Photo of J'aime ona Pangaia

Bonding Patterns, Relationship & the Psychological Knower

by J'aime ona Pangaia
Copyright 2013

Hal and Sidra Stone drew on their psychological understanding of Jungian & Freudian perspectives on transference/counter-transference to develop their model of bonding patterns. They are NOT against bonding patterns (or transferences), in fact, they recognize that they happen all the time. They/we don't judge people for being in them, we try to help people become aware of what is happening. In fact therapeutically speaking, the natural occurrence of transference between a client or student and the therapist or teacher can have a healing and transformative effect for the client with the goal of eventually bringing it to consciousness within the therapeutic relationship when the client is ready. This has to do with taking the time to gently look at the parts of us (our own inner selves, and as well as those parts of us that we have assumed from our parents) and see how we project them out onto others.
These bonding patterns are also seen as a natural form of (unconscious) relationship. Likewise, we can make them conscious and that allows us to move in and out of them more freely. What they point out is that bonding patterns that become fixed can limit us. Positive bonding patterns can be quite lovely and safe-feeling to live in - but can ultimately, if held without consciousness for too long, can stifle our full expressions. Negative bonding patterns can feel awful, but when we bring consciousness to them rather than just live painfully within them, they can alert us to our further work of separating from primary elves and embracing /adding new or disowned selves. Being in a bonding pattern is not a failure; rather, once we're aware of them, consider them a doorway through which we are invited to do more or our personal consciousness work.
The concept of bonding patterns is used to understand what parts of ourselves to we become while in the bonding pattern, what do we disown (usually represented in the other person of the b.p.) and this also points us to appreciating the underlying vulnerability that we have, that drives (energizes) the bonding pattern and which we project responsibility for onto the other person to take care of, to love and support.
Optimally, we might want to generally hold a positive bond with someone, while being capable of recognizing, 'ah, this is a positive bonding pattern'. Then, if something along the way begins to feel either too stifled within us, or we feel some unpleasantness in our relationship dynamic with the other person, we can speak to that. We could react, and do the work of being aware of "who in me is reacting?" What more does that bring to consciousness, e.g., my vulnerability? We can say, "I don't like what you did, or what you said." Then, rather than simply leaving it at that, consider the self involved. Who in me doesn't like that? Honor that. Also, are there other selves we weren't sensing at that moment, that we could also consider? Then, the aware ego process begins to be available. We can honor both sides in ourselves and make a more conscious choice on how to interact forward.
The Psychological Knower
(a teaching cd from Sidra and Hal) This is available also as an mp3 download from their website, as are most of their audio teachings:
This is an important teaching from Hal and Sidra about a particular self. "The Psychological Knower is an authority on all psychological and spiritual matters and happy to share this knowledge with everyone. Unhappily, not everyone is interested in listening. Learn how to use its insights and information without driving others away." We can get into nice juicy negative bonding patterns around this self, particularly when learning psychological concepts and tools. This self gets fatter and can begin to analyze friends and relatives, letting them know what's wrong with them, what they should become aware of, how they need to grow. Aligned with one’s Authoritative Inner Patriarch, it can use information to build a power-over base. A main consideration is, "Did I invite this person to give me this assessment of me?" With our therapists and psychological teachers, yes (within the boundaries of that therapist/client or teacher/student relationship), with our friends or relatives, probably there isn't an all-encompassing permission!
For example, in my early days of learning psychology/Voice Dialogue, this self in me would come up with my partner. If we were in a positive bonding pattern (or transference), she's appreciate it and feel helped/supported by this self in me. And yes, at times, this self could be helpful. But since we don't live in a fixed positive bonding pattern (thank god!), nor am I her psychologist, there were plenty of times that she would react negatively. A negative bonding pattern would emerge. "Don't therapize me!"
In my partner's case, her mom became a therapist when she was a young teenager and her mom would sometimes come home and, thinking she was being helpful, would make therapy-like comments to her children: "Do you realize that you're being "......"? or, "So, how do you feel about that?" (remember, it's also about the energy of WHO says it, not just what is said!) My partner became expert in being able to tell when 'mommy-therapist' was talking with her instead of just mom! So luckily, she was primed to protect her boundaries better when I started doing this same thing!
Thankfully, we didn't stay in these negative bonding patters either. We could look at the dynamics of what had happened since we were committed to the health of our relationship and to our own continued awareness process. We could use the reactions to pause and look within. Who just said /did that? What was the underlying vulnerability? What else in me is there? Rather than having to analyze my partner (which my Psychological Knower feels safe & more empowered doing), I could also share with her about my vulnerability that was up, without having to dump it on her to take care of for me. A big part of separating from the positive and negative bonding patterns is being able to recognize, relate to and honor our vulnerable selves. And often, that simply means being with them. It doesn't automatically point to doing anything. The development of the aware ego process allows for us to more and more simply hold the awareness that some 'part of me' is scared, or lonely, or hurt or overwhelmed. We develop the ability to hold some discomfort without blame (self or other). It doesn't mean that we HAVE to change that discomfort into comfort. We become more tolerant of having our needs be imperfectly met! We assume primary relationship with our vulnerable selves, rather than expect, as we did when we were infants/children, that others (our parents) should be the primary relaters/ caretakers of our vulnerability/needs. We become better at discerning between how things were in the past, with reality as it is/ can be now. When our wounded child is unconsciously running our primary selves, we are also projecting past realities on present conditions. In this regard, the path offered by Voice Dialogue and clearing up fixed bonding patterns becomes a path to present-based awareness and non-attachment / fixed identification with selves. There's no Voice Dialogue rule that one should clear up all one's bonding patterns, but if you want safe honesty, intimacy based on equal respect and you want linkage - a nice energetic connection - doing this kind of consciousness work brings you a tremendous leap forward!