Welcome to the 100th episode of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz! Thank you, so much, for listening, whether you’ve been a subscriber since episode one, or this is your first time.
If it is your first time, you’ve chosen a very special episode featuring my conversation with author, relationships counselor, educator, and speaker Jorge N. Ferrer (also find him on Facebook). His most recent book is Love and Freedom: Transcending Monogamy and Polyamory, and it guides our discussion about the fluid nature of loving romantic relationships.
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Transcript of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz #100
MEL: Hi everyone and welcome to today’s episode, the 100th episode of the Possibility Podcast. As I mentioned last week, I’m inviting all of my listeners from all over the world, I think close to 60 countries now, to join in a dialogue, sharing your thoughts, comments, suggestions and criticisms. I am devoting a Facebook group toward this event. Send me an email at melschwartz.com backslash contact and I’ll be happy to get you the information
on how to join the Facebook group. Now on to today’s very special episode.
MEL: Hello everybody and welcome to the Possibility Podcast. I’m your host Mel Schwartz. I practice psychotherapy, marriage counseling, and I am the author of the book, The Possibility Principle, the companion to this podcast. I hope to be your thought provocateur and I’ll be introducing you to new ways of thinking and a new game plan for life.
MEL: Hello everyone. I’m really excited today to introduce a very distinguished scholar, a man whose work and references I’ve come across over the years. He’s been a great influence in my thinking. So let me introduce Jorge Ferrer.
MEL: Jorge was born in Barcelona, Spain. He started his doctoral research in mindfulness meditation and he earned his PhD from the CIIS Institute in San Francisco with which I am most familiar. He’s written dozens of articles and four books. The most recent is Love and Freedom, which will be the topic of our conversation today. Jorge has been a leading scholar in participatory theory, transpersonal psychology, spiritual transcendence.
MEL: I see Jorge as a beautiful integration of intellect and soul, which is what has attracted me to his work and I am really excited to have him join us today in the Possibility Podcast. Welcome, Jorge.
JORGE: Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Mel. It’s a pleasure to be here and it’s a pleasure to be speaking with you as I’m becoming familiar with your work and I see so many points of convergence and resonances. So I’m delighted I’m in your hands.
MEL: That’s a precious place to be in my hands. I’ll do my best. Let’s dive into your new book, Love and Freedom. I’m going to ask you to explain or describe some of the terms. You will do them better than I am. But your book, it has so many different pieces of fabric and texture to it. You’re exploring both the difference between monogamy and polyamory with many terms in between and you’re looking at trying to overcome or transcend the need to create compartments.
MEL: Are you this or are you that? So there is more of a non-binary approach. And of course, there’s a deep dive into the heart and soul and the guts of all of this and let’s just jump in. Can you share with our listeners the terminologies? We all know what monogamy is. People have a sense of polyamory. Dive into a bit and give the listener the flavor of what you’re looking at.
JORGE: Okay, excellent. Thank you. So monogamy, everybody knows what it is. It’s normally like a sexual and romantic exclusivity to one partner. And it has been the predominant paradigm here in the West and many other places in the world for more than centuries, for millennia. In many ways, there’s a history there. Of course, monogamy today is not traditional monogamy anymore. It’s what the prevalent paradigm has shifted from until death pull us apart to what is now called serial monogamy, in which people change monogamous partners every few years with periods in between of exploration. So that’s monogamy in a nutshell.
JORGE: And then polyamory has been a paradigm emerging in the last decades that basically, in a way, I see this as a response to the amount of adultery, cheating, infidelities that has happened historically in monogamous arrangements. There was this author saying the history of monogamy is the history of adultery. And it’s probably somewhat true. So the idea is people would consensually decide that they want to open the relationship. But the definition is monogamy, polyamory, when you are in a simultaneous relationship with more than one person, could be affectionate, could be sexual, could be both, could be romantic, with the knowledge and consent of everybody. Your partner, if you have a partner, and their partners, if they have a partner.
JORGE: The thing is, for me personally, and this is where a bit of my personal story comes in, I don’t want to go in lengths, but I experienced long periods in my life of both polyamory and monogamy, almost two decades of each. And at some point, I felt like I could live both relational styles without serious conflicts. And I had a sense of freedom to be able to… And most importantly, I couldn’t identify myself. People would ask me, are you monogamous and polyamorous? And I say, well, neither, it really depends on my life moment, the developmental pools, the people I’m in connection with, and many other factors.
