We spoke in a recent article about Narcissistic Wounding in the couple relationship, and how learning to withstand this wounding can be a powerful way of transforming a relationship.
The artist Louise Bourgeois had a deep understanding of narcissism, as evidenced by the rich art works she made over many years. In these works she often worked through woundings that had their genesis in her family of origin.
It’s significant that her drawing shown here is called Fear: it depicts the way fear shuts us down from others, creates a bubble of narcissistic and reflective defence; a closed sense of self (possibly very useful when we were children, but now just an old barrier through which others can only superficially contact us). In an intimate relationship both people lose, the defended one and the one who attempts to break through.
Narcissistic Defence in Couples Work
In our couples counselling work we investigate and try to understand how these bubble structures have developed, and inquire into how they no longer serve us nor our relationships. Part of our bubble defence can exhibit as a hardness towards others. To change this situation both people in the relationship need to explore ways they can be more kind to each other.
- See also: Seeing through to the Needs of the Other
Kindness is of course at the heart of many religions, and that’s because kindness works – it takes us towards real peace, rather than towards the pseudo-peace of the defended bubble. As the Dalai Lama says:
This is my simple religion.
There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy.
Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.
Kindness requires real forgiveness, and this, too, is at the heart of most spiritual paths and traditions. We could say its opposite is judgement. And it is often this, judgement, that we see couples focussing on.
But how would it be to live without judging our intimate partner, to actually make an agreement that there will be no judgement in our relationship? We’ve seen such agreements work powerfully to change the dynamic in couple relationships.
This forgiveness is not “I’ll forgive because it’s good for me”. It’s something much more foundational than this; an agreement to leave our bubble and really meet the other. We’ll have more to say on forgiveness in another post.
(Image: Louise Bourgeois, Fear, 1999)