The Rhea complex is an approach emphasizing the
sibling relationship rather than the parent child focus of the
Oedipus Complex of Freud. There is an explanation of it at the
end of this work that took place during a workshop.
Dick: Sooo, here we arre, together againe. (Dick uses a thick accent)
Cl: Yes. (laughter)
Dick: You look so scared. What's happening with you?
Cl: I feel playful.
Dick: So if you feel playful, how is it that I see tears? Is that possible?
Cl: I feel somewhat staid, but I don't feel sad.
Dick: Yes, of course tears don't always mean sadness, do they?
Dick: They can be a means of relieving tension. Are you feeling tense at all? You don't look tense. You look like their could be some tension in your eyes.
Cl: Generally, I feel tense in my eyes.
Dick: Generally you feel it in the eyes.
Cl: And I think I always carry some tension, especially with someone.
Dick: Say that another way.
Cl: If I am home alone, or I am out running by myself,
Dick: I see. So when another person is present. Could it be with anyone? Even people you know real well?
Cl: It seems that even if it is people I know real well, I am always conscious of their presence.
Dick: You are always conscious of their presence. And the way you say that, that is as if you are saying, "That keeps me from relaxing." Is that true?
Dick: Why would the presence of other people keep you from relaxing?
Cl: I don't know.
Dick: What would you like to talk about?
Cl: The two issues that I thought about when I thought about coming here actually were: wanting to feel more spontaneous, more free, especially with positive females; and to be less burdened with those unexpected times of feeling bad, as in a bad person, feeling scrutinized, and not doing well under scrutiny, coming out. And those experiences are less than they used to be, but still, if someone is critical, it is easy for me to internalize that criticism and take it further. It is so hard for me to separate criticism as a statement of their criticality versus my being.
Dick: When someone makes a critical statement about you, you take that in and you run with it. You enlarge it. You begin to criticize yourself even more.
Cl: My sense is that I would like an experience in which I can have the experience and teach myself to feel differently. So in a sense what I want, I think, is to be in a new place. It seems like over the years I have looked a lot at my history to understand the roots of the bad feeling, but that doesn't necessarily change them to better feelings.
Dick: So you could look to the root of good feelings. So what is this good feeling that is lighting up your face right now?
Cl: Being understood.
Dick: Being understood. Ah ha. Is that a critical point for you? Not being understood?
Cl: Yes, and I would say it positively that being understood is a positive point. A pleasant experience. And especially with that thought, especially through the years, sometimes someone else trying to help has prevented the idea that, I've kind of struggled with, that if you just get rid of the bad feelings, good feelings just flood in. And I am not so sure that with me they do. I think they need their own pumping up, so to speak. They need their own encouragement.
Dick: Well, that is one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is to see that all feelings, good or bad, that all feelings are a manifestation of the self image. So it is not so much that you need to pump out the good feelings, but that you need to stop identifying with the bad self image. Not so much that you need to pump up the good feelings, pump them up, because after all that is not a very spontaneous thing. But to spontaneously have more good feelings means that you would have to de-potentiate the self images that spontaneously give you those feelings. Does that make sense to you?
Dick: I wonder what the self image is that causes the bad feeling. And other piece of behavior that you reported, you said, "When someone is critical of me, it is very easy for me to take that image and run with it, to internalize it and start criticizing myself. That also is a piece of behavior that is a manifestation of the self image. And of course what you are likely to do is if you are identified with a negative self image is that the slightest thing calls that up. And you will say, "Yes, that is the way I am." And psssst, the other person doesn't have to say any more, you feel it.
Cl: Uh huh.
Dick: The question is, "What is this negative self image? What is the self image that makes me feel this?"
Cl: It is just some kind of image of essentially of being bad.
Dick: Of being bad. Is bad the right word? I am not saying that it is not. I am just checking it out. Is it bad, or helpless, or inadequate? Bad suggests evil.
Cl: Well, it is not evil. More like "wrongfully constructed. Not right. Defective."
Dick: So that would be a better word. Not evil but defective. So, just say, "I'm defective, and that is where it is at."
Cl: I am defective and that's where it's at. (laughs)
Dick: What is happening?
Cl: It is funny.
Dick: And we could start to chant that, couldn't we?
Dick & Cl: I am defective and that's where it is at. Chants over and over and the client joins in while Dick drums
Dick: How is it going?
Cl: Ummm. Lighter.
Dick: You must be defective. (Laughter) Right? Doesn't that follow? To say something like that and then feel lighter.
