How to Move up the Scale in Relationships

The Seven Dynamics of Relationship Interaction


The world is rapidly moving away from success orientation and toward relationship orientation and therefore there is no more important topic than how to have successful relationships. Strategies and dynamics that worked in the past will no longer be successful in the future as the world goes through its puberty rites in these few years approaching 2012. In this challenging world where the illusion of separation exists, human beings often feel hostility for one another and engage in a wide variety of dramatic conflicts. These struggles almost always have to do with fear, judgment and resulting hostility. The conflict can easily provide much distraction from the real work of coming together in harmony and realizing the power of peaceful coexistence, yet these same distractions may provide the greatest lessons, trials and initiations to help people evolve and expand in consciousness and awareness. Humans have the good fortune and opportunity to work through their fears of being different and their irritation with each other in countless ways. Here I am going to outline the seven dynamics of human interaction moving from the most separated to the most harmonious but this does not imply that all relationships must include all of them. Many successful relationships never include some of these qualities but in reality some do so we should know all the dynamics from most separated to most unified so we can know the steps to improve and move them in the direction of balance and harmony. I begin with the lowest and perhaps worst version of relationship and work my way up to the most successful version so you can see all the steps and dynamics together. As you are reading it may be helpful to think of various relationships in your life, both loving ones and conflicted ones so you can understand them in light of this information.

These dynamics apply both to individual relationships and group relationships that include people who work together in an organization because those have processes that are tribal and family-like.  Here I am talking about relationships between spouses, parents and children, coaches and athletes, bosses and employees, partners in business, professional colleagues, teachers and students, cult leaders and followers, spiritual leaders and disciples, or just about any relationships you can imagine. Bear in mind that these dynamics also apply to the relationships between nations and this can be quite revealing in light of current international relations.

As you read through these various dynamics it is important to realize that all relationships do not go neatly through each one of them step by step. Some dynamics do overlap and there is much backsliding on the way to peaceful solutions.

First Dynamic: Hatred, Hurt, and Pain

The first and lowest dynamic in relationship is characterized by the experience of inflicting pain or being hurt, emotionally, psychologically, and even physically and this is accompanied by acute unhappiness. Emotionally the hurt can come from a lack of validation, a lack of support, neglect, abandonment, insult or downright abuse. Here there may be judgment, comparison, put downs, and outright attack either emotionally or physically.

When you see this happening in relationships you can be sure the participants are heavily influenced by the dragons that are driving them into the negative poles of their overleaves and the result is much karma. Self-destruction, greed, self-deprecation, arrogance, martyrdom, impatience, and stubbornness are always behind this sort of treatment and of course usually for both sides, the perpetrators and the victims. For example people with martyrdom are famous for sticking around for more abuse and even provoking it to prove a point while people with self-deprecation often feel they deserve what they get dished to them. Those with self-destruction, greed, impatience, and arrogance are more often the perpetrators of abuse but they can also be the victims as well. People with stubbornness are usually more passive in their abuse patterns going into icy silences and punishing with distance and refusal to cooperate.

Now it is important to realize the perpetrations may be actual or imagined, direct or indirect, intentional or accidental, so here we have a wide range of possibilities. More often than not relationships characterized by hurt and pain are complex interactions where some actions are real, some are exaggerated, and some are imagined. These can become so entangled and confused that it can take a professional therapist a long time to sort it all out. Needless to say these kinds of relationships are usually dysfunctional and karmic in nature because most healthy folks would have been long gone before becoming so entangled.

The key ingredients in these types of relationships are separation and projection. The people involved do not see their own responsibility for what is happening, tend to project their fears on the others, and expect the other to act in a particular predictable manner. They are so lost in the hypnosis of the physical existence that they cannot see the other as a mirror of themselves, a projected unaccepted part of themselves, or a reflection of the universe. For them the other is an enemy to be battled, hurt, subdued, or tortured.

Even though there are intense emotions and actions involved, these types of dynamics involve more of the instinctive center because they are based on such primitive drives of vengefulness and reactivity. When a person slugs another or abuses them they are instinctively acting out an attack on what they fear the most. Therefore this is primarily the instinctive center at work.

