Conscious Relationships

Interest Area: Conscious Relationships

The Way of Relationship

Intimate relationships can be seen as a spiritual path, The Way of Relationship. Relationships can be a self-therapy. Relationships will point up your “blind spots” or “shadow sides” more effectively (or shall I say more quickly, anyway!) than psychotherapy.

The Way of Relationship can be practiced between lovers. The experiences of empathy which arise during the exchange of Listening/Focusing turns lead to increased emotional and physical intimacy.

The Way of Relationship can also be practiced between friends or in a spiritual or other community. The experiences of empathy, of individual uniqueness as well as common humanity common in Listening/Focusing Exchanges, can be a spiritual experience of the love called Agape, or Buber’s “I-Thou” vs. “I-It” relationship.

Harville Hendrix’ book, Getting The Love You Want, was an early one stating that it’s okay for your relationship to be “therapy.” We are attracted to people who have the capacity to heal us in some way, to move us on our journey toward wholeness.  Hendricks calls it The Imago, a kind of template of the kind of person needed for your healing. Ideally, you will find a person enough like your parent to offer the experiences needed healing but also capable of going through this healing journey with you . At , you will find more books and training programs connecting you to a network of people, through Imago Relationships International, who are committed to conscious relationship.

Gay and Kathleen Hendricks’ book, Conscious Loving: The Journey To Co-Commitment, namesthe bedrock of good relationship as complete, absolute, and utter honesty at all times. This book and their many other books and workshops  through the Hendricks Institute, , give many concrete techniques and practices for conscious relationship.

Although there are many wonderful, established programs for Conscious Relationship such as the two above, Intuitive Focusing, as aided by Focused Listening, is the missing link in almost every program, the one thing that is usually not taught but makes all the difference in terms of whether people actually succeed in the programs or not.

Intuitive Focusing and Focused Listening, used in Focusing Partnerships and Interpersonal Focusing, are the bedrock self-help skills which provide a way through. They help you to stick with it when buttons get pushed. They tell you how to mine the treasure in “confrontations.”  These are really confrontations with your own shadow side-- the parts of yourself you can’t see – the positive aspects you devalue as well as negative aspects you do not want to accept.

The goal for everyone is “wholeness,” the integration of positive and negative shadow aspects, and we choose friends and partners who will push us toward wholeness.

Love Relationships

 Perhaps there is no more important place for the use of Empathic Listening and Experiential Focusing skills than in love relationships.

When we “fall in love,” we are drawn to something in the Other that intrigues and fascinates us.  Unfortunately, as time goes by, the stresses of day-to-day living and, perhaps, specific areas of conflict with our partner, wear away that romantic, in-love feeling.  We can even come to “forget” whatever drew us to this other person in the first place, and our sexual feelings for the other can become submerged as well!!

 Exchanging Listening/Focusing Turns with our beloved, significant other can be a way of recovering the feelings of love which initially drew us together.  In Listening/Focusing turns, each person can drop the defensive layers that hide the true, inner Self from the other.  When that inner Self stands exposed, that vulnerable Inner Child becomes visible, we “fall in love” all over again, remembering who it is that really lives inside of your partner. Then, it becomes much more simple to work out the more superficial, behavior-level problems that irritate or cross us in every day life. Read more about Inner Child Empathy.

Friendships As A Way To Grow

Hopefully, we all have some friends whom we can lean on when things get hard, friends who are good listeners, who just let us have our say and don’t judge or criticize us when we are down. In these times, we don’t really want someone to try to fix us or to give us advice or opinions. We just want them to listen and support us. It is just this non-judgmental listening and total, unconditional acceptance that makes the most solid and fulfilling friendships.

It is just such friends who could form the basis of your own Listening/Focusing Community.

Furthermore, if you have stresses or misunderstandings with any of your friends, you can also use the Listening/Focusing skills to work out these conflicts and end up even closer, using the Interpersonal Focusing method. See Focusing Friendships for more on incorporating Creative Edge Focusing into your friendship network.

