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Excerpted from The Conscious Heart by Kathlyn Hendricks, Ph.D. and Gay Hendricks, Ph.D. Copyright 1997 by Kathlyn Hendricks, Ph.D. and Gay Hendricks, Ph.D. Excerpted by permission of Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"As we matured, though, we saw that our real growth came from accepting each other's way of being as our teacher."

Kathlyn Hendricks and Gay Hendricks, 
The Conscious Heart, Part 3

Committing to closeness and autonomy

We came from very different places on the autonomy spectrum: Gay was from the "don't fence me in" school of autonomy, while Kathlyn was from the "devoted to the point of self-sacrifice" school. At first each of us thought our own path was the only correct one. If only the other could be like me, each of us would wistfully think. As we matured, though, we saw that our real growth came from accepting each other's way of being as our teacher. For Gay, one of the key learnings of his life was to let go of some of his go-it-aloneness: "I had always been a loner ever since my childhood. There were few other kids in the neighborhood and they were mostly older, so I spent a lot of time playing by myself. As I got into close relationships in high school and college, I still held back a large part of myself. One time I took my girlfriend and a friend of hers to my dorm room to get something, and the friend exclaimed, "There's nothing on the walls--no posters or anything! There's no personality.' My girlfriend replied dryly, "That is his personality.' It stung, but I knew what she meant.

"When I started my relationship with Kathlyn, I was thirty-five and ready to make some major revisions in my personality. I realized that my loner script, which had worked well for me as a survival strategy growing up, was now costing me. The more I defended myself with it, the less intimacy I enjoyed. I began to study Kathlyn's style of being with people. She touched them a lot, listened to their feelings, cared for them in ways that I felt were mushy. But as I tried on some of her ways of being, I found I liked them. They gave me a softer, more tolerant way of connecting with other people."

Meanwhile, Kathlyn was studying Gay's style: "I noticed that Gay was completely comfortable being by himself, whereas I often got scared when alone and kept myself busy to avoid the fear. Gay could go into a room by himself, write for several hours, and come out feeling happier than when he went in. That was tough for me, and I could see that my discomfort was keeping me from being as creative as I could be. On the other hand, he avoided parties, small talk, and schmoozing, often feeling drained and grouchy if he had to make more than a polite appearance at a party. At first I criticized him for being a lone wolf, but later I began to admire him for it. I tried creating boundaries for myself. Instead of saying yes to every demand on my time, I adopted Gay's ways of saying no to the dozens of people who were always trying to get his attention. I feel like I am so much more of a whole person now that I have more of a balance between my autonomy and being close."

Then we began to question whether our adapted rhythms were our essence-rhythms. In other words, did Gay's essence really thrive when he was alone, and did Kathlyn feel most in touch with herself around other people? Or had these styles evolved in response to our early familial contexts?

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