person by calling: (954) 727-9713
4304, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33338-4304
|Books about positive values, spirituality, and counseling
Thank you for taking the time to look more deeply into this book.
You will find it addresses the basic values that cut across all
the lines dividing cultures, religions, and schools of psychotherapy.
As such, the discussion on faith based on fundamental values follows
naturally in the middle section of the book. The challenge to you
is to identify your fundamental values and the ways in which they
define your connections to others.
(Chapter I from THE SPIRITUAL CONNECTION: Values, Faith, and Psychotherapy)
by Benjamin B. Conley, M.Div., LMFT
CHAPTER I: THREE PSYCHOLOGICAL FUNDAMENTALS
Natalie's story is a success story. She used psychotherapy to reorganize
her life from top to bottom, reviewing and modifying learnings developed
in her first thirty years of life. When she first came to therapy
she was having difficulty with her marriage.
The Struggle to Become Lovable
First she grappled with her anger, pain, and fear at having been
reared by a mother who was so emotionally hungry that she did not
have much love to give her children. Instead, her mother was preoccupied
with what Natalie and her brother would do for her.
Naturally her mother was also very angry, since small children need
more than they can give, while her mother wanted it the other way
around. So Natalie learned she was not wanted and was a "bother,"
not worth much to her mother at all.
Her Discovery That She Was Always Lovable
Natalie's belief that she was not lovable was the first therapeutic
issue with which to deal. She learned that her mother's lack of
interest in her, her harsh criticisms, and sending her to boarding
school did not mean she was worthless as a person, but did mean
her mother didn't know how to love her unconditionally.
Her mother was preoccupied with her own internal pain and depression.
Natalie learned that her mother's treatment of her told much about
her mother and very little about herself. Natalie grieved a great
deal over not having received unconditional love from her mother.
Most important, Natalie learned that she is worthy of being loved,
that her mother's inability to be nurturing was not caused by her,
but was her mother's limitation.
She also learned that not everyone is as limited as her mother was,
that others have the capacity for nurturing, affection, and empathy.
This new understanding, arrived at with much struggle and pain,
created a new certainty that she was important just because she
existed as an individual person, the first psychological fundamental
assumption about which we are writing.
Natalie's father was no help because he was not there -- distant,
uninvolved in the family, spending most of his time at his job.
He and his wife did not know how to love and be close to each other,
and they were divorced by the time Natalie was ten years old.
When she was twenty two she married a man she hoped would take care
of her in ways her parents did not. She took several years to accept
that her husband would not respond to her attempts to have a loving
relationship, and they were finally divorced when she was thirty
The Struggle to Become Independent
As Natalie grieved about the lack of early nurturing from her mother
and father, she began to face her anger at the manipulative and
domineering qualities of her mother, which she also found in her
husband, Frank, and to some degree in herself.
Natalie had lived her life up to this time attempting to control
others by using the same methods her mother had used to manipulate
those around her. By trying to control others' reactions and behavior
she helped maintain some order in her life, some constancy.
But, since people cannot be controlled by others, Natalie lived
in a constant state of anxiety, lest others do the unplanned and
unexpected. This high anxiety was another reason she originally
came into therapy.
The Discovery She Does Control Herself
She had great difficulty reversing her field and integrating the
belief that she couldn't control others' thinking, feeling, and
behavior. As she gradually became more comfortable with that reality,
she gave up her goal of controlling others. She claimed, instead,
the ability to make her own decisions and control herself. She found
that she had been making her own decisions, even when she chose
to "give herself away" to others.
She gradually accepted others' right to make their own decisions
for themselves, even when they were different than decisions she
would have made.
This process affected and changed every aspect of her life, including
the way she managed herself physically. She improved her diet, made
exercise a regular part of her daily routine, and gradually came
to think of herself as more attractive.
Throughout the time she was integrating valuing herself into her
routine and applying her new understanding of autonomy, she practiced
relating to others without attempting to control them, learning
to appreciate them, instead.
She was successful in restructuring her life on this new basis of
freedom to choose, but was still subject to periods of intense anxiety
for other reasons. Natalie had established the principle of independence
for herself and others in most areas of her life, though she did
not always approve of what she or others did, thought or felt.
She had established the principle that she and every person is entitled
to make his or her own decisions, the second of the fundamental
psychological assumptions described here, but she was still "in
The Struggle to Choose Her Own Drummer
Her second long term relationship with a man did not include marriage,
expressing her avoidance of "commitment" that seemed necessary
at the time to keep her independence. But as she became clearer
about how to be close and independent at the same time, she wanted
more involvement in a relationship. She moved on to another man
whom she eventually married.
