*This guest post was generously contributed by psychosynthesis and relationship coach Garrett Demers.
I was 30 years old with a baby daughter and recently married, working for a small investigation firm. The owner of that firm retired and I was next in line to take over the operations. From the outside looking in, it seemed like everything was working out… right?
The truth was that I had been fraying internally for several years. Why did everything seem gray and thin and confining, when by all cultural and societal metrics I should feel vibrant and alive? Why was I desperately looking for ways to numb myself and escape my reality?
That was my life 10 years ago. Since then, I’ve done a lot of thinking about how I ended up in such a predicament. Things had clearly become imbalanced in my relationship to self, others, and the world. Eventually, I was able to remove myself from the relationship—though it did take a Herculean act of will and courage.
It was the most difficult and most important choice I’ve ever made. It set me off on a course of adventures that I could have never imagined. As I come upon my 40th birthday, this feels like a good time to look back and share some of the insights uncovered during these adventures.
Many of us are having new and unfamiliar experiences that lack clear articulation. We feel things but don’t always have the language or framework to adequately communicate them. These metrics of being universally impact us, and it’s important to consider some sort of scaffolding to couch these feelings in. A framework I’ve been developing for a long time is called Interpersonal Alchemy.
Have you ever had the experience of going out with another couple that makes everyone around them feel awkward and uncomfortable? That’s a form of interpersonal alchemy. Ever been in a band, or worked in a group project? The addition or subtraction of one person can either make everything gel or create dissonance. That’s interpersonal alchemy.
What about a relationship you couldn’t keep your hands off each other but made everyone else in your group of friends feel awkward and uncomfortable? That’s interpersonal alchemy, too.
We all exist in this soup of energies emitted by the human life force. That life force is mediated through our physical vehicle (the human body) and expresses itself in a variety of ways. I’ve quantified these different types of energetic connections on an interpersonal scale. It’s a simple framework that can help us define and understand extremely varied and complex interactions.
When you’re in a relationship with someone—whether it’s romantic, platonic, professional, or familial—you experience these four areas of connection: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. Any relationship you have can be analyzed and charted across those four quadrants to give some insight into the nature of that connection. Doing this can help you take an honest inventory and decide how to balance the relationship, heal it, or abandon it.
QUADRANT 1: PHYSICAL
Think about a time when you experienced an undeniable tug or pull towards someone’s body. You wanted to touch them, express your love physically, and be affectionate. I’m talking about a kind of primal attraction. When you touch someone you’re deeply attracted to, you close some sort of energetic loop, which feels satisfying. However, the physical quadrant isn’t just used to define romantic relationships. This kind of connection is present between all beings—whether there’s a lot of physical interaction or a total absence of it.
I’m sure you often hug or express more physical (non-sexual) affection with certain friends, while you avoid this kind of affection with other friends or family members. These connections (or lack thereof) can be rooted back to the presence or lack of physical resonance.
QUADRANT 2: EMOTIONAL
We can think of the emotional quadrant as a heart-based connection. This emotional connection might be expressed without touch (through talking, being vulnerable, really connecting on a deeper level) or through touch, such as cuddling or holding each other.
This quadrant is also about our ability to empathize within the relationship. Emotional and physical relationships often feed into one another in a strong interplay. Many couples have great physical and emotional resonance. People in this type of relationship might have great sex, always hug and caress each other, and love each other deeply. Often, this type of connection—where two of the four quadrants are present—is enough for some people. But we can create even more resonance and depth through the other two quadrants: intellectual and spiritual.
QUADRANT 3: INTELLECTUAL
This connection includes things like shared interests, hobbies, values, and goals. An example of a purely intellectual connection might be two scientists passionately exchanging ideas on a topic of shared interest. We often have people in our lives with whom we share a passion or hobby, or with whom we can talk about books and movies endlessly—these are examples of an intellectual connection.
Let’s go back to the couple from the emotional quadrant. Yes, they love each other deeply. However, after many years together, they might find that there isn’t much of substance to talk about. Each person has his or her own hobbies and they’re leading separate lives.
In contrast, when the emotional, physical, and intellectual quadrants are all lit up, you will enjoy great sex and perpetual loving vibes while also being able to watch and analyze a film, talk about deep ideas, or play board games together. Richer and deeper connections are forged as we stack more of these quadrants on top of each other. Truly a beautiful idea to strive towards!
QUADRANT 4: SPIRITUAL
This quadrant is perhaps the hardest to put into words. This is about a shared aspiration beyond embodied, physical existence. A desire to both reclaim our true powerful selves and become something greater than what we feel we are. We might define this as a striving towards God, or a journey of self-exploration. When a spiritual connection is shared by two or more people, it opens up a whole new octave of connection. A couple with all four quadrants lit up will be able to enjoy each other’s bodies, hearts, and minds and also strive towards something unknowable and infinite beyond material reality.
This quadrant, in my experience, creates the strongest of bonds. A spiritual bond in platonic relationships can be just as potent. Imagine starting a business with someone with a shared goal of not just making money but of bettering the world, and bringing everyone closer to truth? Pretty powerful potentials come into play when Spirit enters the picture, activating a relationship’s transformative power.
Thank you for reading! I hope these insights will be helpful and give you a new framework for thinking about your relationships. If this has resonated and you’re at a crossroads, looking to transcend or ascend a relationship you are in, I’d love to help. I’m trained in Psychosynthesis Coaching and have a sliding scale for relationship coaching. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.