Dynamics like these are more typical among the younger souls and often involve warriors because or their propensity to fight. The emotions that do play out are in the negative poles and serve to drive people apart into greater isolation and separation. These emotions are destructive and close off the heart to intimacy thereby producing greater wounding and damage to the energetic system. Unfortunately examples of this kind of relationship are legion and we only need to point to a few here. The current relationship between the USA and Iraq, the relationship between bigots and gays or people of color, and the relationships involved in domestic violence all involve heavy doses of hatred, hurt, and pain.

Healing these conflicted relationships requires the following steps:

  • The desire and intention to stop the folly, the drama, and the distraction of it all. This may come only after a very long time when the persons involved have truly become exhausted by the ongoing conflict and the toll has become too heavy to bear. At this point the participants want relief.
  • The willingness to talk and make concessions based on understanding what the assumptions, misinformation, and distortions have been. This actually involves seeing the other as human and having the desire to see them as they are and not as imagined.
  • The willingness to take some responsibility for what has happened and talk about the unfulfilled expectations, the fears of the other, plus all the hurt feelings that have piled up.
  • The willingness to find common ground

Second Dynamic:  Denial and Pretending

These unhappy relationships are characterized by the members pretending that they are getting along and that nothing is wrong when in actuality there are deep dysfunctions in the relationships. They are like actors performing well-scripted parts, for the benefit of others to see. It is as if they are saying to one another, to their children, to their neighbors, "See, everything is fine. We are a happy couple, family, group, or organization. We are decent law abiding citizens who present one face to the world. We have no problems. Don't look over here and especially don't look to closely." Unfortunately relationships based on denial and pretending can last all to long even though they would not be what we would call successful or happy relationships.

In these relationships participants desperately cope and adapt to less than optimal conditions. They rationalize and tell themselves that they should not hope for better, that this is their lot in life and they had better accept it. They ignore obvious difficulties and never directly confront or reveal their dissatisfaction with how things have come to be. They put on a brave smile for the world to see but in moments when they are absorbed they reveal a deep level of unhappiness with each other and with the whole situation. These relationships are like ticking time bombs because of the high degree of tension that lies just beneath the surface. No one ever mentions how dad drinks himself under the table night after night or that the spouses have moved into separate beds, an icy tension between them. No one dare mention that the boss is deeply unhappy and has a cocaine habit or that she/he is a gambler squandering the nest egg. The group ignores that fact that one of their members is conducting a wild affair and the spouse knows nothing about it. The government of a country displaying denial and pretense must adopt a great deal of spin to convince its countrymen otherwise. Crime rates, mental illness rates, and poverty all must be hidden or manipulated so the populace won't know the real situation. The first victim is the media and freedom of information. Relationships based on denials have many secrets and much energy is tied up in keeping those secrets from leaking out. In fact there are heavy reprisals for such action.

Now in these dynamics of hiding, ignoring, suppressing, lying, and pretending there are several levels of operation. For some, their unhappiness is conscious and clear to themselves but they make a point of hiding it from the others. This is more a success or relationship-oriented person's response. For others their unhappiness, bitterness, and deep dissatisfaction is completely unconscious or denied and they pretend to themselves that everything is alright. This is more typically a rule-oriented person's response.      

Obviously it is more possible to make changes if the participants at least admit to themselves that they are unhappy with how things are. They must confront the deep shame they feel about what is happening and their fears of inadequacy to do anything about it. Yet when they decide to do something they can do so without falling completely apart. When people deny to themselves that anything is wrong it is very difficult to make any changes because their whole identity is wrapped around the denial and to break it might mean disintegration of the personality or society, in other words psychosis or deep depression.

These dynamics of pretense and denial are more intellectually centered because they are based on rationalizations and considerations about how one should behave. The emotional center is suppressed or avoided because it just feels too awful. These dynamics can also continue for a very long time and unless something snaps a whole life might go by without confronting or changing the situation.

