Jeanne Denney
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Relationship Basics

I started therapeutic work as a student of the chakra system, the ancient system of energy that mystics throughout history and culture have described. This beautiful, ancient work seems to relate to our brain and nervous system, our psychology, spirituality and body in ways we are still trying to understand. How these energies grow and develop probably mirrors exactly our brain and nervous system development. But while neuroscience is infinately fascinating, as a healer it is a lot easier to work directly with energy than with neurons. I find mapping and working with an energy system as it relates to the visible body to be a very practical art.

What interests me most about human energy is how it and the chakras themselves develop, connect to others and breathe in concert with the body. I am fascinated with how it moves with every breath we take, as well as with every relationship we initiate, allow to transform or end (if indeed we ever really end them). It seems that the energetic development of our relationships as well as our bodies, like many natural processes, tends toward oscillatory movement in health.


To make things more interesting, the energy structures of our relationships (called cords) inform and supply energy to different horizontal zones of the body through the chakras (Reich called these zones of the body "segments"). It is fascinating and important to note that we do not develop uniformly in the body. Just as the body develops through different segments in the physical from the head down, so it seems the energy system develops from the head down. This patterns our energy for life. I find the body is a superb guide to how energy and associated psychological stages have formed together in holographic unity. As such, we can use the body to understand at least part of the energetic dance of relationship.

Attachment and Relationship Formation

In a healthy relationship, energy between chakras exchanges and pulsates. Indeed, these structures seem to breathe much as our body does. Not only do relationships pulsate between chakras, but like the chakra system itself, they have a developmental arc that is important to acknowledge and respect. This arc of development unfolds vertically much like our physical development, and seems to follow the course of our initial attachment patterns. For example, when meeting someone for the first time in a natural (non-technological) form the following sequence might naturally unfold:

    1. Even before meeting each other physically, we may make spiritual contact from an intention to meet (7th chakra - crown),
    2. As we meet in the flesh, eyes and intuition engage (6th chakra - eyes).
    3. We listen, smell and speak to each other (5th chakra - throat).
    4. If this is a good experience we may open our hearts a bit to each other and exchange brotherly or sisterly love (4th chakra -heart).
    5. Ideally, before moving further in intimacy, we craft a definition of who this person will be to us, what social contract or role we will have with them. (3rd chakra - solar plexus) It is as if the 3rd chakra forms a kind of filter for the downward pulse into the lower chakras. The roles we have chosen to have with each other determines much about our power relationships and sexuality with the other. Perhaps we become tribal “brothers or sisters”, best friends, lovers, spouses or mates with all of the deep pleasure, natural exchange and security this can bring.
    6. As we continue to ground the relationship downward into intimacy we share emotions and personal truths, know each other more viscerally, form a group “ego”, explore power dynamics (2nd Chakra - abdomen/pelvis). We may be willing to engage in conflict toward mutual growth when things need to change or be redefined. Indeed the willingness to engage in conflict for boundary definition while keeping the heart engaged can be a high form of love.
    7. There is an aspect of sexuality and power in all relationships and some level, and groundedness hopefully is an aspect of all relationships, even what we might consider relatively superficial ones. But obiously not all relationships become completely grounded into intimate physical or tribal connections in the first and second chakras. Hopefully some do. These are the people that may feel “like family” (1st Chakra - genitals/legs/feet), our "homies", the ones with whom we identify, struggle and share with most deeply.
    8. When the learning of these roles and our forms with each other have been completed or exhausted, a pulse of dissolution may be initiated upward, reversing the pattern.

Differentiation and Relationship Transformation

We live in a culture strongly biased toward the formation of attachments and incarnation (birth) as positive, with detachment and excarnation (dying) as negative. Still, attachment is not the only aspect of relationship or life. The life in any living, breathing thing pulsates, cycles and eventually reverses course as an aspect of its natural movement. Relationships are no exception.

Processes of detachment and differentiation occur just as naturally as attachment processes and are just as necessary for the life and health of a relationship. However, like death and dying in our culture, they are very commonly resisted and seen as negative, even tragic, a threat. To recognize and support the natural movement of attachment and differentiation processes in relationship is to care for it and increase the chances that the relationship remains strong and healthy. In practice, of course, whether we are letting a child walk their first steps, our teen take the car or agreeing that we need space and time to sort out a love relationships or friendships, differentiation almost always takes courage. However, the price of resitance to this movement or denial is co-dependency.*

What I mean by a "Breathing Relationship" is one that allows for and welcomes both attachment and differentiation processes and is in constant inquiry about what most needs to be emphasized at any given moment on any given level, and willing to support that movement with courage for the truth.

Like attachment processes, mainly I observe that differentiation processes tend toward an orderly sequence if we support it. At least they seem to move with greater ease if sequences are respected. I learned these sequences from watching dying process closely, relating bodily transformation to energy, the psyche and relationship transformation.

    "In my four years at Harvard Medical School ...I learned nothing about the healing power of breath. I learned about the anatomy of the respiratory system; I learned about the diseases of the respiratory system but I learned nothing about the breath as the connection between the conscious and the unconscious mind, or the doorway to control the autonomic nervous system, or breath as a technique for controlling anxiety and regulating mental states, or the possibility that breath represents the movement of spirit in the body, and that breathwork can be a primary means of raising spiritual awareness. All of theses ideas I learned in other ways..."

    Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D., Clinical Professor of Internal Medicine, University of AZ - Tucson


* I would define “co-dependency” as a relationship pattern in which inappropriate energy is habitually even addictively exchanged between two people which supports weakness, dependency and merger rather than growth, strength and healthy inter-dependence with good boundary.