Dick: No? That doesn't follow. What are your associations that you are somehow defective, in the sense of memories. What associations come up for you?
Cl: Well, it is a very specific memory. It is a picture of my mother, and her being furious with me.
Dick: Your mother is being furious with you, because
Cl: I don't know why. The picture is never clear what I've done, or if I have done anything. It is just that she is angry at me.
Dick: And how does she show her anger?
Cl: It is a rage in her face. Her eyes and the way she is looking hateful.
Dick: Go deeper and deeper and deeper into it. So now you can say, and see what you experience: "I have no right to live. And that is where it is at." (Client repeats). And what would your tears say?
Cl: They would say, "I don't understand. I am not that bad." They would say, "Why are you so hateful toward me? What have I done?"
Dick: What have I done? I don't understand what I have done. Why don't I have the right to live? But that is really a strong phrase for you, isn't it?
Cl: "Why don't I have the right to live?"
Dick: No. "I have no right to live." That often is the tribute to when the child at a very early age looks up and sees a rageful mom or dad. "I have no right to live." That's right. The child says that. You know, it is a very very old notion that God is a vengeful god.
"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord,
He is trailing out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.
He shall seek his terrible vengeance with a terrible swift sword."
His vengeance. The grapes of wrath. And you know, given a universe in which God is punitive and wrathful, and when he is disobeyed, it is a very easy move from there, to the puritanical concept that if I have prospered, it is because I have been blessed. And if tragedy befalls me, this is punishment and retribution for me. And so the child thinking that way sees the anger in the mother's eyes and just thinks, "I (the child) have no right to live. If I had a right to live, she wouldn't be angry with me." Is your mother living?
Dick: When did she die?
Cl: It has been maybe five to six years now.
Dick: How old are you now?
Dick: So you were about 36 when she died. What was your relationship when she died?
Cl: During the last year of her life, a lot better.
Dick: Yeah, that is like damning with faint praise during the last year of her life, "it was a lot better."
Cl: Well, actually it was a great way to leave her. I had given up hope that our relationship would ever improve. It did improve. And probably her last year was our best year so I didn't mean it to imply anything. It was good.
Dick: What happened was good. But also you are saying that for most of your life, it was poor.
Cl: Yeah, it was distant.
Dick: And what was it like when you were twenty?
Cl: Probably, distant but strained at the same time. When I would visit her, it wouldn't take long for me to feel like being her teenager.
Dick: Because What would she do?
Cl: She would act like my mother. She would find fault with what I had done. Something was always wrong with what I was doing. Or so it seemed. I was extremely sensitive to criticism. When I was in school, "Are you still in school? When are you going to be through with school"
Dick: Sure. Well, both may be true. A lifetime of that would probably make you very sensitive to that and also you might have been very grateful.
Cl: Well, I think that the problem was that she probably wasn't very warm, and so what stood out in terms of her feeling connection was her criticism. She did that better, in a sense, than warmth.
Dick: So it was a way, in a sense in which she made contact. Like the little boy who makes friends with the girl by pulling her hair, and pinching her, and doing stuff like that. Awful little brats. I was never like that. How did you get along with your father?
Dick: So that is how you learned to keep a distance.
Cl: Uh huh. His attention always made me feel uncomfortable.
Cl: Because it was erratic. From my point of view, undependable.
Dick: He would give it and then withdraw it?
Dick: He would give it and then if you came out, he would withdraw it.
Cl: He would put it out if it fit with his needs.
Dick: It is a form of bear trapping.
Cl: It also was inappropriate as I got to be a teenager.
Dick: Inappropriate? In what sense?
Cl: Too flirtatious. Sexually tinged on his part. Sexually colored. His jokes, his comments.
Dick: That made you uneasy, so you would keep a distance. Did you have brothers and sisters?
Cl: No. I had a girlfriend.
Dick: Did you have a boyfriend?
Cl: I had a boyfriend. My girlfriend kind of saved me. She really means a lot to me.
Dick: You are still in communication?
Cl: Yes, we don't do a lot together, but I carry her in my heart, like a sister.
Dick: So you didn't have a sister or a brother. So what are you experiencing.
Cl: Kind of the ebb of the feelings with her, the connections with her. And focusing on the idea of not having a brother, so having a space there.
Dick: Did you ever fantasize when you were young about having a brother?
Dick: How old were you when you fantasized that?
Cl: I mostly am remembering that as an adult, I fantasized that.