Dynamics like these are quite common in relationships that include a variety of soul ages. They are also the dynamics that tend to go along with the way younger scholars, priests, and servers handle their affairs. The emotions that are present tend to be suppressed and bottled up sealing up expression and driving people apart into isolation and sterility. Intimacy is almost impossible in such an atmosphere. Not surprising this style results in a great deal of illness and disease because the emotions have to come out somehow.

Societies functioning at this level are extraordinarily unhealthy for the inhabitants and there is a high degree of dysfunctionality and lack of enjoyment even though everything is purported to be just fine. Again media and freedom of speech suffer and in reality a fascist atmosphere exists even if that society is communist or has the appearance of democracy. All such societies fall in the end.

Healing these suppressed relationships requires the following steps:

  • An honest appraisal of the situation in the relationship
  • A willingness to feel the feelings being denied or suppressed. In other words the willingness to express the emotional center more
  • The courage to say that the emperor has no clothes
  • The willingness to accept whatever consequences come from breaking the code of silence

The Third Dynamic: Anger and Grief

Relationships based on anger and grief are seldom successful in the long run yet they can include a great deal of learning for everyone, albeit painful. When this dynamic is present there are such strong emotions that they are impossible to repress. The parties are feeling remorse, sadness, major grief, rage, or terrific anxiety. Here everyone knows there is something wrong, they just don't always know what to do about it. The participants are in obvious distress and everyone is privy to it from other family members to colleagues, neighbors, and staff members yet they are often at a loss to know what to do about the situation. The feelings are so intense that many people are afraid of what they are witnessing and simply wring their hands. 

The participants have a great hunger for change and relief and will do almost anything to solve the problem including extreme cries for help like threatening suicide or breaking down in front of everyone. Yet they don't necessarily bring in or accept the kind of help that they really need like a therapist or mediator because they are so caught in the drama of emotion and swinging from one extreme pole to the other as in fighting and making up and then fighting again. The general feel around these dynamics is uproar and often there are many witnesses and participants all playing out their respective roles.

Some of the dynamics that you commonly see are the following: Participants become emotionally and physically sick. They may attack themselves resulting in serious depression and expressions of suicide. They may lash out at others creating scenes or uproars in front of other people. Such scenes might include door slamming, walking out, yelling, screaming, breaking things, sobbing, throwing up, crashing the car, quitting, moving out, calling the police, and a whole panoply and range of acting out. It is not unusual for this type of dynamic to take place among relationship-oriented people who are trying to figure their emotions out and attempting to understand themselves and others through intensity and drama. Not infrequently they involve sages and artisans who tend toward more expression.

These dynamics are obviously more emotional centered because the emotions are not held back. For this reason they are also more prone to change, healing, and resolution. The people involved want relief badly and are willing to say so but sometimes it takes them awhile to give up the explosive quality of their dynamics and buckle down to the hard work of clearing things up. In the meantime the expressed emotions are typically negative and can be quite damaging to all parties unless they are detached older souls.

Societies and cultures with these dynamics are a little scary but are actually more healthy than the ones we have described already.  They are certainly not very rational but at least they get the feelings out in the open. Usually there is more permission around expressions of sexuality as a way of kissing and making up.

Healing these emotionally charged relationships requires the following steps:

  • The willingness to let go of the gratification of drama
  • The courage to enlist help and listen to wiser helpers
  • The willingness to use the intellectual center to understand the dynamics at work
  • The willingness to work constructively and transmute wild expression toward rational understanding to some degree

The Fourth Dynamic: Confrontation and Intervention

These dynamics involve participants who are unwilling to put up with poor or inadequate conditions in relationships. They are not willing to hold back their feelings of dissatisfaction, outrage, or disappointment and they look for opportunities to air their grievances in an appropriate way. They may not like confrontation and direct honesty but they know that without it they will not get anything done so they force themselves to deal with whatever has come up. They arrange meetings, make phone calls, and announce their desire to talk things out. They seek to take the mystery out of a conflict by shining the light of day on all the assumptions, disappointments, projections, and fears involved. They call others on what appears to them as hypocrisy, dishonesty or denial and are not afraid to persist until the situation has been defused or cleared up.

