Love and Awakening: Discovering the Sacred Path of Intimate Relationship by John Welwood is just one of his many books. John Welwood is a psychotherapist who provides relationship counseling for couples and conducts relationship seminars in various locations across the USA. Other books by John Welwood include: Journy of the Heart: the path of conscious love, Ordinary Magic: Everday Life as a Spiritual Path, Challenge of the Heart: Love, Sex, and Intimacy in Changing Times, Awakening the Heart: East/West Approaches to Psychotherapy and the Healing Relationship, and The Meeting of the Ways: Explorations in East/West Psychology. His credentials are certainly sufficient to be knowledgeable in the area of interpersonal relations. However, I don’t know enough about his work to know if what he teaches and practices actually works, or not.

The book approaches the topic of interpersonal relationships between romantic partners from a “psychospiritual” perspective. Welwood makes the claim that, how we relate to another “inevitably follows from how we relate to ourselves.” Throughout the book, Welwood returns to this theme.

In transcripts taken from his relationship seminars, Welwood makes clear his idea that how we respond to something our partner does acts merely as a ‘mirror’ of what is going on inside ourselves. In one example given in the book, a husband was upset that his wife was never on time for anything. His wife was upset that he always had to rush. Welwood, using a classic psychodynamic model, led the husband to look into himself and find the part of himself that wanted to be relaxed and easy-going like his wife and led the wife to do the same with the part of herself that wanted to be more on-time and responsible. Welwood then led the partners to find some memory from their past that now prevents them from allowing this part of themselves to manifest itself, and when those feelings from the past come up to the surface he advises to “just be with them and give them space.”

Often times, Welwood discovers that what the partners really want is the same thing, but that it had manifested itself in different ways in what he calls the “false personality” which had been imprinted upon the “true self” by overwhelming experiences growing up. This process of finding the underlying, “core” aspects of what is really going on, is supposed to have a two-fold benefit. One benefit is that the old emotional wounds and imprinting are healed, thus allowing the true self and soul to emerge more. The second benefit is that, through such communication, partners can learn to understand one another at a much deeper level and gain more intimacy and greater rapport. It is essentially a method for increasing spiritual awareness, relating to oneself in a better way and to others in a better way by allowing the ‘rough edges’ of the personality to evolve: to expand your model of the world through romantic love.

One concept discussed by Welwood is that of Self/Other in the creation of identity. He identifies a bad Self/bad Other that imprints limitations onto the identity and leads to a ‘created personality’. He advocates owning your own feelings and listening without assigning blame. A collaborative conflict resolution strategy is built into his methods. The ‘3 time rule’ of conflicts, that some other underlying issue of power or self-esteem is at fault, is discussed and dealt with using his methods, though he doesn’t say that 3 is the magic number. Some other concepts he incorporates into his methods, though not necessarily by name, are dual perspective, honest communication, sensitive listening, self-disclosure, clarification and summarization, and identification of emotions.

This book provides a method through which couples can work through conflict and differences, and at the same time grow and evolve as a human being moving toward a greater 'spiritual awareness' and gaining more trust and deeper understanding and rapport with your partner. While I do agree that this book can help many people to experience more meaningful relationships and expand their model of the world, I’m not convinced that there isn’t another way that is possibly less emotionally painful. However, for people who are searching for a more spiritual basis in their relationships it could be a valuable asset because it does address that aspect of relationships. The methods used in the book are, by the author’s own admission, “meant to apply only to relationships where two partners share a deep connection, a willingness to work with its challenges, and a commitment to their own unfolding.” Presumably, the partners also have to have a somewhat ‘new age’ viewpoint as without that, much of the material would probably be discounted or even ridiculed. In short: both partners must also share a firm commitment to spiritual growth.

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