Dick: Okay, what I want is for you to do it as a child. Go back and see that you are about six or eight years old. And see that you have a brother. You have a brother. And see that you and your brother are together, and that you are in the garden of Eden. The garden of Eden, where there is no sin, no wrong, no good or evil. Just the essence of childhood. And what do you see, in this image of you and your brother.
Cl: Well, I see a kind of shifting garden, kind of a combination of different gardens. A lot of flowers, it looks like prairie flowers, a fountain, kind of changing to a meadow with a lot of open space, which I like. Meadow that is filled with a combination of grasses, and cone flowers.
Dick: Blue cone flowers.
Dick: With lacy leaves.
Cl: Uh huh.
Dick: Leaves that are not dark green, but are almost black and green. What else do you see?
Cl: Flowering plants and I guess I see him running, both of us running in a field. Him running one direction and I'm running another. Kind of back and forth, so our paths cross.
Dick: What are you feeling as you run back and forth with crossing paths.
Cl: Kind of free, good, even today I like to run.
Dick: What you are doing right now is actually a shamanic journey. We are not rattling a rattle or pounding a drum. So just begin to describe everything that happens spontaneously. Go ahead and start telling me.
Cl: Okay. I am going off to the left and laughing and he is going to my right. I goes to the edge of the field and I go to the edge of the meadow, and then we are turning and running toward each other. And if we come together, we touch hands like two jousters almost, we rush by, to the edge of the meadow and back again. And then this time we don't rush by, but we kind of push one another in a friendly way, so that we roll on the ground, on the grass, and we tumble over, one on top of one another. And over and over.
Dick: How do you feel as you do that?
Cl: Good. Playful. And we stop, and each of us lie on our backs. We pull a piece of grass out of the ground and tickle each other's face, and neck with the furry edge of the top. And watch the clouds overhead. We aren't saying anything, we are just peacefully lying there. And as we are lying there, I kind of see myself on the ground and him on the ground, and at the same time, I see almost like a second self, a second transparent second self rises, floats up out of each of our bodies, floats up, toward the sky, and we begin to move across the sky, like a cloud, that is floating above and looking down, so that I can see from above, us down below, and the meadow, and now the edge of the meadow, and the trees, we continue to float, kind of getting higher and higher, and the trees get smaller, so that we are really among the clouds, taking the shape of the clouds, so that anyone looking up would see two clouds: white, and the edges of the clouds are our shapes, and they kind of merge, so that we are kind of holding hands as we float across the sky. And we are just above the trees and looking down at what we see of trees, in the sense of getting higher and higher, and the trees getting smaller. The picture gets bigger, you can see the edge of the forest, the whole meadow. We are taking this journey together, and there is a pond, a river, farm houses, farms. We seem to be getting closer together, so that our cloud images, or cloud forms would not be distinguishable as two from below. We are just side by side, our forms intermingled.
Dick: What do you feel, as you look at this.
Cl: Light, pleasant.
Dick: Okay, continue.
Cl: Continuing, it is as if we have flipped over, so that what we are seeing now is the great expanse of empty space above.
Dick: See that clearly.
Cl: There are spots or specks that are stars. They seem far away.
Dick: How do you feel as you see this?
Cl: I feel at peace, quiet, unafraid.
Dick: At peace, quiet, and unafraid. Tell me what is happening.
Cl: The universe alternates between being black, and quite white, as though filled with sun, so it does back and forth between day and night, or dark and flashing light.
Dick: That is what the universe is, alternate night and day.
Cl: So I feel myself and my brother, who is more like my spirit brother at this point. Although I feel more spirit-like myself. We are just kind of hovering in space. But it is hard to see if we are going anywhere or getting anyplace, and I can't tell if we are moving faster, or hovering, suspended. I see the earth looks small, like a globe that you would see on a desk on a teachers desk as a child. It has that size to it, and it is getting smaller, from a basketball size to a tennis ball size. It is receding. It kind of takes my breath away. It is so far away. I feel all right but as I see it get smaller, there is an apprehension that it might be going away.
Dick: If it goes away, let it go.
Cl: It is all right once it is gone.
Dick: It is all right once it is gone.
Cl: It is the going away. There is just stars.
Dick: Just look at the stars.
Cl: I am not floating anymore. We are running. We are running through space.
Dick: Let that happen.
Cl: It is amazing how fast we can run.
Dick: Um huh. Running through space, through the stars. We are the children of the universe. Say that.
Cl: We are the children of the universe.
Dick: I am a child of the universe.
Cl: I am a child of the universe.
Dick: Just look at this image and just look at it and look at it, and continue to feel in your body what it feels. Because you have come home to what you have been longing for. There is no sense here of not being _______(?)
