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  May 26, 2003

Alignment - Part 3: The Value of Misalignment

Many methods of growth and healing suggest that we have to use conscious effort and discipline to turn away from the conflicted, dysfunctional ways we live.

The most common word in these methods is "should" - we should do this, and we shouldn't do that. Unfortunately, "should" is a denial of reality (see "The Tyranny of Should"). When we deny what is and mold ourselves to an idea (what is not), we fight the natural process of healing and change. That is why big dreams and "better resolutions" rarely work.

In the midst of our suffering and confusion, we can dream of a better life, but these dreams are just dreams. When we awake from our failed attempts, our wishful thinking, and our affirmations, hard reality continues to knock on our door. We often fail to realize that the hard reality of our pain and suffering is the pathway to a better life.

When the tires of my car vibrate against the rumble strip on the side of the highway, I realize that I am not in line with the road. The loud noise caused by the friction is an important warning. Messages of misalignment are essential to our health and wellbeing.

Misalignment indicates the path of healing.

Rather than deny and ignore our pain and suffering, we need to look at it - and feel it - on all levels, from the physical to the emotional. If we can do this (with support), change will happen. Other options will then present themselves to us. And rather than being the canned "shoulds" created by others, these options will be natural extensions of our own selves.

Let me use a fictional example. Jenny is stuck in a pattern of conflicted relationships. She always seems to end up with men who are busy and uncommunicative. She desperately wants to have a deeper, loving connection, but whatever she does only annoys her partner. She feels very lonely and doubts her own attractiveness. She even considers that maybe this is "as good as it gets."

Believing that she is the one with the problem, Jenny goes to therapy. In sessions, she notices that her therapist is genuinely interested in her life and really listens. Unlike other people she knows, the therapist does not make her feel bad or foolish for the things she does, and does not try to tell her what to do.

The therapist does not tell Jenny how to change, but instead asks Jenny to tell her the upsetting aspects of her life and relationships. In other words, she asks Jenny to face her misalignments head-on. The more Jenny trusts and feels safe, the more she delves into these painful feelings and situations.

As Jenny talks about her loneliness, sadness, frustration, doubt, self-hate, and despair, she cries and rages. As she stares in the face of her current dead-end relationship, she cannot help but notice how much it feels like all the relationships in her life, including her relationships with her parents. She begins to feel the deep loneliness of living with parents who were too busy to hold her, to play with her, to watch her grow. As a child, she tried so hard to get their love and attention, but they never really responded. She came to the unconscious conclusion that it must be her fault, that she was not good enough.

In session, Jenny discovered that her gnawing need to be loved carried on into her adult life. This need drove her to seek out men who had all-consuming interests. She worked to get their attention, as she had with her parents, and the pattern of her childhood struggle continued.

Before she tried Primal Integration therapy, she had tried many other methods to solve her problems. She lost weight, had makeovers, and developed other interests of her own. She tried to build her self-esteem with cognitive-behavioural techniques. She tried couples counselling, but her partner wouldn't open up.

When Jenny really felt her loneliness - rather than just thinking about it - she knew that it was her main driving force. She felt how the unmet need of a loving connection with her parents had forced her to choose men who were not suited to her. In a therapeutic environment of appreciation and respect, she cried and expressed the pain of that deep need. After many sessions, the pressure subsided and she felt less driven. She began to realize, on a physical level, that she was not bad at all, but that she had been severely neglected. Eventually she came to the point where she did not want to perpetuate the neglect any longer.

Jenny tried to work things out with her partner, but after many attempts it was obvious that he was stuck in a dysfunctional pattern of his own. After fully feeling the pain of conflict, Jenny no longer needed to bang her head against the wall. Rather than attempt to fix him, as she had for years, she started a life of her own. She moved into an environment that suited her better, and into a career that was deeply interesting. And without trying, Jenny met a man who was open, warm, affectionate - and genuinely interested in her.

In this story, Jenny comes into alignment in her life by allowing herself to fully feel and face her misalignment. There are no short cuts. We have to go through the night to get to the dawn.

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