JORGE: So I start coming across with many different ways in which contemporary people are transcending that binary of monogamy and polyamory. And I call that novogamy, novo, new, agamio, union. I don’t like new terms in general because it looks like you’re presenting a new kind of, like a new kid in town that is superior to the others. But I don’t feel that way. I feel it’s like I understand where the transracial people are not better or worse than Asian or African-American, or transgender people are not better or worse than male or female. Being novogamous is not better or worse. It depends on how you lead that with how much mindfulness, integrity, and honesty, and so forth. So that’s a little of the terminology.
MEL: So when you’re asked that question, are you monogamous or polyamorous? I’ve tried to train my mind to not think in terms of either or false compartments. So when I’m asked an either or question kind of quizzically or as a wise guy, my answer is yes. Confounding the person asking the question, are you this or are you that? My answer is yes, right? Because I’m resisting falling into these constructs that we made up. Of course, they’re evolutionary, they’re real, but we made them up. Culture made them up. Society made them up. So what you’re sharing here is your desire and your resistance to be compartmentalized and to move more into the flow of I experience relationship the way I choose to experience it at the time I choose to experience it.
JORGE: Exactly. And as you pointed out and you put on your books, this kind of either or thinking, this black or white thinking is really entrenched in our culture and also some people would say even in the human mind, the way that categorizes reality. But it’s problematic. It’s problematic because life is not black or white. Life is multicolor. I’m here sitting, I’m seeing a lot of shades of green right now and many different colors. So the problem is when you get into this kind of identification with categories, almost immediately as some like Derrida and other postmodern thinkers pointed out, hierarchies are starting to occur.
JORGE: So that’s something of what I denounce in the book. Monogamists tend to look down at poly people as like they are like sexual greedy and like they are superficial and they are not, they are free of commitment and a lot of things, you know. But polyamory is also they look down at monogamous people like saying, well, they’re hypocritical because they actually want to have more lovers, but actually they cheat, you know, when they do it and or they’re afraid of like connecting to the free and non-possessive presence of love.
JORGE: That is all sort of like moral, psychological, even spiritual judgments. And I find that conversation pointless. It’s not, it’s ideological, it’s not evidence based. And part of my book is trying to stop what I call the monopoly wars and like to really try to open up into a wider spectrum of socially legitimate relational options that each person like can really craft the relationship and that can change on time. Maybe I’ll end my days in a poly family or maybe I’ll end my days in a monogamous container. Who cares? It depends on what is true for you and the people you’re relating to.
MEL: My thought at this moment is to dive into for the purpose of listeners who have not read your book, the guts and the actual substance of monogamy versus polyamory, and I shouldn’t say versus, but at the same time, I just wanted to comment that when you’re talking about that either or or resistance to, we experience that in all aspects of our lives, right? Beliefs, you know, what we confuse with being the truth, the argumentation, this is better, that’s better, really is it, we’d be so much better served to simply say, it’s my belief. Because saying it’s my belief doesn’t open us up to conflict. You have a belief, I have a belief, it’s okay if we have differing beliefs. But when we break down into the war, if they’re like in the US, what’s going on in this country politically diametrically opposed beliefs about life, consciousness, freedom, what does freedom mean? No different than monogamy versus polyamory. Different beliefs, if we can come to deactivate the hostility and say, I have a different belief than you, that’s all, it’s supposed to, you’re wrong and I’m right. But let’s move into the core of it a bit, Jorge, monogamy.
MEL: So monogamy is the commitment we make to one another to spend the rest of our lives together in fidelity and in intimacy, emotional intimacy, sexual intimacy. The first book I wrote was called The Art of Intimacy, The Pleasure of Passion. And it began like this, the fact that half of marriages end in divorce, not the problem. The real problem, the majority of intact marriages after a period of time are no longer in love, Eros is declined. If marriage were a corporation, it would be bankrupt. We wouldn’t permit that failure in business. Why do we permit it in our lives? But my thesis is that those results are not necessarily inevitable. It’s that we are uneducated and illiterate in emotional intimacy and our own self-actualization. You take two people who know so little of themselves and bring them together, isn’t that relationship destined or inclined to wither and not succeed? So at the heart of monogamy, before we jump to, well, monogamy leads to infidelity, it leads to boredom, it leads to loss of passion, undoubtedly. But my first question is, must it be that way, do you think? Is the problem in the form of monogamy, but as well, isn’t it in the lack of spiritual awareness, evolutionary awareness, consciousness in the two individual people who truly don’t know of themselves or each other? So I’d love your thoughts on that.