She was ready for more intimacy, realizing that she could find a
way to create closeness with another person who also valued separateness
and independence. She terminated therapy because of her success,
determined to put her knowledge to work in her marriage.
This new relationship was the occasion to deal with another set
of issues: how to enjoy differences and how to negotiate disagreements.
After a time, she came back to therapy to deal with those concerns.
While still integrating the first two principles into her life more
fully, she focused in therapy on how to have a close realtionship
while respecting the other person's differences and supporting the
Seen subjectively, the issue was the maintenance and enhancement
of her own self-esteem in contrast to her remaining apprehension
that she could not "measure up" to others' expectations.
Her fear was that when people, including her husband, found out
she was not perfect, she would be rejected and condemned as she
was by her mother and the teachers she had tolerated in her boarding
The process of learning how to accept others as they are (and herself,
as well) was especially difficult for Natalie, who had just been
getting used to having the right to manage her own life as a separate
| How to relate to all those other separate persons presented a
dilemma because of the newness of the pattern and fear that if she
did the new and different she would be rejected or attacked for
behaving in a new way.
The thousands of applications of the principle that she had the
right to live her life her own way and allow others the same privilege
took time to integrate into her life. In effect, she taught herself
what her parents did not know how to teach her, using her own resources,
including the ability to arrange for a consultant, in the form of
a therapist, to assist her in the process.
A Pyramid of Values
Using Natalie's story, we can view value assumptions about how
to live as having three "layers," like a pyramid made
of three sections, each one placed on top of the one below.
The most basic, foundation layer is composed of the three psychological
fundamentals. The next layer consists of four later developmental
learnings. The top, pointed layer is the fifteen other beliefs that
grow out of establishing the first two layers.
This chapter is about the bottom layer, the first three psychological
fundamentals, as illustrated in Natalie's therapeutic journey.
These three fundamental assumptions may be shared and affirmed by
most professional psychotherapists, in terms of their current thinking.
Although these three beliefs would be stated differently by different
writers, they also contain a common thread of similarity.
The Foundation of the Pyramid
The first of the three fundamentals is that every human being has
value, as a separate individual, simply because of his or her existence.
This belief forms an operational foundation on the basis of which
to live life, as well as to do therapy.
The second fundamental is that people make decisions for themselves,
and manage their own behavior, thoughts, and feelings by being in
control of their own bodies. This is less a belief and more a description
of the way people function, even when they choose to give away their
autonomy as a way to survive by being subservient to others.
The third fundamental is that people think and act on the basis
of their own best judgment, in their own way, using their own experience.
We pursue what we consider to be our best options at any given time.
These most basic assumptions might be thought of as the bedrock
of beliefs about people, the most basic of basics. They are the
assumptions that describe what we would consider to be the psychological
and emotional essentials in our approach to clients and each other.
This is why they form the foundation layer of our pyramid. We have
used them as a way to understand the process of therapy with Natalie.
We assume that these three principles are so basic to human nature
that they are not subject to change. They might be better stated
or the implications more clearly spelled out than they are here,
but they are, for purposes of this discussion, not subject to negotiation
When people do not agree about these three fundamentals, it is easy
to understand why there may be disagreement and conflict about other,
less basic matters. When conflict is caused by negation of these
fundamentals, the persons doing so engage in adverserial and self-defensive
Such behavior creates much individual anguish, as well as pain and
suffering in family, community, ethnic, national, and international
Let us examine these three fundamentals in more detail, even though
they may seem self evident.
1a) PEOPLE HAVE VALUE BECAUSE THEY EXIST
The first psychological fundamental is that we have value unconditionally,
because we exist, before we do anything, a central tenet of many
As one of my clients told me about the view of himself he developed
as a child, he called himself "garbage." He thought his
parents didn't want him, that they wished he had not been born,
and so he saw himself as having no more value than a piece of trash
or garbage to be discarded, except for the rules of society against
throwing children away.
As a result he viewed himself as a burden that made his parents'
lives miserable. His parents had not conveyed to him a sense of
his great value as an individual human being. He suffered great
unhappiness and had severe difficulty in creating a productive life,
since he devalued himself and everything he did.
We need to be "in positive contact" with other human beings,
physically and emotionally, through touching and other forms of
communication. This is the foundation of affirmation of the value
of one's existence.