From Focusing Class To Focusing Support Group

The other main way of finding a Listening/Focusing Partnership or starting a Listening/Focusing Support Group is to participate in a Listening/Focusing Training Class or Workshop in your area. Then, hopefully, you can carry on in a self-help way with other participants you have met at the workshop, or join an existing Changes Group in your geographical area. Again, go to Free Resources to learn about all the available options.

An Inexpensive, Self-Help Way To “Create Love”

As was discovered in the psychotherapy research which led Eugene Gendlin to develop Focusing as a self-help skill (Focusing, Bantam, 1981), people change most dramatically when they are able to pause and ponder at The Creative Edge, the knowing-without-words that contains the next steps for growth. Through Intuitive Focusing, people can experience the Paradigm Shifts which underlie real change (see The Culture of Creativity: Creating At The Edge Cultura de Creativida.

Listening/Focusing Partnerships provide an inexpensive, self-help procedure for growing in self-love through Intuitive Focusing and in empathy and respect for the other through Focused Listening. This can happen in an intimate relationship or in an existing friendship network,  or in a newly-created Focusing Group or Focusing Community.

When people exchange Listening/Focusing turns in Focusing Partnerships, Groups, or Communities, they actually create love – the glue of empathic understanding and respect for difference that binds us together in caring and commitment.

Ten Ways To Bring Listening/Focusing Into Relationships

  1. Start with your own relationships, marital or friendships. Establish a daily time for “sharing your day” (40 minutes)  and a weekly time for listening/focusing turns (two hours).
  2. Sign up for our e-newsletter and download Instant “Ahah!” Mini-Manual:
  3. Join our Creative Edge e-discussion/support group for ongoing support as you make a conscious effort to use Interpersonal Focusing in all of your relationships.
  4. Purchase  the Self-Help Package, with Dr. McGuire’s manual, Focusing In Community(Focusing en Comunidad)  to begin learning the core skills Intuitive Focusing and Focused Listening and how to use them for The Listening/Focusing Exchange (Focusing Partnership), Interpersonal Focusing, and Collaborative Edge Focusing Decision Making.  Watch the DVD of Demonstrations.
  5. Get further Listening/Focusing Training from a Class/Workshop offered by Certified Focusing Professional or Creative Edge Focusing Consultant in your area.
  6. Start a Focusing Group among couples within your friendship group or, if you are a helping professional, lead Focusing Groups for couples.
  7. Offer a couples/relationship group through your religious or community center. Imago Relationships International ( ) offers a program to be used in spiritual centers, Couplehood As A Spiritual Path: Imago Education for Churches. You could combine it with Focusing Partnership training.
  8. Read Dr. McGuire’s article Collaborative Edge Sexuality (coming soon!) and apply its principles to your relationship.
  9. Google “conscious relationships” and follow up on leads. Contact people who have successful books and workshop careers in this area (develop a list of the Top Ten to approach for maximum impact) and convince them to include Listening/Focusing Partnership Training in their work.
  10. Link up with Gay and Kathlyn’s Hendricks Institute,  or Harville Hendrick’s program,  If it fits your career needs, consider becoming certified as a trainer within their networks….you can incorporate Listening/Focusing Partnership training into your workshops and eventually influence their work and  their training programs for facilitators.

Make the same conscious commitment to the Way of Relationship that you might make to consistent “practice” of exercise, yoga, meditation, prayer, or any other discipline demanding structured time. You will come to see that, if you can use Focused Listening, while Others make an effort to use Focusing to find and share their inner truth, you really will hear something that will move you with  empathy and create the  love called Agape.

Want to learn more about Focused Listening and Intuitive Focusing?

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These materials are offered purely as self-help skills. In providing them, Dr. McGuire is not engaged in rendering psychological, financial, legal, or other professional services. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.