JORGE: In my experience, like the couples, monogamous couples, have this thing, they’re like thriving for many years and being actually together until they die or in an early age for so many years. In many cases, there was like that kind of like a commitment to growth, commitment to some kind of like a spiritual sense to like that can take many different forms, you know. And at the same time, like even those couples with, you know, there’s always exceptions we cannot generalize, but I would say it’s safe to generalize that those couples were exceptions, the ones that would say, yes, and we kept sexual passion like super high from the beginning to the end. That’s extremely rare, because as you know, there is this phenomenon called sexual habituation. It’s one of the Achilles heel of monogamous arrangement, you know.
JORGE: Normally it starts kicking in after even weeks, months of the regular sexual activity with the same partner, right? But especially after three years, the so-called three years each, it becomes kind of unbearable for most couples, you know. So those couples that have like achieved like a level of like a spiritual union, like companionship, like a companion in love, it’s called, you know, very often they have done that sacrificing the transcendent powers, the regenerative powers of sexual passion.
MEL: So that’s all comes to my question. Is this necessarily so? Is this necessarily so?
JORGE: So in terms of sexual habituation, you know, the two strategies I’ve seen like, you know, more successful minimizing sexual habituation, one has been one that connects already with these kind of like more trans-binary relationships, like in the sense that there has been some studies on post-patriarchal couples, you know, who are happy together, but ultimately they are pseudo-happy because the sexuality is not what it used to be. So many years, there is an increasing number of those couples, they are called today monogamish, who are really connected, they are really together, they are committed to each other. And at the same time, they can give each other sometimes free passes when traveling, when going to conferences, when going to festivals, you know, and that it seems that for many couples helps them to rekindle also the sexual passion because people, you know, with the diversity of their energies, they get invigorated and then they bring this to their homes, you know, or of course it’s delicate and both people need to be have a spaciousness enough to go there and so forth.
JORGE: But the other way of also exploring, of experimenting in my own life is also the practice of like a sex without orgasm. Because when you start practicing sexuality without an orgasm, the libido stays up and actually like orgasm is something like a device by mother nature for procreation. When you do that for a regular time with the same partner, this subliminal message is coming to from the reptilial brain to our cortical cortex saying like, ah, this person is not interesting anymore. And people start looking at other persons and so forth. And you cut orgasims out of the picture, you know, and there is like studies that you have are familiar with the work.
JORGE: There’s a beautiful book called Cupid’s Poison Arrow by this couple, speaking about this and many phenomenological studies of many couples practicing this and things can change, you know, like they, they, they reconnect. And I have like advice this sometimes to some of my clients with some good effects, you know. There are in a way like patches, so to speak, on sexual habituation, it never fully solves the deep thing. Is it solvable? I don’t think so. I know people go to Tantra and they’re going to King, they watch porn together. There are many things that people do, but there is something that is biologically almost inevitable in the decreasing of sexual passion that of course, for some people, they compensate in other ways, you know, through emotional intimacy and spiritual intimacy. So that’s also valuable as well.
MEL: So I’d like to introduce the concept of uncertainty into this conversation. I often quote Oscar Wilde, who wrote, uncertainty is the essence of romance. And we can all instinctively understand that and agree with that. But then the romance fades, the passion fades, the arrow fades. But my thinking there is, does that necessarily have to be because more primarily, the uncertainty fades and the romantic passionate relationship defaults to predictability. Now predictability must be the death knell of arrows and passion. So I just wonder, I’d look at the form and the content, the form monogamy and the things we know to be true. And then I also consider the content, which is, what are the influences perhaps habitually, sociologically, psychologically, to create these outcomes? When we first meet and fall in love, there’s a sense of tremendous curiosity and wonder, I don’t know this person. We’re not completing each other’s sentences. So sometimes whether I’m working with a couple or I’m sitting with friends and I listen to them talking and I hear the conversation and I think, I don’t know if they’re actually speaking about the same thing because they don’t ask questions like, so what do you mean by that word?
MEL: I want to make sure that word means the same thing to you as me. You see, there’s this shortcut, the abbreviating of the communication, the predictability, and with that, the loss of being present. So when we’re not present, what happens to passion, to errors? So I’m looking at this through many different facets because what you’re saying is inarguably accurate but then I come to, could it be different? Could a monogamous relationship not go down that narrow path?
MEL: Now thus far, that takes exceptional people. But if we change, if we became more educated in what it requires for a relationship to continue to thrive, I go to a wedding and I listen to marriage vows of young couples and I think to myself, good luck with that. Because there’s a naivety, but perhaps I’m an optimist and I feel that it needn’t be that way if we learned what we needed to learn to begin with. Your thoughts on that?
