Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Exploring Intimacy: A New Book by Suzann Robins

I met my colleague Suzann Robins in two worlds we both travel in: the worlds of body psychotherapy and the world of integrating sexuality and spirituality. It seems fitting that her new book, Exploring Intimacy represents the juxtaposition and integration of these worlds. Suzann also integrates these two more contemporary bodies of work and world views with more traditional schools of thought about psychology, health and human development.

The subtitle of the book is "cultivating healthy relationships through insight and intuition." I might add my own subtitle: "developing an integrated framework to understand the evolution of relationships, energy and connection in today's world."

Suzann does a remarkable job of outlining an evolutionary timeline of the history of thought, the history of medicine and the history of holism, and brings them all up to date with an understanding of energy medicine, emotional intelligence, intuition, gender energy and the spiritual dimensions of intimacy and sexuality.

At the very center of human experience and human relationships is our life energy, a vital force that seeks movement, connection and expression. I love the way Suzann defines emotion or "e-motion," as "the actual energy charge in motion," and also a basic part of a sixth sense, intuition, "and intuitive intelligence that formulates ideas about other people and our reactions to them."

She continues, "Perceptions formed through our sense of intuition relate to our ability to 'read' another person's energy fields, which is different than how a body is positioned in space. We detect location, orientation and movements of the body through the nervous system, especially visually and within the semicircular canals of the inner ear. Reactions to others occurs within the internal systems of the body's mind. Different streams of information combine to send signals to the brain."

The more levels of perception we are consciously aware of, the more completely and subtley we can read other people, express ourselves and relate and connect with them. When we add the less commonly acknowledged lenses of the heart and the kinesthetic felt sense to more commonly acknowledged lenses of visual cues, sounds, and thoughts, we gain a more complete experience of ourselves and others.

When we add the energy dimension to human psychology, we unite an understanding of the body and the mind. When self-actualization expands to include the transpersonal as well as the personal, Maslow's hierarchy of needs can be updated to provide a more comprehensive progression towards an integrated self.

For the past two years, I have taught a class at UMass Boston on how to create mutually empowering relationships. We look at the history and evolution of relationships since the founding of the United States, explore the wide variety of approaches to counseling that have evolved over the past several decades, and in the case of tools from other than Western cultures, longer than that, and try to describe a contemporary model of healthy relationships that incorporates the challenges we face as we grow beyond our past models in climate of constant change.

Suzann's book could be a wonderful textbook for my class, skillfully integrating past and present,
with an eye towards the future, and encouraging us to know ourselves both more broadly and deeply, so we have the space and perspective to more deeply connect with others as well.

This book is fascinating for students and practitioners of psychology, energy medicine and counseling, and provides a template for what it means to be a human being, on ones own and in relationship.

Exploring Intimacy: Cultivating Healthy Relationships through Insight and Intution
by Suzann Panek Robins
Rowman and Littlefield, 2010

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