The Authentic Lover - Workshops for Men

Three Perspectives on the Inner Beloved

Each of us carries an inner beloved - an inner "other", who is with us for every step of our lives. Creating and cultivating a relationship with this inner beloved can give us a sense of wholeness and completion distinct from any external relationship. By finding our completion here, we reclaim the responsibility for our happiness, and remove that burden from our lovers. We can then meet our lovers in pure play.

Here are a series of practices to guide you in coming to meet and know your own beloved.

What is the nature of the Inner Beloved?

As we develop in childhood, we make a series of decisions or differentiations over time. We are told that we're a boy, and not a girl; so we put the feminine in the category of "not me", and separate from our own feminine qualities. Perhaps we decide that we need to be strong and independent, so we put some of our vulnerability into the "not me" category, and separate from that. Another boy might identify as a "good kid", and separate from some of his wildness or strength.

Jung used the term "Shadow" to represent all these parts of ourselves that we differentiate from, and identified a tremendous longing that we carry to be reunited with these lost parts. He used the term "Animus" to represent the elements of the Masculine that women put in the shadow, and "Anima" to represent the Feminine that men separate from. This is a natural and necessary part of the growth of the self. But we still carry both sides of any such separation within us; the resources that we've separated from are still available to us.

The question then becomes, how do we connect with these parts of ourselves? If it's shadow material - if it's a quality of ourselves that doesn't really feel like our Self at all - how do we invite it in?

Recent teachings in Integral Theory offer an answer, which is to work with the three fundamental perspectives of It, You, and I, in sequence. First we describe the shadow part of ourselves - what's it like? What gifts and inclinations does it have? What does it want? Second, we have a conversation with that part - we start a relationship with it, get to know it, using our imagination and intuition to access the shadow's authentic voice. This practice culminates in Identification, allowing ourselves to fully inhabit the perspective of the shadow part, and receive its gifts and characteristics as part of who we truly are.

Here's how that process works with the inner beloved. These practices should be done in sequence, taking time to fully digest each step before moving on to the next.

Third-Person: Describe your own inner beloved.

The inner beloved, for men, is made of of a combination of three elements:

This last is a vital and true piece - consider how critical we are of ourselves? How much of the unconditional love and appreciation of ourselves that is our natural birthright have we disowned, and put into the shadow? The inner beloved can hold all of this tremendous love, and return it to us through this process.

Practices that can help you find the truth of your own inner beloved:

Second Person: Meet your inner beloved.

Once we have a good description, it's time to shift from the third person - using "she", describing your inner beloved as if she was in another room - to the second person, where we use "you", and talk directly with her. Have a conversation - move from describing her to really getting to know her.

It's important to set aside some time for this process, to create the right setting for the conversation. Turn off your phone, close your door, and plan to spend at least 20 minutes. Drawing on the work we did in the third person, bring your inner beloved to mind. And express the invitation, especially if you haven't done this sort of work before - mentally let your beloved know that you want to spend some time with her.

From there, there are a number of options:

At first, some of these practices might feel a little artificial, as though you are "making up" the beloved's responses and presence. There's always a little truth to that at the beginning, but keep going - holding this space and these practices creates a doorway that your true inner beloved can come through. You'll soon be surprised at what emerges.

There's no hurry to go to the next stage. The domain of the second-person relationship, the I and Thou experience, is where love is most deeply felt. Let yourself fall in love here, and let yourself receive the deep love and support of the beloved.

First Person: identify as the inner beloved.

Here we shift from the back-and-forth dialogue of the 2nd person relationship to identification - experiencing yourself as the inner beloved. Let go of your current gender and identity - give that Self you carry around all the time a little rest - and explore what it's like to be the beloved.

Ultimately, through this practice, we work towards unification with these formerly separate components of the self. What was once something outside of ourselves, that we yearned for, has now become part of ourselves, making us whole. The practices of identifying, connecting with, and abiding as the inner beloved all make it more possible to come into union with the beloved, and to own their qualities as our own. This is what we call the Inner Marriage, or Sacred Marriage - the union with the other half of our own soul.

There's a fear that people often feel when contemplating these practices; it usually goes something like this: "If I'm whole and complete on my own, does that mean I'll always be single?" The answer is quite to the contrary. Once we come into completion in ourselves, once we are no longer looking outside of ourselves for a completion that can't be found there, we become much more suitable partners for whatever divine beings come our way.

Blessings on your union.

Footnote on gender and sexual orientation: For those who are drawn towards same-sex relationships, you may get benefit from working with an inner beloved of each gender. The feminine is still a powerful repository of disowned parts, and it's worthwhile to explore what She has for you; and, when focusing more on your relationship desires, how you want to be met in romantic connection, it's worthwhile to explore those aspects in a male inner beloved. Similarly, for those who identify as non-binary or gender-fluid, I expect you've already had to do a lot of this work; but we never run out of shadow to reclaim, so it's worth exploring these aspects in both genders.

Gratitude to to Ken Wilber and Diane Musho Hamilton for their insights on the 3-2-1 Shadow process.


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