The Emergence of a New Paradigm
by Gay Hendricks, Ph.D. & Kathlyn Hendricks, Ph.D.
Up until very recently, the context of intimate
relationships was colored heavily by survival fears.
Although this is still true for many people, there is
now a vast number of people for whom survival is not the
main priority when they wake up each day. A focus on
survival shapes the nature of relationship: For example,
it makes it important to do one’s duty and steadfastly
inhabit the roles prescribed by the social and religious
authority structure of the time. In times past, less
attention was paid to psychological or spiritual
fulfillment, and techniques for problem-solving were
essentially non-existent. Gay tells an illustrative
story: “When I was in graduate school, I mentioned to
my grandfather that I was in therapy to ‘handle some
issues about my self-esteem.’ He asked me what therapy
was, and chuckled as I explained it to him. I asked him
how they handled such issues when he was a young man.
‘Issues, hell,’ he said, ‘We were too busy
handling plows.’” He had run away from home at
sixteen to avoid getting trapped in the role of a
Things changed as the twentieth century gained
momentum. From our parents’ time up until the present,
the context of relationship shifted toward “luxury-items”
such as the fulfillment of potential. Movies, literature
and other arts began to celebrate the transcendent
possibilities of relationship--symbolized by the
graceful dance of Fred and Ginger--and the Freudian
revolution seemed to offer tools for handling problems
when mis-steps caused us to tread on each other
The New Context
It is a huge shift in context from survival (“handling
plows”) to fulfillment (‘handling issues.”) In the
survival-context, life is lived in waves of fear and
hunger, with periods of relief from fear. In the
fulfillment-context, life is lived in waves of
fulfillment and the hunger for more. We believe,
however, that the context is about to make an even
larger shift, opening access to a new force-field
electric with previously-hidden potential. We believe
that relationships in the new millenium will shift
toward a focus on appreciation and celebration. The
focus will be on the flow of connection. As people
become more sensitive to the flow of energy inside
themselves and in their relationships, they are looking
beyond traditional problem-solving and therapeutic
techniques. They want life-skills they can use
by-the-moment to awaken and enhance the flow of
connection. The art of appreciating is the best way we’ve
found to deepen the flow of connection. A single act of
skillful committing or appreciating instantly shifts the
relationship into a greater felt-sense of flow.
To imagine the kind of context-shift we’re talking
about, think of a magician’s tablecloth trick. Picture
two fabulous place-settings: Baccarat crystal glasses,
Limoges china and your favorite silver. Imagine you and
your beloved sitting down to dine amidst the beauty of
the table-setting, when suddenly you realize the table
cloth is made of...wax paper.
Quickly, though, you make a decision to enhance the
quality of your life rather than despairing over it. You
snap your fingers and a magician appears. With a wink
and a smooth flourish, the magician whips the wax paper
out from under the place settings without disturbing
them. With another magical move, he slides a crisp linen
tablecloth under the place-settings, without so much as
rattling a teacup. Suddenly the essential beauty of what
was there before is enhanced. Only one thing has
changed, but everything has changed.
That’s not only a context-shift, it’s a conscious
marriage of the power of your intention with your
ability to create real magic.
That’s the domain of the new paradigm.
In the survival context , relationships exist inside
the question, “What must we do to survive?”
Considerable time is spent shoring up defenses against
hostile forces and carrying out chores in the rut of
routine. There is little time or energy to search for
fulfillment. You are watching and listening for threats
to your survival.
In the fulfillment context, we live inside different
questions, such as “What must we do to fulfill our
potential?” and “How can we solve the problems which
are the barriers to expressing that potential?”
Considerable attention is paid to the past, where the
barriers were presumed to have been been originally
erected. Considerable energy is consumed in power
struggles about which partner bears responsibility for
the barrier. You are watching and listening for how to
meet the needs of others and whether your own needs are
In the new paradigm, the questions are profoundly
different than survival or fulfillment. Your
relationships live within questions such as,
“What commitments do I need to embrace which will
allow the relationship to flourish?”
“What do I really admire and love about my partner?”
“How can I best appreciate those qualities and
“What can I do to make myself more available for
Although you have good problem-solving techniques at
your disposal, you do not focus as much on problems.
Instead, you look for what’s right in the other person
and in the relationship. You embark on a shared quest to
find each other’s essential qualities so that they may
be skillfully appreciated.
You initiate your entry into the new paradigm with a
conscious choice. Imagine life as a waiter or waitress,
offering you a menu with three choices on it:
•Living your life in waves of fear.
•Living your life in waves of fulfillment.
•Living your life in waves of celebration.
If you were going to pick one, what would your choice
In our relationship seminars, 99% of the participants
choose celebration. There seems to be one or two people
in every group who cannot imagine life without fear or
the quest for fulfillment. Almost everyone else, though,
sees that the conscious choice to organize your life
around a context of appreciation opens up the greatest
number of possibilities. If your life is about
appreciation, you can celebrate even the days when your
body is occupied by fear or your mind is pre-occupied
with a potential you haven’t fulfilled.
If you listen closely to the communications of most
couples, you will see that some of their utterances may
be colored by survival concerns, but a majority of them
are surrounded by an aura of fulfillment and the lack
thereof. Specifically, communications come with
expectations embedded within them--or disappointment and
anger that those expectations have not been fulfilled.
Nowadays, when a woman says to her husband, “You
forgot to get the potatoes at the store,” she is not
likely to be talking about a survival issue. More
likely, the sub-text of the communication is “If you
loved me, you would have remembered the potatoes,” or
“If you loved me you would listen when I tell you what
I need from the store.” She may be saying, “I don’t
feel loved and appreciated, and here’s further
evidence of why I have every right to feel that way.”
These patterns have a way of hardening into place
with time, so that many couples develop rigidly
predictable styles of thinking and communicating. One of
our poet-friends came by to visit us after being at a
party with many long-married couples. She lamented that
most of the couples looked like “matched pairs of
glazed pots.” That’s the effect of staying too long
in an old paradigm.
The new paradigm extends out from
partner-interactions to the larger arena of
life-as-a-whole. In its broadest application, the new
paradigm is about how to live your whole life from a
stance of gratitude rather than a stance of scarcity. It’s
about greeting each moment of life with an open heart
rather than a judgmental mind. It asks you to express
appreciation for no other reason than your decision to
live a grateful life. Rather than waiting for life to
bring experiences to you so that you can judge them
worthy of appreciation, you initiate the new paradigm by
taking a pro-active stance of gratitude toward your
life-experience. You walk through life as a
philanthropist rather than a supplicant, a producer
rather than a consumer.
The difference is profound.
Hendricks, Ph.D. and Gay Hendricks, Ph.D.
Dr. Kathlyn Hendricks and Dr. Gay
Hendricks are known as the relationship experts the
other relationship experts go to. Their genius is
showing you how to accomplish huge changes QUICKLY. They
have have authored several best selling books, including
"Conscious Loving" and have been seen on Oprah and CNN.
direct The Hendricks Institute and its Center for Conscious Relationship in
offer a free online video series,
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