The deep desire to form and nurture close harmonious relations with others is such an intrinsic part of who we are as human beings. Today, as our society becomes so homogenous, the form and nature of those close, emotional connections between us and our fellow man grows ever wider.
It is common to come across others in same sex relationships, multi-ethnic and other socially-challenging forms of relational couplings.
Shakti Gawain has been fascinated by relationships ever since she was young. In her book The Relationship Handbook, she takes a detailed examination of the core resonances that urge us toward wanting to experience life through one or more partners.
In her book, Gawain argues that we are all comprised of several Primary Selves, each of which subconsciously determine the way that we interact with the world around us and, as a consequence, determines our approaches to relationships.
Gawain offers a simple exercise for helping you to identify these important parts of yourself. These are fairly easy to identify, operating from within you—what is not quite so clear is your hidden or Shadow aspects to your self.
It is these that we tend to project onto others within a relationship and which offer the greatest challenges in trying to keep relationships at least semi-harmonious.
The author refers to a group of ‘selves’ that form our inner archetypes and which contain certain powerful patterns that play specific roles in our lives.
One of these that she specifically looks at is the role that the pattern of the Inner Child takes—though Gawain argues that we actually have several Inner Children—each one related to, and formed by, a specific stage in our development.
Archetypes are not only limited to us as individuals. The author argues that some are experienced on a collective level with many of them appearing to be common to us all.
Gawain gives them specific titles, such as Rule Maker, Spiriual Rule Maker, the Pushers, the Spiritual Pusher, the Perfectionsist, the Inner Critic/Judge, the Protector/Controller and the Rationalist.
The author advocates that we work closely with all these aspects of ourselves in conjunction with our relationships. Given that we project so much of ourselves in an outwardly direction and into the lives of those with whom we have a close connection, it makes sense to resolve more of our issues at a personal level, rather than have them rebound back in our faces in more aggressive and less-accommodating ways.
The key approach that the author advocates taking is defined by the term Integration as an extension of the process of awareness that we need to develop in embracing every part of ourselves.
In the fourth and final part of the book, Gawain refers to specific tools to aid the process of good relationship development.
The first of these is the Process of Facilliation. An example of how this works is given in an exchange that reveals core psych-dramas that play through the life of the books co-contributor Gina Vucci.
Another tool that the author advises regular use of is visualization.
In the final sequences of her book, she offers specific exercises for using the imagination to help improve our relationships on a daily basis.
This is not the only practical approach that you can take. The author also advises the use of Writing Affirmations as a way of bringing about change within a relationship. This can be extended to include methods for creating a descriptive account or narrative of the favorable set of circumstances that you wish to see develop within your relationships.
Other exercises on offered here are geared towards forgiveness and release of others as well as yourself and challenging core beliefs.
I started off reading this book disliking it intensely.
I found its approach rather fluffy and riddled with a sort of staccato, New-Age form of communicating that irritates me intensely at the best of times.
Shakti Gawan is something of an exponent of the genre and leading light of the modern spiritual movement and, for me, this clouded the book’s essential message.
However, I worked to overcome these initial reservations and tried to see if it had any inherent value at all.
By the end of my second read, I was rather grateful that I stuck with it.
It is, effectively, what it is. The arguments that the author presents are already established in popular spiritual psychology and so it offers little new or ground-breaking in the field of research into human relationships.
Nevertheless, for all that, the author does, by its conclusion, present a book that many readers will discover to be a helpful and insightful general guide to looking at relationships and the challenges that they present.
Some of the examples cited in the book did tire after a while and it was not always apparent what their author thought their intrinsic value was when including them—particularly those that included her co-author.
Did I enjoy this book? No, I did not! I found it overly simplistic and avoided entering specifics regarding the more challenging type of relationships that I outlined in my introduction.
Would I recommend it to others? Yes. In rather a strange twist, I probably would but only to those who are close adherents to the philosophy of the spiritual movement that underpins this type of publication. For this type of reader, there is a great deal of personal guidance in its pages to be savored and enjoyed.
If you are looking for a good introduction to the nature of relationships and the challenges they present, this book will steer you through tricky landscapes and over dangerous terrain.