JORGE: Yeah, I’m an optimist too by nature, like you, and also a realist, a realist optimist. And my sense is that the key here is part of what we were talking before, that is like the two people in a monogamous arrangement, they need to be really open and committed to growth, to transformation. And that’s like a life journey.
JORGE: When you’re committed to growth and transformation, you start seeing not only your partner but yourself as a mystery. Okay, it’s a mystery. And it takes a lot because when you are cohabitating and the patterns, the routines, it takes tremendous effort and that’s why it’s so important for couples who cohabitate and live together to do many things different outside routines. Very important, like traveling or even leave some time apart and then come back or don’t sleep in the same bed. There are many things that people can do in that regard. But the important thing is to really cultivate that sense of like every human being is like as you wrote in your book, it’s a dynamic possibilities, range of possibilities and we are too.
JORGE: And the more we acknowledge ourselves to be that kind of like dynamic unfolding of this kind of creative mystery through us, that is cosmos life, the divine mystery, whatever you want to call it, then I think the possibilities of falling into this kind of like more boxing ourselves or boxing others, they diminish. Still, there will be challenge, but I think there is much more greater chances for harmonious and exciting relationship.
MEL: The emerging worldview, which we can call trans-personal, we can call it participatory, different people have different words for it. But that emerging worldview, which my listeners are familiar with, isn’t that fundamental to how we can potentially experience ourselves and the other in the relationship, whether it’s monogamous, whether it’s polyamorous, whether it’s blend and trans-binary, doesn’t require the foothold of a shifting worldview of what it means to be a conscious human being.
JORGE: Yes, I think it’s an important element because for me, when they asked me about what do I understand by a participation, you know, I explained it like participation for me is co-creation at so many different levels, at the levels of cognition to understand that we are co-creating our reality and perceptually, cognitively, but also at co-creation of all the parts of who we are. We are normal in our minds, that’s part of the problem, but our knowledge of our hearts, the knowledge of our instinctive wisdom of the vital energy, the knowledge of the body, and we allow all this to co-create our lives, things can become a bit more messy, but also more dynamic and more creative, you know, because the creative energy of life comes through our own vital energy. There is, of course, mental creativity, the smart permutation of ideas, but genuine creativity is that kind of energy that can create another human life, right? And can be used to regenerate ourselves and our relationships, you know? And the last one is like this kind of co-creation. And this is, of course, only for people who have a spiritual disposition with the creative mystery, but not necessarily so because I’m amazed today at the amount of cosmologists and scientists who embrace a mystical, secular vision of the cosmos, you know?
My friend Brian Swinney at CIS, and there are so many people every year, these new books on cosmology comes out saying, you know, we don’t believe in creation or God, but the cosmos itself, the story of the cosmos is like a mystical event. It produces awe and reverence. And we are part of that, you know, we’re part of that unfolding.
MEL: So that in itself is like an amazing thing, regardless of your spiritual or secular worldview. I think that speaks to the heart of the matter in the shifting worldview, what you’re referring to, and we all have different language for it. People will ask me at times my beliefs about a deity or a God, and my response is, no, I don’t believe that in any way. Oh, you’re an atheist. No, I believe that the universe is inseparable, reality is inseparable, and that there is a conscious intelligence that is profound beyond words, and we are a fundamental part of it. And therefore, when we then come to relationship, the possibility in quantum physics, we can call it the state of superposition, all possibilities are in this moment. What word do I choose in that moment? What physical affection or lack of do I choose in that moment in the relationship? When do I choose silence? When do I choose to intervene? Those possibilities are infinite, moment in and moment out, and when you speak of co-creating in a relationship, that’s the conscious co-creating in that relationship. And of course, I think that we are in our infancy. I think that we are in elementary school in terms of this awareness and what happens in relationship. So when we make conclusive statements about people are, it’s human nature, it’s how relationships is, I don’t accept that because we haven’t even scratched the surface yet of understanding what awaits us when we learn to get out of our own way. What we were taught misleads us. We need to rethink, which is why your work is fundamentally important in sharing this shifting worldview toward consciousness and awakening and the transpersonal and spiritual. All those words mean different things to each of us. But I think they evoke a similar feeling, don’t they?
