Discovering a Gem of a Theorem
When I was an undergrad at UC Santa Cruz I had a mild obsession with the New Sciences. I was constantly devouring books on quantum mechanics, morphogenetic fields, Chaos Theory and the like. For me there was an incredible satisfaction in exploring the theories and findings of well honed scientists that somehow described my deep intuitive sense of reality.
One such gem was a theorem I found in a book on Chaos theory. It described the mathematics that predicted the behavior of open self-organized systems. Open self-organized systems classically include traffic patterns and cloud formations. They are also known as complex systems. Complex systems, by definition, could also include any living organism as well as couples and family systems.
Finding Clarity in Chaos Theory
This theorem stated that when energy is added to an open self-organized system at some point it will reach a threshold where it will either fragment into chaos or entirely reorganize its structure to a higher order functionality and resiliency.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but notice how this theorem is incredibly descriptive of so many phenomena in life.
Like have you noticed that if enough stress and pressure is applied to a human or a couple they will eventually either have a breakdown or breakthrough? I know so many couples who reach a new level of depth, connection and intimacy and nearly break up. And vice versa.
And how about those times when an abundance of opportunity and energy is coming your way and you’re dancing on the cusp of birthing a whole new more amazing brilliant you. And yet at the same time feel like you are skirting the edges of totally falling apart?
And have you noticed how big energetic waves of love, intimacy and pleasure often proceed big scary and seemingly chaotic shifts in our psyches and relationship dynamics?
What do all these phenomena have in common? See above theorem.
Add energy to a complex system in the form of stress, love, intimacy, projects and possibility and by the nature of open self-organizing systems you will find that edge where things will either fall apart and break down or fall apart and reconstitute to a whole new order of capacity and resiliency.
How to have a Breakthrough (not a Breakdown)
So the questions I am asking myself now are: What makes the difference between a breakdown and a breakthrough? How can we avoid an unnecessary breakup and call in a new order of health and vitality in a relationship?
Recently I had the deeply satisfying pleasure of listening to the audio book "The Neurobiology of We" by Daniel Siegel, MD. This preeminent author and teacher also suggests that the mathematics and theories that relate to open self-organized complex systems can be applied to intrapersonal and interpersonal relationship dynamics.
In addition to giving me a glorious sense of personal validation for my 18 year old pet theory he also offered an important piece of the puzzle. He identifies a key quality that makes the difference between chaos and high order functionality in complex systems. This characteristic can make the difference between a chaotic breakdown and a brilliant breakthrough.
The Key is Integration
This key quality is integration. Integration is characterized by both differentiation and connection or “the linkage of differentiated elements in a system.” p. 64 Mindsight by Daniel Siegel.
When it comes to relationships you may have noticed that healthy, resilient couples capable of meeting all sorts of challenges and pleasures in life will have a dynamic and harmonious balance of individuality and togetherness.
There is something that just seems good and healthy when two people in a relationship can enjoy being alone, going out with their own friends, share their unabashed truth and tune into their own unique desires. There is also a sense of yummy goodness that emerges when these two people can also enjoy cuddling, shared values, collaboration and intimate togetherness.
Integration and Interdependence
While meditating on the significance of this need to balance individuation and togetherness the following came my way courtesy of Philippe Lewis’ Facebook page:
Independent: We do just fine by ourselves
Co-dependent: We need each other
Interdependent: We do so much better together
We need each other” is a sticking point in our relationships when we lose ourselves in the relationship. Call it over-coupling, fusion or co-dependence; it doesn’t matter. When relationships that fail to honor each other's unique differences and over value togetherness they have a tendency to break down and/or go stale in rigidity.
The most autonomous or avoidant being might live in the “I do fine by myself” paradigm. The self-oriented side of the human psyche is protective of its individuality and independence. It lights a spark in our spirit and asks us to differentiate and be our own person. While a healthy dose of individuality is essential for vibrancy and a potent sex life, a hyper active sense of independence can be destructive.
Ideally we are able to find a healthy dynamic balance between the desire for connection and the need for individuation. In this connected, vibrant and integrated relationship dynamic, “We do it so much better together.”
When we are a part of an interdependent and integrated relationship, we are capable of responding to the energetic demands and desires of life with much more grace, effectiveness and resiliency. We are a part of a system that operates at a high order of living and loving.
Prayer for Loving Interdependence
In this moment we have an opportunity to plant a seed intention to make significant and healthy shifts in your relationship to relationships-- where integration and interdependence are valued and honored. Granted, you might have to meet your edges and flirt with chaos in order to create some higher order relationship dynamics. I invite you to explore your vulnerable edge. Trust me, it’s worth it.
In the pursuit of integration the question is: How can you cultivate more interdependence in your relationships? Do you need to embody more of your individuality or cultivate more of a sense of togetherness orientation?
Individuality: Do you need to learn how to enjoy more independent action? And dare to go at something alone-- referencing your own desires and impulses before you turn towards another for validation and mirroring?
Togetherness: Or do you need to tune up the volume on your need for connection and togetherness? What would support you to feel more at ease meeting another person’s desires and needs? How can you flow with another person’s lead with greater equanimity and yielding receptivity? How can you relax more deeply into the reality of your need for connection?