It is hard to be alone, unless of course you have found that people are a burden. Then it’s a delight to be alone. If people are a burden then you need some time to yourself in order to figure things out or to recover. It may be that in the time alone you figure out how you can face your burdens with a bit more of a positive attitude. It is clear that how we think about others results in behavior driven by our internal feeling states. Feeling states represent a bit of the emotional energy in our relationships system. The way we interact with others produces emotional energy and eventually hormones and neurotransmitters. Dr. Bowen used to say that feeling were like the foam on the ocean. The emotions are deep and the feelings are just the surface bits of information that we are aware of.
It is easy to see if you are mad at others. You can get mad and just do any number of things while you talk to yourself about the other’s failings. This is cheap energy. How much of the time do we walk around smiling while thinking critical thoughts about others? Just being mad at people is not the only way to get energy.
We can also draw energy by falling in love. Idealizing others or being a disciple of a powerful person can also give one a bit of cheap energy. The overall temptation here is to get into a lovelock with the other and enter into a fused state with them so that we can maintain a stable energy level. There are many motives and habits involved. If the system works then we will not be rejected or taken for an enemy, and will keep getting the positive affiliation that we need. Adapting to others has all of the hallmarks of a mechanism that aids survival.
Dr. Bowen postulated that there was ongoing tension in the balance between two forces; the forces of fusion, to go along with others and the urge to be an individual and go after one’s own goals. Greater autonomy results in one making their own energy rather that using others to create energy. The idea was that one could separate a self from the ongoing clues to join in to the fusion of the system. Autonomy allows one to be for others and for self. There is a balance between the two forces that promotes the relationships system to come to a better adjustment. It is an old mechanism and one that is not easy to change.
The difficulty in being a more self-defined self is that one has to give up a lot of cheap, other focused energy. Another challenge is that one has to have an emotional system to practice on. This is where getting to know one’s family can be so valuable.
The idea is one would like to be aware of how one thinks and behaves. If one can do this then it is far easier to change one’s habitual way of relating to others. One who can monitor the intensity of the movies running in their head can develop an emotional backbone. First you call yourself to action. Then you change how you deal with others.
How does one alter the old emotional mindset or old ways of relating or not relating to people? When you become a good observer you can become aware of feeling sorry or too sympathetic with others. If one is tired of fear or worry states that seem to have no basis in reality then the alternative is to see your mind as a movie studio. Once you get objective about the content of your own mind you are changing.
The up close family that one lives with is too important to alter the relationships unless there are serious problems. If the marriage is in a good state of balance then getting to know one’s family will only disturb things a bit. Your spouse may complain about your going out to spend time with “those people” who do not deserve your attention. A small problem has developed whenever the habitual supply of emotional energy is disturbed. It is worth it. The system will rebalance at a higher level if one can maintain a separate self and manage the time alone while the system reorganizes. Change costs someone and why not have it cost the one who initiates the change? You? Of course.