JORGE: I think so. I think so. I think it’s like, I have to say, it’s like a sense of like, you know, we are greater than what we have been told, you know, from day one in a school, you know, like this kind of being that is going to, is born, is going to die. And then the best we can do with our time is to try to accumulate good experiences because this is it, you know, and go for it and compete and get better and get more money. I mean, that’s part of a simplified of course, mentally. But whenever you enlarge that worldview, like the game expands in a way that it’s much less self-centered in yourself. And I love also like, you know, this Dalai Lama when he says, you know, the problem is that people are not selfish, is that they’re not selfish in an intelligent way. Because if you realize that when people around you are happy, you are happy, then you are at the service of people’s happiness and joy and well-being, you know. And that’s like, in our world, it’s like that, right? So I think that’s part of the shift, you know, the shift of… But moving also connected to both spiritual and relational realms, like this is part of what my book is also trying to deconstruct, what I call relational narcissism, you know, in which people get entrenched in their positions like monogamy is the best, not just for me because it works, or I think it works, I want it to work, but it’s best, most natural, more healthy, more spiritually for everybody, or vice versa, polyamory is best for that. And it reminds those of us who have studied the history of religion, and it’s the same,
like the religious wars, you know, like all the religious competing, you know, like saying our God or our ultimate is the true one or the superior one, the rest are inferior or false.
JORGE: So it’s this kind of spiritual narcissism now, like a manifest in relational narcissism. So I think that’s part of the work, you know, like to really like shed this kind of like, you know, gross and subtle levels of narcissism that we all have. You know, we all have that because this human tendency that is natural, that to believe that what really has worked so well for us, it should work well for others. And that’s okay. And I can share it with others.
But also like with the openness to hear that for other people could become completely different. And that’s fundamental in our culture at all levels, political, spiritual, relational, and so forth.
MEL: I’d love to show you my appreciation for your subscribing to and rating this podcast by offering you a gift to one of the following, the power of mind, a live talk that I gave, or one of my digital eBooks, creating authentic self-esteem, overcoming anxiety, or raising resilient children. And lastly, cultivating resilient relationships. Once you have subscribed, please send an email to mel at mel schwartz.com. And just let me know which gift you’d prefer. Thanks.
MEL: So in listening to you say that, that makes perfect sense. Where my thought takes me, as you’re saying that is toward how can I thrive as a conscious human being and what is necessary for me to thrive in my relationship, whether the relationship is monogamous or polyamorous or somewhere in between. So I come to the word autonomy, which I’ve seen you used in your book a number of times. And I think, okay, how can we describe what we mean by autonomy? Autonomy is a healthy sense of self, which should be an individual prepared to engage in and thrive well in a relationship. You agree with that general description then is your belief that monogamy impinges on autonomy, and clearly on some levels that’s self-evident, and that polyamory enables a better sense of autonomy. Can you speak to that, please?
JORGE: Yeah, totally with you. Like I would say more than autonomy, I would speak of autonomy in connection as being kind of this kind of idea that we strive for, especially as we relate to other human beings. I would say that I don’t think it’s the paradigm itself, it’s the prevalent historical form that monogamy has taken, especially, and this is super important, we’re speaking in a world, in a culture in which we’re only a few decades of getting free from patriarchal thinking and patriarchal structures. So of course, it has imprinted, especially in women’s autonomy for centuries and millennia to levels that were very challenging for women, because men still would have their own autonomy. They would still go outside, they would do their thing, they would cheat, they would have the burrudello. That was kind of normal.
JORGE: When I talk with my grandmother about these things, my grandmother would tell me, yeah, I think your grandfather was with other women, but that’s what men do. That wasn’t normal. That’s what men would do. And women would go out with the kids and all that. So time has changed, I think, for better in that way. And as you say, we’re all giving various steps in trying to figure out what’s the new situation or how to relate. I don’t think monogamy per se, that’s why in my book I talk about these both mindful ways to be monogamous or polyamorous, and also less mindful ways. I see people in polyamorous structures who are also being super narcissistic. Many men, they have many lovers. For many men, sometimes polyamory has become a rhetoric to do what men have always wanted to do. And it’s hard enough for women to control as well, because sometimes they have issues if they go with other women. And then it’s the same patriarchal, demonic thinking applied to polyamory, which is a distortion, of course.
JORGE: Polyamory and monogamy at their best support the full autonomy and connection of both partners. It could be said, and this is a polycritic, that monogamy, because of their emphasis on sexual exclusivity, there is a potential loss of that kind of autonomy about what people want to do or not do with their bodies. Especially for women who have been so controlled sexually, that’s why so many women are at the… Many of the pioneers of the poly movement are women. The activists are women because of the situation. They realize that there’s an emancipatory, liberatory power for them. But again, for me, I’m not trying to say one relationship is better than the other, depending on how you experience it. And maybe some styles of relationships could be better off than others in certain things, but not as a whole.
MEL: Furthering that conversation around autonomy, I’d like to include the concept of emotional intimacy. Now, to me, emotional intimacy is not simply around the area of in either relationship or in any blended relationship. Emotional intimacy is not simply, do I have secrets with other people, which can be an emotional infidelity, unless we’re in a polyamorous relationship. But the greater issue here around emotional intimacy for me is, I’m fully transparent in sharing my thoughts and feelings with my partner.
