David Schnarch - The Crucible 4 Points of Balance
Updated: May 28
I found out today that a therapist I immensely respect passed away in October 2020. I remember studying his material/books in school, and my therapist referenced his book Intimacy & Desire a lot in our work together. He was brilliant. There isn't a day that goes by when I meet with clients where I don't reference his work on some level.
One of his concepts talks about the balance in needs we all have between being autonomous/independent while engaging in relationships with others. You've probably heard of the term "codependent" or "emotionally fused" which means that our autonomy isn't given enough space and we latch onto others out of a sense of "not being enough."
Schnarch's Crucible 4 Points of Balance refer to four areas to look at in how we engage with others:
1) Solid Flexible Self - I am able to go with the flow and adapt to changes while still knowing who I am and what I offer. I don't lose who I am due to my environment or who surrounds me. Extremes of being overly dependent or overly controlling aren't present.
A reflected sense of self (opposite of solid flexible self) is what a lot of us fall into with looking at our external world to tell us that we are ok. We often avoid the work of telling ourselves that we are ok despite what we are going through. I think social media falls into this heavily - relying on all the likes and dopamine (pleasure) hits when someone likes our post about a meal we had.
2) Quiet Mind & Calm Heart - I pay attention to my inner child's needs, I listen to my mind/body/feelings and I self-soothe when feeling anxious. I comfort myself when in a difficult situation and tell myself it is going to be ok. It is common to ignore this and to not check-in with how we are doing in stressful situations. I also pay attention to my body and physical reactions as they occur.
3) Having Grounded Responses (see previous post of reacting vs. responding) - I can stay calm in adversity or unwanted situations and respond from a place of knowing that I am internally ok. There can be extremes in un-grounded reactions like over-reacting (yelling at the kids, having a short fuse, saying cutting things in arguments) or under-reacting (not wanting to rock the boat by saying something when an offense is present, not giving children appropriate discipline when needed, avoiding conflict because it gets messy etc).
4) Meaningful Endurance - Often our culture gives more importance to being comfortable, ordering items easily on Amazon and they come automatically to the front door, and avoiding pain at all cost. The problem though is that we need pain/suffering to learn and grow. We don't grow unless we are moderately uncomfortable. Leaning into our resilience allows us to co-exist within a world that doesn't agree with us, knocks us down at times, and is honestly harsh at unexpected times.
The idea of a relationship failing is a social construct that isn't failure at all. We learned from the experience and we grew from it. It wasn't failure - it was a part of our development. It's the opposite of failure to have the humility to realize that a relationship went in an undesired direction, while holding onto ourselves and seeing that we learned and grew from it.
How we interact with others while being intentional about our own internal process is necessary and good wrestling with ourselves. Thank you David for your work.