Ultimately, each person needs to make this a self-affirmation by
soaking up the affirmation offered by others, starting with one's
caretakers at birth. Self-affirmation is also the foundation of
a spiritual connection that flows through the physical and emotional
experience of loving and being loved, validating a person's existence
in the world, and providing an internal sense of "belonging."
Sometimes the most common experiences illustrate a point most clearly.
For example, we have all experienced the sound of infants crying
with some kind of discontent. We have also watched as they (sometimes)
become magically quiet and content when picked up by the mother.
The reassurance that comes from contact with the mothering person
provides unconditional affirmation, essential emotional "food."
If we receive this relatively unconditional affirmation from others
as an infant and small child, we may incorporate a belief in our
own value essential for our emotional well being. If we do not receive
this affirmation that we have value just be virtue of existing,
we may find ourselves as adults complaining of "emptiness"
in our lives, a sense of "part of us missing," a fear
of abandonment, or a chronic "loneliness" that seems incurable.
Loneliness and a fear of abandonment was Natalie's dilemma when
she came into therapy, having had a narcissistic mother with little
capacity for empathy and nurturing. She tried to fill her deep loneliness
with a relationship with a man and with money, to replace the love
her mother couldn't give. Natalie finally gave up the struggle to
get her mother to be more loving and grieved about what her mother
didn't and couldn't give.
Her grieving left her open to and able to take in the affirmation
of others who were different from her mother, who did have love
to give. She could not convert her mother into someone more loving.
She could not go back and re live the past to make her mother love
her differently. But she could be in contact with people in the
present and future who have the capacity to love and to communicate
with love, acceptance, and affirmation.
We Need Others According to Our Growth
We never grow out of our need to be in communication with others,
to have other important people in our lives. We begin with the need
to be held and loved as an infant. Even after successfully taking
in unconditional affirmation from others, learning we have value
just because we exist, we still need to be in touch with others
who are important to us.
We need that nurturing from others as children, to help us deal
with later developmental tasks. But in addition, our positive contact
with others provides an essential nutrient for our emotional functioning.
This continuing need for contact is not only for the purpose of
reassuring ourselves about our value. It is for the purpose of sharing
what we consider to be of value in our own lives and hearing about
the same from others, a process of mutual enrichment and nurturing.
Such sharing with others provides the psychological and emotional
basis for personal security and for living in community with other
people. It represents our spiritual connection with others.
Sharing Opens the Way to Spirituality
Sharing with others validates a spiritual connection with them.
This connection begins with conception and the intimate relationship
with the mother in utero and continues with her and others the rest
of one's life. We can affirm this spiritual connectedness even though
we cannot quantify and define it.
Spirituality is more than our emotional response to what others
do or say. Spirituality has to do with the human connection we make
to others in the process of our thinking, feeling, and actions,
the connection of one's inner self with the inner self of the other.
In a totally precognitive way, the infant experiences the spiritual
connection through affirmation of his or her value. Later, the toddler
experiences it as affirmation of his or her autonomy. It is what
the older child experiences as affirmation of his or her creativity.
The spiritual dimension is inevitably present in the way we relate
to others at every emotional developmental level.
1b) INDIVIDUALS ARE SEPARATE FROM EACH OTHER
This first fundamental has a second part. The first part, already
discussed above, is the need to be valued without having to "earn"
that love. The second part is the need to be valued as an individual
person, separate from parents and others. I will illustrate this
principle of separation with the following example.
Rayna first came to my office because of difficulty with her in-laws.
There had been no problem for the first six years of marriage, because
her husband had no significant relationship with his mother and
father, and had established his own life on his own terms. After
the arrival of a child two years earlier, he made contact with his
parents and extended family (brothers, sisters, and their spouses
and children), and they began to visit on holidays.
The problem Rayna faced was the openly stated demand by her inlaws
that she should join with their position that "women are inferior
to men," that she should cater to the wishes of her mother-in-law,
that those who differ from them should be rejected, and that, in
general, in any relationship, one person is to be dominant and the
other submissive. They quoted the Bible as "The husband is
head of the wife."
This disallowance of differences between her and her in-laws was
unfamiliar to Rayna, and at the time of our first session, she was
confused and wondered if she were wrong. She wondered whether she
had the right to object to being told she should change her ways
and do as she was told by her in-laws. She gradually began to realize
that they were operating within a system that did not allow for
individual differences and the right of each person to enjoy being
separate from others.