MEL: Through my work as a couples therapist and as a psychotherapist, I’m astounded by how much remains obscured and not shared because of the concern of reactions, control issues. And that issue around authentic emotional intimacy, I think would impact any relationship. Or do you believe that the opportunity… Every relationship presents challenges and opportunity for growth. We both know that. We can argue that monogamy presents a greater opportunity for challenge and growth because you’re sticking with it. When things get hot and uncomfortable, you’re not taking off in the next relationship. But that may be just glib and short-sighted to take that approach. But I’m interested in your point of view around both personal growth through the vehicle of the relationship and the issue around emotional intimacy, which is part of our personal growth.
JORGE: One thing, yes, before addressing something you say about polyamory, like, well, that’s the same work I went to the next person. But that’s what’s happening with serial monogamy. Serial monogamy, that’s what happens in that paradigm. And I know many polycouples who have been together for many, many years. There’s some studies of longevity of relationships in which longevity is pretty much the same with contemporary monogamous and polyamorous couples. Some people stick with the client, stick with their couples with challenges, but the challenges could be different.
JORGE: I think in terms of emotional intimacy, this is an interesting thing here because I believe that not all, but many of the reasons of the secrets or things that monogamous people keep private, very often are around about attraction to other people, desire for other people, because they feel that it will be harmful for their partners, or they feel that they don’t want to open that can of worms, and then they feel that I don’t want to hear the same from my partner and support.
JORGE: So that’s an emotion that in honest polyamorous arrangements, it’s kind of part of the game. There is this kind of more transparent communication about attractions and desires. In that way, in that particular area, I would say that the structure of polyamory, when well navigated, it can offer in that arena, a deeper level, facilitate more emotional transparency and intimacy. That being said, I also remember one of my favorite psychotherapists I worked with as a client, I was just struggling with some of these questions about what to share, what not to share, my partner, do I need to share everything that comes to my heart and my mind, and the guy was a very wise man, he told me like, no, no, no, no, no. I think there is certain things that are important that’s important to share. But it’s also important to respect the dignity of your own privacy. To be in a relationship doesn’t mean you have to share everything that comes through you. That could be even harmful, that could be stupid, that could be silly, that can create unnecessary problems, and so forth. So it’s something interesting, it’s a very gray area.
MEL: I suppose it prompts the reflection, is this important to share? Is this necessary to share? And would it be harmful not to share? How would I feel if I were in my partner’s shoes? If this wasn’t shared, how would I feel? That’s the best we can do with it, isn’t it?
JORGE: For me also, a question I ask myself in this situation is, is this privacy fear-based? Or is it based on respect or personal dignity? And I also try to navigate this. Am I afraid of something? And then I normally, when it’s like that, then I work towards sharing. But there could be many other reasons why someone wants to keep something private for yourself, for the time being. This is also a time to share things. Maybe it’s not the time, maybe your partner is being challenged at work, or even a psychological health problem. There’s many contextual factors. Skillful means is something I really love about Buddhist tradition. Skillful means is the appropriateness of every action according to the context and the impact of your actions on other people. Sometimes the ideology of radical honesty, I say ideology because it can become an ideology. I’m very transparent myself. I like honesty. It’s very important for me. But like everything, it can become like an ideology and it can become almost non-compassionate and cruel in certain contexts.
MEL: Yes. It’s an art form to be cultivated as opposed to a rule book or an operating manual. It’s not one size fits all. It’s more art. It’s more music. The relationship, ultimately, we should be seeking to be in concert with each other. Think about an orchestra, individual instruments playing. Each musician playing their own instrument. There’s autonomy, my instrument. But we’re operating in harmony, in concert, which is really the worldview that we’re talking about, isn’t it? We maintain our sense of self. People struggle with this when I speak about inseparability or oneness. So I have no more identity. No, you have meaning and purpose now because what you do and what you don’t do impacts everything. So this provides meaning and purpose. So in relationship, I see it as the balance between self, playing your own instrument, but realizing that you’re part of the ensemble. You’re in concert. And the goal is harmony, ultimately. We may not love each other. We may not like each other, but we don’t have to fall into disharmony. Right?
MEL: Could you speak, because this piece in your book I find fascinating. You speak, of course, about jealousy and you use a word that I had not come across before, compersion. And can you share with the listeners the issue around getting past jealousy, the Buddhist approach to getting past jealousy and what compersion is?