Not surprisingly these people are often late level relationship oriented people or even early philosophically oriented folks. The modes of perseverance or aggression are particularly helpful yet sometimes these people confront too aggressively and create a bigger crisis in the end. The encounter groups of the sixties and seventies were based on this dynamic and sometimes they helped created breakthroughs for people and sometimes they created a great deal of harm due to the lack of readiness and the fragility of participants.

When these dynamics of confrontation and intervention are present you often find other people involved from mediators, therapists, ministers, counselors, arbitrators, probation officers, and police to helpful family members and friends. The community or tribe often becomes involved in the healing process and the resolution helps everyone.

Healing with this dynamic involves catharsis, intervention, and confronting the perpetrator. While these strategies involve emotions and intellect they are based on action and thus heavily involve the moving center. Here a person has to be willing to take action to get something to resolve, to shift it from its stuck place, and move it to a new balance. The moving center gets the energy moving so it is very helpful in terms of healing the relationship that has become stuck, ill, or dysfunctional.

Because this is the fourth dynamic or strategy out of seven it is in that tricky place of being in the exact middle. One can either slide backwards here or move to the next level of balance and healing. The emotions here can go either way toward beneficial expression and release leading to greater balance in the relationship or they can become suppressed more deeply or exacerbated leading to loss of contact and intimacy.

Societies with a real commitment to free speech employ this dynamic with good results even though it is often a little messy. These are societies with a wide range of views being expressed by a healthy variety of media outlets and organizations representing many different opinions. For much of its history the United States has been such a country. However the marriage of deeply conservative politics and vested financial interests has so curtailed oppositional voices that this dynamic is going through a dying off process. The result is a society that appears more like the ones we have already described, particularly number two.

Healing with this dynamic of confrontation requires the following steps:

  • The willingness to speak out and say what one's truth is
  • The willingness to confront the perpetrators and not keep silent
  • Knowing how hard to push and the knowledge of when to back off
  • Skills in making the confrontation safe for all parties, especially the one being confronted
The Fifth Dynamic: Recognition

The dynamic of recognition is extraordinarily powerful as a strategy in the successful managing of and healing of any relationship. Recognition involves seeing oneself in the other, truly understanding them; breaking the cycle of separation, fear, and hostility, and removing the obstacles to being in harmony. In recognition it is possible to move to the next larger set and see the system as the culprit. For example one might say, "It is not you or I who are at fault here. It is the system, the belief, the culture of conflict that has led us to this misunderstanding. We have been influenced by ignorance. I was led to believe that you were the enemy but you are not. You are like me and you have desires just as I have desires. You were afraid of me just like I was afraid of you. We can now put our differences aside and relate based on what we now know to be true, not based on outside influences or prejudices."

Now this may seem rather idealistic but it is in fact what older souls are capable of and even younger souls are capable of it if they are encouraged and shown that this is the new model. If they can be shown that there is more money to be made by getting along rather than by destroying they will do it.

Relationships based on recognition have the potential to be successful because the participants are operating from the intent to understand one another and they work at it constantly. They recognize differences and even welcome them but more than anything they are interested in how the other tends to operate. For example if someone were an American and they were thrown in with a group of Japanese people on a project they might take a class on Japanese culture or read books about Japanese customs and styles of communication. Their interest level would be high and not only would they find the differences fascinating they would attempt to master them.

The recognition dynamic is based on the higher intellectual center because not only does it rely on insight, understanding, and dialogue but it does so at the higher level. In other words one must be able to see the big picture to utilize recognition.

Because recognition holds the fifth place it requires courage and steadfastness to see the dynamic through. There may be fear to confront and a faint heart might cut and run if the going is tough.  There is always the danger of falling back into earlier styles of relating that would be less successful.

Societies choosing to operate at this level are quite successful and the participants are much happier and healthier than those that intensify conflict. The core of most religions advocate this stance but their followers often do not choose to follow resulting in less functional relationships. This is almost always a problem of soul age.