The Process of Differentiation
The process of differentiation begins early in infancy as a child
first learns to tell one face from another, to know a parent from
a stranger. It continues with the brain development that, for example,
later allows the discovery that covering a toy with a cloth doesn't
make it disappear.
By seven or eight months of age, a child will make a dramatic discovery:
that when the mother leaves the room or the house, she really "goes
away" and is not still around to be called back at will. The
mother has really left the child, though another caretaker may be
there to care for his or her needs.
This realization is sometimes upsetting to the child, but is part
of learning that being separate is inevitable, and not really a
disaster. The mother does eventually return.
As we each learn to differentiate ourselves from others, we discover
that whatever exists outside our own skin is "not me."
We live only within our own body.
Application of this principle means that each person crawls, walks,
talks, and feels separately from others. When successful in learning
to value our separateness, we learn to enjoy it and to develop a
clear sense of the boundaries between ourselves and others.
The physical manifestation of this separation is our skin, defining
our "self" as what is physically inside our skin. Our
self, emotionally and psychologically, is an extension of this physical
reality. Relating to others then becomes something we do as separate
persons, rather than being connected in an undifferentiated manner.
This is an area in which Natalie, the woman described earlier in
this chapter, had less difficulty. Being very intelligent and left
to her own devices much of the time, she was on her own very early
in life. She accepted her separateness from her mother as a way
to be liberated from the emotional demands of her mother.
Since her mother did as little as possible for her, she experienced
her mother as uninterested, someone to protect herself from, not
to be dependent upon. Ironically, in the midst of her dependence
on others, including housekeepers, she learned that depending on
one person for everything was not the most successful way to get
her needs met.
The Solution to Co-Dependence
Clarity about being separate is the antidote to "co-dependence,"
in which the boundaries between people are not clear, and we mistakenly
take responsibility for others' thinking, feeling, and behavior,
as if we were in charge of those processes in the other person,
as if we were living within the other person's body.
One life, our own, is all each person has to manage, and is indeed
enough to manage, since we live in our own body, not in anyone else's
We do well, however, to take responsibility for managing others
to the degree they are incompetent to do so for themselves. The
most obvious instance is our caring for children, who cannot totally
care for themselves. In the normal course of adult living, however,
each person is in charge of only his or her own decision-making,
not the decision-making of others.
Caring Instead of Caretaking
Being responsible only for one's own decisions is a concept that
is difficult for many people to understand or to accept, because
it seems to them to imply no caring and no relationship at all between
Instead, it actually implies a particular kind of relationship
between people, one that offers caring and respect for the other
person's integrity as a separate person with his or her own individual
ideas, emotions, and behaviors. The caring is expressed without
caretaking, without taking responsibility for the other person's
thinking, feeling, and behavior.
We can care about each other and respect the other person's separateness
as part of that caring. We can act in a loving or friendly manner
without taking over the responsibility for the management of the
person we love. We can act in a loving or friendly manner even though
the other person does not know what is going on within our minds
We Are a Stimulus, Not a Cause
When we put out a stimulus to others, they will respond in some
way. What we do is perceived by others through their senses: hearing,
seeing, touching, smelling, or tasting. They will respond to what
we say or do, but on their own terms, since being separate allows
for their being different and responding uniquely.
The concept of stimulus and response presupposes separate persons,
each with their own apparatus for sending signals, for receiving
them, and for determining what to do in response. This separateness
is the condition for having a relationship of two or more persons,
since without the separation, each of us could only relate to an
extension of ourselves.
2) PEOPLE MAKE DECISIONS GOVERNING THEMSELVES
The second psychological fundamental is the belief that we are
in charge of our own lives, the "executive directors"
of our own thinking, feeling, and acting.
As children, we all need to experience encouragement and support
to exercise increasing control over our own body. This means the
obvious, that we each control our talking, walking, thinking, and
other bodily activities. We can crawl, stand up, lie down, run,
jump up and down, talk, sing, or do many other things, depending
on our choice of what to do.
When emotionally successful in this area of physical development,
we establish an affirmation of our right to exercise self-control.
This gives an internal psychological "structure" to our
life, providing a sense of being self-directing, the opposite of
being victimized by other people and events. We know we are in charge
of our decision-making, our "yes" and our "no."
We Are in Control of Our Own Bodies
Learning that we are in control of our own bodies begins early
in life, as we grow into the ability to crawl, walk, talk, and become
more physically competent. One of the common ways a child uses to
establish a sense of autonomy is to say or do the opposite of what
he or she is asked to do by the caretaking adult. Oppositional behavior
is one way the child gains reassurance that he or she is not being
dominated by someone else.