JORGE: Sure. Well, it’s interesting to note, like in the English and Spanish and most dictionaries, there is no antonym. There is no opposite feeling name for jealousy. So compersion is a term that was coined by the polyamorous community in San Francisco many years ago. And I described the opposite feeling of jealousy. Jealousy, we feel a hard contraction, normally accompanied with fear, normally a feeling of abandonment. But also, it can also, there’s challenges for our sense of security and self-esteem. And also, in the worst situations, brings anger and violence. And that’s also why it’s so important to transform jealousy, regardless of your relational style, because it leads to tremendous violence and even murders today. A lot of the butchering of women in our world is caused by jealous feelings.
JORGE: So there are many books in the holy literature talking about compersion, but there is no method to cultivate it. So I was like almost 15 years studying Buddhism and the Buddhist tradition and then these practices of empathic joy, that is to desire well-being not only for yourself, also for your partner, for people you love. But in Tibetan Buddhism, the Buddhist tradition, you desire that well-being also for your so-called enemies, quotation marks. The Dalai Lama would practice this, would encourage monks to practice this with the Chinese after they invaded Tibet and they did all this atrocities. So I’ve been experimenting with this with clients and within myself and my own experience. When I had some hard contractions, I would apologize to my partner being with someone else to really practice this, to really desire well-being not only for my partner and my partnering with this person, but also for this person, that is a person like me who suffers, who has joy.
JORGE: And this kind of like, I think this does something to the psyche because the egocentric psyche, the mind that’s very kind of like under the grips of this kind of egocentric, I-me-mind is always trying to separate my joy and my pleasure from others. So when you do this practice, there’s something that kind of like dissolves, deconstruct that egocentric foundation of the way we function and there are more spaciousness that takes place not only in the mind, but in the heart that is so important. And of course, there is different challenges now for different people, you know, when you have like biographies who, you know, parents who are jealousy or jealousy with rivals, they have traumatic experiences, it’s much harder because those early biographical experiences, they open you up to transgenerational factors, the collective factors that we all carry inside, you know.
JORGE: So sometimes there is other practices that they do more embodied with couples, but I think we’ll take too much time to explain them here, but I found them also very effective. So there are ways to transform jealousy.
MEL: So as you’re describing that, personally, what I envision is the intention to release my psyche, my ego, my sense of ownership, the my, my partner, my wife, my spouse, to release the my and set the intention of if I love the other as I say I do, then envision releasing me and my, and just embracing my love for them and wanting them to feel love and gratification and pleasure, not just with me. As you’re seeing it, I’m doing a visualization for myself, which I’ve never done before. And I’m finding it accessible, not that it’s immediate to reach it, but I can begin to picture what it might look like. It’s a vehicle.
JORGE: Yes, exactly.
JORGE: It’s a practice, a cultivation of the open heart, you know, like, and I would say like even you one can tap into, I don’t want to say deeper, but like less constricted forms of love in the sense like, you know, I love this, this Argentinian psychologist Jorge Bucay, you probably don’t know him because…
MEL: I think I’ve come across the name.
JORGE: He gave this definition of love I always really enjoyed. He said like, genuine love is like to love so much the other person that what is good for this person is to move away from you. You will support that with all your heart because your priority is their happiness, not your happiness. That’s genuine love. And of course, I think in our culture and society, and I think, you know, monogamous strictures, traditional ones have patriarchal strictures have fomented that, you know, like love is also very intertwined with a sense of possession, a sense of possession, you know, and that’s tricky because I think like possession for me makes sense on an instinctive and more primordial level, in the sexual level, to possess, being possessed at the course of the instinctive world, you know, but they don’t need to crystallize emotionally or socially. I possess this person as my possession.
MEL: The description of allowing yourself to feel love with the other moving away from you, of course, is not altogether an unusual experience for a parent.
MEL: You know, you realize that the individuation of your child, they must move away from you and become autonomous and it would be unhealthy to say, no, no, no, come back here. So phenomenologically, it’s not different than what a parent may feel for a child as they move toward young adulthood. And it’s almost conceptually similar to think of that in terms of your lover, which would incline toward the polyamory, wouldn’t it? I can see that as a vehicle. So for all of what we are talking about, there needs to be the individual growth, doesn’t it, and move away from the toxic individualism, whether it’s monogamy or polyamory or transbinary. We must move past that unhealthy toxic individualism, which is based in fear. Rooted in the Newtonian paradigm of separation.
MEL: Right? So for me, Jorge, the principle of separation, the mechanistic worldview, to me lies at the heart of fear, competing rather than collaborating, the loss of empathy. And the emerging paradigm we’re talking about of oneness leads ultimately to empathy and compassion and the unfolding of our emergence in relationship or individually.
