What does it mean to become an adult? We have social conventions that chart our progress: a driver’s license at sixteen, voting and sexual consent at eighteen, and tippling at twenty-one. While those milestones assume that we have achieved a level of maturity, few parents are fully confident that their children are ready for those freedoms, and the crime blotter is often dominated by the antics of those that abuse their freedoms.
If age is not a reliable guide to maturity, what, then, should we adopt as a standard?
When born, we are issued a “certificate of live birth” and upon our majority our parents “launch” us into life. Such metaphors – even if arising from maritime commerce – are often illuminating. Upon birth, our fate is totally dependent upon the skill, means, and commitment of our parents. In a sense, they “own” our future, and we have no choice but to adapt to their behaviors. Upon adulthood, we sail into a world of possibilities. Our success depends greatly upon the discernment we show in choosing our relationships.
What do we draw upon in choosing well? Natural intelligence and intuition; cultivated rationality and patience; and the fortune of resources and culture. To cultivate successfully those factors, just as with a math curriculum that leads from counting to calculus, parents and children need a roadmap.
A hypnotherapist is sensitive to a particularly important aspect of the problem. The conscious mind is sent out to navigate society while the subconscious maintains our place with family. While necessary in our growth to maturity, that division is a deep, self-inflicted would. One criterion for successful adulthood should be healing that wound.
This is the Hristic Path, first put forward as a therapeutic guide, with all the complexities of the pitfalls that may befall us on the way to adulthood. This article outlines the growth of our relationship skills, and how the quest enriches our lives.
The Hristic Path unfolds in seven steps. At each step, our role changes as we explore a new aspect of life.
Recalling our nautical metaphor for birth, in the first stage of life we are a dependent concerned with survival. Our approach is not rational; we accumulate behaviors by doing random things until our needs are satisfied. As these deep circuits form, we master feeding and movement, language and ritual.
At an age where our inner stores of energy support long periods of focus on a single task, society requires that we start school. This always brings conflict with behaviors at home. After an afternoon of play with siblings, the child realizes, “It’s time to go to bed, but I didn’t do my book report!” We make Mommy happy by going to bed, and then confront Daddy’s disappointment when the teacher sends a note of concern. Such conflicts drive the mind toward division. Having met the goal of survival, eventually the subconscious yields to the need to have a different personality at school, and the conscious mind is born.
Unfortunately, survival unleashes the second great biological drive: sex. Combining both pleasure and urgent need, sex turns us into hedonists. Like the survival instinct, its urges arise from primitive, subconscious networks. If we could bring reason to bear in moderating those signals, we might avoid passion’s excesses. Unfortunately, the rituals of romance penetrate only slowly the gulf between conscious and subconscious realms. Harmonizing expectations with our partners is impeded by our confusion. In our emotional clumsiness, we hurt each other.
Sex also comes with a flood of hormones that reorganizes the brain, softening the grip of family. We stay up two hours later than our parents, allowing us time to invest time in peer relationships. Society sets a date for independence – our final graduation.
The desire to establish stable sexual partnerships and the loss of parental support drive us into the third stage of maturity. We become consumers focused on advantageous exchange with our peers. According to the patterns established with our parents, one of two complementary strategies will be adopted: the adventurer or protector. In an ideal pairing, the adventurer explores the world for opportunities, returning insights and resources to the protector. The protector provides security and sets goals for the adventurer’s next foray. These patterns are valuable not just in romance, but in business partnerships.
Difficulties arises in this stage because these patterns, established in the years before reason, are held by the subconscious as essential to survival. When a threat arises to our enterprise, the adventurer wants to go out into the world to seek more resources. The protector wants to hunker down until the storm passes. In trying to impose their patterns, each frustrates and angers their opposite. Eventually the relationship ceases to be a relationship.
This pattern repeats until we realize that the only repeatable element in our crises is ourselves. Glimpsing the pain that we have scattered behind us, we understand that we cannot find happiness alone. We must understand our partner’s goals and invest in their well-being as though it was our own. This is the gateway to deep relationship. Our behaviors are no longer driven by our needs. Recognizing the value contained in our relationships, we commit to healing our partners, and invest in trust. Rather than imposing our behaviors in a crisis, we ask “What can I do to help?”
As we grow confident in the stability of our relationships, reason becomes essential to our negotiations. Reason, however, is valid only when assumptions are true. This pushes us toward full transparency in communicating with our partners. We no longer say what is convenient to us in the moment. When our hopes are disappointed, we are buoyed by our trust in our partner’s commitment to healing us.
As our understand of self and partner grows, we realize that our minds contain the same elements. The protector and adventurer patterns only emphasize different skills. Casting aside the expectations of childhood, we grasp the freedom to innovate in our behavior patterns and become socially creative for the first time.
This unstinting acceptance of difference begins to soften the barriers to spiritual integration. First, typically, with our romantic partners, this softening manifests in shared dreaming. Ultimately the merger enters conscious experience. This mutual appreciation society is the first step toward reunification of the mind.
The last stage of the Hristic Path reflects our final surrender to harmony as a guide to our behaviors. No longer acting on impulse, we negotiate outcomes in a space of shared imagination. In projecting the possibilities that we can support, we liberate others from doubt and fear. We may not be able to achieve our goals, but our survival will never be excluded when a conclusion is reached.
It is only in this stage that the masculine and feminine principles achieve true partnership. Love, in seeking to redeem the world, must do two incompatible things: change us while preserving that which is pleasing to our “neighbor.” The masculine principle changes, focusing itself in time and space to separate the future from the past. The feminine principle preserves, expanding through time and space to bear witness to harmony. In partnership, they produce outcomes that appear magical to the uninitiated.
Those familiar with the chakras may note similarities to the principles of that discipline. In fact, they are the same practice. The chakras are described as a personal practice, but the principal motivation for their study is a desire to heal the world. The Hristic Path, alternatively, focuses first on relationships, and recognizes that reintegration of the mind (healing the divide between conscious and subconscious realms) can only be accomplished in deep, trusting relationship.
To those finding appeal in this journey, I am always at your service.