It may seem strange that as children we may not have clearly learned
we are in control of our own bodies, since it is so obvious that
we are. No one else moves my arm for me, unless I agree for someone
to physically do so, or unless I am physically under the control
of others, as in a hospital or jail. But a child is physically under
the control of his or her caretakers, though less and less so with
age. When the child becomes an adult, no one else can make the decisions
about his or her thoughts and actions, including the content of
and style of communication with others.
The Price of Loss of Autonomy
However, if a child learned that he or she must give away autonomy
and self control to others in order to be accepted and loved, that
child may become chronically resentful of being in a "one down"
position, and grow into an adult who will pick fights with those
who make reasonable requests (that are interpreted as orders).
That adult may avoid close relationships (to escape being a self
imposed servant to the other person), may become a procrastinator,
and may become anxious when dealing with authority in any setting.
This is an area in which Natalie had great difficulty. She attempted,
as her mother did, to be totally in control of others in any situation
in which she found herself, and being very competent, she could
usually function as a leader.
She expended much energy staying "one up" in relationships,
at the cost of chronic anxiety over her potential fall into a "one
She had much experience being dominated by her mother and by her
teachers in a rigid religiously oriented private school, so she
wanted to be the one in control of others instead of the one being
controlled by others.
This is a problem born of the experience of being dominated (or
of believing one has to be dominated as the price for being accepted
and loved) when learning about autonomy.
Children need the freedom to choose within limits, so that they
learn how to make their own decisions. Limits describe the areas
within which freedom to choose may be exercised, and also describe
the areas within which there is no freedom to choose. The limits
are essential, so that within the limits, children can experiment
with their own freedom and autonomy.
Autonomy in Adolescence
Growing older does not change the fact that a person makes his
or her own decisions, within limits. What changes is an expansion
of the "world" within which we are free to choose; the
limits expand. By the time of late adolescence, the remaining limits
1) the limits of physical nature, like gravity, inertia, and lightning.
Successful dealing with these limits usually requires some form
of cooperation with them, as in "harnessing" electricity
to use as a source of power.
2) the limits of social contracts, such as laws and employment
agreements. Successful dealing with these normally means honoring
3) the limits presented by the fact that other people are not everything
we would like them to be. Acceptance of these limits involves accepting
others as they are, even when we disapprove of or disagree with
them. By affirming the right of the other person to his or her point
of view (the only one he or she currently has), we offer the same
acceptance we would like for ourselves.
When successful in learning to make decisions and act within limits,
a person develops an understanding that marriage, religion, work,
and other commitments are an exercise of his or her personal freedom,
not a partial or complete sacrifice of that freedom.
3) PEOPLE THINK, FEEL, AND ACT IN THEIR OWN WAY
The way we manage our lives is inevitably our own choice, ideally
to be affirmed as "good enough for now."
This is the third fundamental psychological principle. Because
people are different from each other, genetically, emotionally,
and historically, they have different ways of thinking, feeling,
and doing things. These differences reflect differences in judgment,
which are, in turn, based on life experience.
One couple with whom I worked were on the verge of giving up on
each other and getting a divorce. Not that they wanted a divorce;
they were simply so tired of verbally fighting with each other and
so frustrated at not finding a solution to the same old problem,
that they didn't know what else to do. Marriage counseling was their
Susan's complaint was that Lewis would not respond to what was
important to her. Lewis' complaint was that instead of listening
to him, she criticized whatever he said or did. They were at an
impasse, between their need to be affirmed and their faulty methods
of getting that affirmation from each other.
As they learned to listen to each other without being defensive,
argumentative, or solving the others' problem, the "crisis"
atmosphere between them eased, and the old appreciation of each
other began to return. By listening, they communicated awareness
of the validity of what the other had to say. By understanding (without
necessarily agreeing), they communicated some validation of what
the other had to say. By being empathic about the emotional importance
of the other's point of view, they communicated affection. By relating
in this way, they began to sanctify instead of contaminate the emotional
and spiritual space between them.
The Only Judgment We Have Is Our Own
To say one's way is to be affirmed as "good enough for now"
is not a stamp of perfection, but an acceptance of the reality that
we can only be where we are, not somewhere else. It also implies
that no one other than ourselves can chart the course of our lives.
Our own way and our own judgment is the only way and only judgment
we have. We can affirm principles proposed to us by parents, religious
traditions, political systems, or our own invention, but we are
"stuck" with the task of making the decision ourselves
about which principles to affirm.