MEL: Okay. So I’m in agreement with the importance of not defaulting to a category in terms of monogamy, polyamory. Categories are made up things. Our mind made them up.
MEL: You know, Alfred North Whitehead called that reification. Our mind makes something up, then if it gets it made it up, we reify them. We take our thoughts and we turn it into a thing and the truth, and that leads to the
JORGE: Yes. And we identify ourselves with those categories and then that leads to the competition, like the question of defending ourselves, our relationship style. If I’ve chosen, therefore must be this or superior and things are changing, more and more people, of course, they will develop empathy, develop more spaciousness in their minds and realize… I mean, if you’re talking to people, most people would agree with you, like, well, what is good for you, that necessarily should be good for everybody. And they will tell you, sure. But still, when this stupid conversation comes, the judgments emerge, like the same with the spiritual and religious matters very often, like, no, because God, no, no, that’s nihilistic or no, that’s like primitive or whatever. So it’s very sad.
JORGE: It’s a sad situation that I think people like us with our different approaches to the same participatory worldview, and from different places, but we’re really trying to make the ship in relationships, in the way we live, especially in the way we relate to each other. That’s like the basis, the basic foundation of humankind, how we relate to each other. That’s basic.
MEL: To that end, at times, in my own provocative way, I might say, I’m not a human being. I choose to be human becoming, which is to be unstuck. Why do I want to be a being? I want to be becoming, to be in flow, which is, you know, it’s easy these days, people talk about being in flow, but what does it mean to be in flow? Or people struggle with the question, who am I? And I say, that’s the wrong question. Who am I would have a fixed answer. How do I choose to become? How do I choose to experience my life? Everything you’re speaking about requires an unfolding sense of becoming, letting go of certainty, letting go of right and wrong, no matter what form of relationship you choose.
MEL: Well, this has been stimulating and fascinating. Before we close, I want to tell you, I’m going to be doing an entire series of episodes on relationships, perhaps I would like to invite you back on. Can you tell the listeners how to learn more about your work and to access your book?
MEL: Okay, so for everyone to hear again, and by the way, this will all be in the notes of the podcast. The book is Love and Freedom. And you practice as a psychologist, Jorge?
JORGE: Yes, yes. I’m a psychologist, like I specialize, most of my clients are individuals or couples dealing with relationship issues like sometimes jealousy, infidelity, sexual incompatibilities. One of the partners wants to open the relationship, the other is not. Things like this, the crafting of a relationship style that really works and is a creation, a co-creation for them. And then also have another side that is more like transpersonal psychospiritual counseling. But I would say like 90% of my clients are on the relational field. And interestingly, many couples, most of the couples I’ve seen is the women, is the females who are trying to open the relationship. Interesting. Fascinating phenomenon.
MEL: Certainly, but I will also say in general, in therapy, most people seeking therapy are females.
JORGE: Yes, of course. Who are getting more emotional, in general, more emotionally intelligent than male, talking about the critical mass, and have the instinct to process emotions and is more ingrained in many different ways. But at the same time, also there is a thing, I think there is like the thing of patriarchy we were talking before, that more and more women are becoming less tolerant.
JORGE: For a man, telling them what to do or not to do with their sexuality or their bodies. So that’s very, we’re going to see more and more of that.
MEL: It is a shifting of old archetypes there. So last question. Do you work with couples and individuals by Zoom or only in person?
JORGE: Only by Zoom. I only work in person here where I live in Ibiza. Sometimes when we do like more embodied work, and then I work with another therapist who do the physical work and I’m kind of like supporting there. So with this consciousness, I facilitate that work. But there’s international, so it’s by Zoom.
MEL: So if one wants to reach you, do you have a website or how do people contact you?
JORGE: Yeah, website is Jorgenferrer.com.
MEL: Okay. And again, to the listeners, that will all be in the notes of the episode. Wishing you a wonderful day in Ibiza.
JORGE: Thank you very much, Mel. It’s been such a great pleasure to be in conversation with you.
MEL: I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Possibility Podcast. I welcome your feedback on this and any episode. Please send me an email at mel at melschwartz.com or leave a comment in the show notes for this episode at melschwartz.com. If you like what you’re hearing, please take a moment to rate and review the show at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Your reviews really help boost the visibility for the show and it’s a great way for you to show your support. Finally, please make sure to subscribe to the Possibility Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts and that way you’ll never miss an episode. Thanks again. And please remember to always welcome uncertainty into your life and embrace new possibilities.