Dick: You are just right exactly as you are. So go running places among the stars.
Cl: Yes, and I like having someone with me.
Dick: That's right. You like having someone with you. And you must be ready to be abused when the old self image tries to re-assert itself. With a thought, "Wouldn't this be nice if this could be true." Or, "It never was that way." The fact is, that it is like this, when you are in the image. It is. So make this your life experience, along with all the other images you have, which represent your life history. You can see your mother being rageful, but you are equally capable of seeing yourself running through space with your brother. A child of the universe.
Cl: Well, I am really tired of seeing my mother's angry eyes, that just come when I least expect it, or when I don't really want it to but it appears, and it always irritates me when it comes.
Dick: And the more you look at this image, the less likely that it will come, because this is the eidetic image that represents the polar opposite of your mother's angry eyes. I didn't make this up, your right brain created this. How are you feeling?
Cl: Good, and as the darkness of the universe changes to light, even better. I feel either a welling, or a pressing, right here.
Dick: Just explore it just by watching it.
Cl: It has subsided. I am actually at this point moving toward the sun, drawn toward the light.
Dick: Yes, the sun is the center of our solar system, it is also the source of light, and you are drawn to it.
Cl: You can feel us entering into that pull.
Dick: Yes, the great god Apollo, in his aspect of healing.
Cl: And it is not hot, as I thought. So it is not hurtful. It is more like diamonds that sparkle. Or raindrops, not raindrops, it is much too bright, particles of light that don't have heat, they are just light, just reflective.
Dick: You are seeing reality. You are seeing the basic energy of which everything is made, including ourselves, and all those that we love, and all those that we hate, and all those who love us and hate us. All these are made up of the same particles, and that is what you are seeing. You are seeing a reality that is beyond the apparent. You have crossed the bridge of the apparent reality.
Cl: As I breathe in, I feel it coming in from the outside.
Cl: But it is both outside and inside. It is kind of nice actually. Kind of evenly distributed outside and inside. And now my brother has an actual form. He is like a young man, and I am like a young woman. So we are different, we are not six.
Dick: But you can see that you are both made of the same particles.
Cl: Yes, I was thinking that.
Dick: Particles of light. Stay with the imagery.
Cl: It is like we are both of a piece.
Dick: Like a piece of one thing.
Cl: Yes, I guess I like that. He is my husband.
Dick: I was waiting to see you enter that.
Cl: My friend.
Dick: And your husband is also your brother, yes.
Cl: The images are kind of moving faster, my friend, the group here, they are all points of light.
Dick: And even your mother and father, being critical of you are points of light.
Dick: They don't know, but that is for you to know, and them to find out. Now you have some images to work with. You seem very quiet, and you seem to be thinking about something. It is your little secret garden, and as this becomes your life experience, to see points of light in everything and everyone, that they are made up of these points of light. Om Taquiashen.
Cl: I guess that I am seeing, experiencing that everything goes back to points of light, and in a sense ends, it is all right.
Dick: Thank you so much for all this.
Cl: Thank you, I certainly
Q: think that she could love me, and then I realized I was talking to my mother, and from there it jumped to beyond my mother, and it was as profound as anything that has happened in a group or anything. I can't really explain it but it all came back to me, and I found it impossible to believe that anybody could love me, period. It is kind of cool when that happens, because then I can quit blaming my parents. In fact, they will most likely have to come around at least one more time just to set the stage for me to learn this. That just came up for me.
Cl: Thanks. One of the things that was helpful, different for me this time, is that I have spent quite a bit of time actually thinking about, talking about my relationship with my mother and my father, and the part that is different this time is moving through the painful image to a more positive place. It seems like a lot of times in the past, I have gone to the painful image and elaborated on that and somehow it has stayed with that and ended. The talking has ended in a negative space about it rather than moving into a more positive, a more helpful ...
Dick: We are working with polarities, you see. The ten thousand opposite things, the Chinese say. And the negative images have to be accepted, experienced, and dealt with, so that we can go to the opposite.
Cl: And what I am saying, is that going to the opposite, experiencing that, and staying with that, was especially helpful.
Dick: Yes. You were ready for it.
Cl: As a therapist, it seems like that part gets short shrift in a lot of traditional ...
