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Relationships and psychotherapy

It is a paradox that we can feel the most alienated and alone when we are in a loving relationship with another person. We enter relationships because they bring undeniable joy, connection, excitement, passion, and companionship, but unless they are made conscious by being deeply examined and understood, those same relationships can bring disappointment, boredom, oppression, loneliness and despair.  

Psychological work with relationships focuses on becoming aware of unconscious expectations and demands, projections and patterns, suppressed feelings, and unspoken needs. Issues such as jealousy, infidelity, sexuality, commitment, family issues, divorce, dating, parenting, finances, infertility, adoption, and non-traditional relational styles can be addressed.

One way C.G. Jung imagined relationship was in the form of a "container." Here we can think of one person as a “container” and the other as being “contained.” For example, often one person "contains" the other, be it emotionally, financially, socially, sexually, etc. If a person is the "personal growth container", for example, he or she may more often take the lead in suggesting that the couple attend a workshops or read books on improving relationships, with the "contained" person passively going along with (or regularly resisting) the plan. Or one person may "contain" the other physically, providing a sense of safety for example, or initiating physical intimacy more often, while the other acquiesces. Identifying ways we unconsciously "contain" one another or allow ourselves to be passively "contained" helps to expand awareness and provides the freedom to "switch it up" or more evenly share participation. 

The notion of containment can also be extended to include the relationship itself; how much of ourselves is the relationship able to contain? Only the "good" and attractive and strong parts? Or can it stretch and deepen to contain those secret or dark elements fraught with weakness and shame, the parts of ourselves never allowed before? The most remarkable relationships tend to be vast and deep and able to consciously contain all of it - beauty and ugliness, strength and failure, the whole person - in other words, the full humanity of both people - and provide a powerful and dynamic environment of thriving, love, and expression.

For further reading (Jung on container and contained), see

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