Healing with this dynamic of recognition includes the following steps:

  • Having a strong intention to deal with conflict from the start without letting it build
  • Having a strong motivation to move toward a harmonious relationship through understanding and insight
  • Having an ability to see the larger context of the relationship and the insight to see the real causes for disharmony
  • Having the willingness to see oneself in the other, to walk a mile in their shoes

The Sixth Dynamic: Compassion

Compassion is truly one of the highest levels of operating within relationships for it is not only present when there is a problem but it is a way of being in the relationship on an ongoing basis. Compassion involves the elimination of blame and where there is no blame there can be no enemy, no finger pointing, and no victim either. The parties involved take responsibility for the status of the relationship and when it is not what they would optimally desire they look to their own actions to see what could be done to improve it. This does not involve self-blame mind you, but rather a look to see what change of course would be more effective in the quickest time frame.

To function on the basis of compassion requires detachment from the usual ego games, one up man ship, judgments, finger pointing, and hidden agendas. All must be on the table with the intention of being completely honest at all times without regard for who is right. Obviously this way of operating in a relationship is a tall order and is usually the pervue of older souls yet it is a good model to strive toward.

When compassion is the overriding motivation in the relationship there is present the quality of forgiveness, the ability to let go of grievances and forgive not only the other but oneself for not being perfect all the time. In other words it is the acceptance of the people as human beings who do err and do fall down on the job from time to time.

Compassion is a higher emotional operation because it goes beyond insight and understanding, both being requirements to arrive at this dynamic. Compassion involves feeling the connection at the big picture level, grasping the fact that there are no real differences if one is actually looking at oneself in the other. In practical terms the emotion of compassion opens the heart and keeps it open bestowing enormous gifts on all parties. The body responds favorably to compassion, the immune system strengthens, vitality increases, and everyone feels expanded and inspired. To a few people compassion is extremely threatening and just like a wounded animal, they will lash out or pull away from its presence.

In general compassion is like food for intimacy and reduces the possibility of separation and isolation. However trying to function with compassion when one is not really ready results more in martyrdom and deep resentment so "pretend" compassion does not work. If one is not able to pull off real compassion then perhaps it may be better to confront instead.

There are no large societies run on the basis of compassion at this time but the future does hold this in store so we can look forward to a world where this has become the norm. That will be a world that is truly a joy to live in for everyone.

Healing with the dynamic of compassion includes the following steps:

  • The willingness to forget self or let go of wanting to win in the relationship
  • The ability to let go of judgment and blame and forgive completely
  • Having the constant intent to be completely honest
  • Having the ability to love the other and want what is best for them

The Seventh Dynamic: Acceptance

When unconditional acceptance is at the basis of relationship then we could say that we are at the highest level of relationship possible. When there is acceptance there can be no lasting conflict because the relationship is based on harmony and balance. There may be moments of dissention or different points of view but these are never reasons to not relate. These relationships are truly based on essence contact and are actually only possible when there is karma completion, neutrality (detachment), and balance. They are what you could call a full relationship because nothing is held back, nothing is denied, nothing is rebelled against, nothing has to be fought tooth and nail.

Relationships based on Acceptance are higher moving centered because they are smooth, coordinated, easy, and balanced, all the qualities you would expect to experience in a perfect ski run down a mountain or in the grace of a whirling waltz with a perfect partner.

Acceptance does involve highly positive emotions that are also food for intimacy and connection.  Acceptance is warm, nurturing, loving, and a truly safe place for everyone. There are of course no large societies in the world who function according to unconditional acceptance so we have no models to work from. This will be a world that we will reach through hard work and discipline so we will have to earn the pleasure of living within its wonderful context. On the other hand when everyone is capable  of living this way the schooling will probably be over and it will be graduation time.

Healing with the dynamic of acceptance includes the following steps:

  • Having the constant intent to love the other without agendas
  • Having the ability and the discipline to over ride dragon-motivated agendas in oneself
  • Having the ability to let go of expectations
  • Having the willingness to let go of assumptions
Now lets face it, few relationships conform completely to one dynamic or another. Most relationships include many of these dynamics at different times depending on circumstances and conditions. Even someone operating mostly with compassion may have a bad day or a bad week and slip into more primitive behaviors for awhile. So the main idea here is to strive to elevate the overall operations within a relationship higher and higher more and more of the time.