Dick: A great deal. The idea that you have to get the pain out, and the longer that you stay with the pain, somehow, the better you are going to be. It is the myth of Janov's pool of pain. You all remember Janov? The Primal scream therapy, and his statements in that book that there is a pool of pain, which must be drained off. And I know primal therapist, 25 years ago, they were getting people down, have them lie on the floor, and have them cry for their mother. One person came to me and said her therapist had her lying on the floor crying three hours for mama. Every time she would start to run down and run out of steam, the therapist would push. And that has always been suspect to me because I always suspect that those therapist are somehow using their client to answer the therapist's need in some way. Yeah, get short shrift, that's right. And what we are doing here is not a therapy or teaching of denial. We don't say that it didn't happen. We say that it did happen. We go through the negative in order to enter into the positive. We don't go into the negative and just stay there, with the idea that if we stay there long enough ... Well, I suppose some people would think that you would become insensitized. But who wants to end up insentitized. It is like having a lobotomy. Who wants to have their brain cut out?
Q: You said in the work that in the image your brother is also your husband. Could you say more about that?
Dick: Yeah. I know that you are aware of the research that indicates that every living person in the world today, (and how many are there, six billion?) every living person in the world today is descended from a single mother, you are familiar with that.
Well, if that is true, then every living person in the world today is a sibling to everyone else. So we are not only brothers and sisters, but we are brothers and sisters to our own mothers and fathers and to our own children, and to our own grandparents, and to Hillary and Bill, and Orrin Hatch, and you name them. So when she is speaking about her brother, and her brother is becoming this and this, and she said, he is my husband. And that is exactly right because your husband is also your brother, in the sense that you both descended from the same mother. We are all humans and at some point there was that time when Lucy was in Africa, we are starting to get back there. You are the brother and sister of every living person. You are also the brother and sister of all the people who have gone before and died in the last million years, all of them. All those hairy guys back there in the caves, with the stone spears and making cave paintings, they are your sisters and your brothers. And the people who are dying so miserably in Rhowanda, and the people who are killing each other so miserably, they are all your sisters and brothers in a very real biological sense. And that is what I meant. And afterward she said he is everyone is this room. That was just wonderful the way you did all that without any prompting. All I had to give you was the direction for the opening image. "See that you are with your brother, you are children together in paradise, in the garden of Eden. And the thing about the garden of Eden is that there is no sin there. There is no evil, because you cannot have good and evil without the knowledge of good and evil. And that was the trespass of Adam and Eve, that they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is not that they were evil. It is that they now had this knowledge. And to have that knowledge is to be one or the other, now that you had that knowledge. There it is.
Q: Why did you chose the brother?
Dick: Ahter says that the Rhea complex, that is the complex of dealings between brother and sister are in many ways more important than the Oedipus Complex, which is always a triangle. It is always a triangle of the father, mother and the child. It is a triangle that is always pooling, one or the other against the other two, in a sense.
When I went canoeing one summer with a friend of mine about sharing the expense because we had very little money in 1933, believe me. I said that maybe we could get another guy into the canoe and he said, "Oh no, I've done that before. If there are three of us, inside of a week it will be two against one. If there are just two of us, we will have our head-on's and then we will come together again." And that is absolutely true, the triangle is very dynamic. And the brother-sister relationship, you have the relationship with me, you have the relationship with G, with P, and the brother-sister relationship is always there. It is a parallel instead of being triangular. And so, if I were working with a man, I would use a sister. When you use this with your clients or with yourself, the thing you must remember, is the setting is the garden of Eden, where there is no sin.
Q: The garden of Eden scared me so much because my brother sounded too bad, so I was throwing out this idea of the garden of Eden because all this stuff with my brother has felt so incestuous.
Dick: This is the point. There is no incest. Incest is not a sin in the garden of Eden. It is only outside the garden of Eden. The rule is that in the garden of Eden, there is no sin, including what we would call incest is not a sin there. And of course, we are not in the garden of Eden now.
Cl: The picture that came up in my mind of the garden of Eden was too crowded with plants, it was like a jungle. So that the prairie was more open and comfortable.
Dick: Well, you very quickly moved there. And there is no reason why the prairie, or the desert or the mountain top wouldn't be the garden of Eden. The garden of Eden is just that place of innocence.
Q: You talked about working through the negative to get to the positive. I always hear a lot of talk about being more positive and getting away from the negative.
Dick: But that is a denial.
Q: I guess I have some opinions on that. But Dick Russo made the statement one time that "feelings are energy".
Dick: That is right.
Q: "And that all energy is good."
Dick: That's right.
Q: It is just the judgments that we put on that energy on those feelings that make them good or bad.
Dick: Absolutely true. That is what Self Acceptance Training is all about.
Q: I have always liked that. I have never been the same since I heard that statement.
Dick: That is exactly where we are coming from.