We develop our own value systems, even when the values are handed
down to us by others and even though some of them cause us problems
after we adopt them. As children, we incorporate some of our values
automatically, as we copy our parents or others. Later, as adults,
we have the option to modify those values upon which we wish to
Fortunately, we do not have to re-invent everything about living
from scratch, since we can learn from others and from great traditions.
Yet, we need to know the importance of living our own life in our
own way, provided we grant others the same privilege.
This results in the belief that one's own way of doing things is
at least "good enough for now" and is sometimes something
of which to be proud.
Natalie worked extensively in this area, since she had built her
life on the belief that only one way to act, think, and feel was
appropriate for any situation, and that her task in life was to
find that correct way.
She recreated her entire system of thinking to know that, while
one way might be better than another, she would be content to do
the best she could at any point in her life, and be pleased to have
done as well as she did, with no condemnation of herself or others.
Application of this principle in all areas of her life took several
years to accomplish, because it was such an extensive revision of
her previous way of living. She used psychotherapy to review and
revise her own values, changing decades of belief that achievement
of perfection was the only basis on which to relax and enjoy her
We Pursue What We Value
When emotionally successful, establishment of the principle of
doing things our own way affirms the desirability of persons using
their own judgment, charting their own direction in life, of committing
to values and a way of life that they choose as best for themselves.
We can develop our own initiative and creativity, while affirming
the same right for others to live life in their own way. We can
include others in our lives on the basis of mutual consent.
Learning to live life in one's own way takes the form of increased
clarity about "wants" and "don't wants," about
cooperation with others and sharing. It has to do with empathy and
accepting others' ways as different.
It has to do with creativity and problem solving, and with competence,
success and failure in achieving goals. It has to do with accepting
one's mistakes and failures as "lessons," without devaluing
oneself. It has to do with values and the commitment to living out
of those values with loved ones and with strangers.
At best, it has to do with choosing to align our lives with the
highest values in the universe, in harmony with the spiritual dimension
of life, as best we can understand the meaning of that for our own
Integration of Identity in Adolescence
Learning that we do live life in our own way evolves over a longer
period of time than the learnings about the first two fundamental
principles. While autonomy is becoming fully established, ideally
by three or four years of age (with a rehearsal at adolescence),
the beginnings of initiative -- pursuing things in one's own way
-- are visible, with learning in this area lasting through adolescence.
The process of establishing increased competence in living one's
own way doesn't end with the ending of adolescence, though the foundational
structure for these abilities will have been put in place by then.
Relative competence in all these areas mentioned, and more, will
have been accomplished by adulthood, at least in rudimentary form.
Adolescence is a time of integrating this third fundamental learning
with the first two and developing a sense of personal identity.
The integration process in adolescence is complicated by the last
major changes in physiological development: abstract thinking and
emerging reproductive sexuality. These three fundamentals form the
first third of our pyramid, basic to organizing the rest of one's
Abstract Thinking in Adolescence
"Abstract thinking" allows a quantum leap in the ability
to manipulate concepts and ideas, based on the brain's development
of the capacity to allow viewing a person or idea from an unlimited
number of different points of view.
This is the time when seeing oneself in the mirror takes on a new
meaning, since we can now see how others might see us as well as
how we see ourselves. Previously, we might have been concerned about
how others saw us, but this added ability allows us to imagine ourselves
in the other person's shoes, looking back at ourselves. No wonder
this adds a new dimension to one's self image!
The new element is the ability to imagine what the other person
may be seeing, thinking and feeling as he or she looks at the world.
All of a sudden, "how I look to the other person becomes extremely
important, since I can (for the first time) imagine the view from
his or her perspective." There is the possibility of conceptualizing
unlimited possibilities, and analyzing one's own thought process.
Add the development of reproductive sexuality to adolescence and
there is a task of putting all the emotional learning together that
has not occurred before. Since sexuality involves another way of
relating to others, including communication on a very personal basis,
it inevitably gets the attention of every individual.
Figuring out how to integrate the learnings of the first 10 to
20 years of life is a monumental task that takes time to accomplish,
and is part of establishing one's basic personality style. That
style is the basis for dealing with the lessons of the rest of one's
life, learnings discussed in the next section.
(Order now -- find out in the following chapters how the application of these principles and others show up in the practice of psychotherapy and connect us to the spiritual dimension that is inevitably part of our everyday experience.)