Shelter and Prospect

Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW

 

In my work with couples, I am aware of the importance of balancing two opposing energies for a relationship to feel both secure and interesting.  Most struggling relationships are suffering from an imbalance in one or the other of these two qualities:  stability (which fulfills our need for emotional safety) and novelty (which fulfills our need for emotional discovery). 

This shows up in relationships as well as in other places.  My husband is trained in architecture and just yesterday we were having a conversation that reflected this.  We were walking along the beach in L.A. and he was decrying the lack of palm trees. 

“It’s too open,” he said, hunching his head under his hat.  “I feel too exposed.” 

“It’s a beach,” I pointed out, as if he might not have noticed.  He shook his head. 

“That’s no excuse!  We need shelter and prospect!”  He said.

“What do you mean?”  I asked.

“Shelter—a sense of being safe and enclosed:  supported.  And prospect—a place to look at, a place to discover and go:  freedom.” 

“Ah!”  I said, finally understanding. “Yes, we do!” 

This is one of the fun things about being a therapist:  finding unifying themes underpinning seemingly disparate experiences, lifestyles, people, and yes, even professions.

 (A short and irresistible tangent: A few winters ago we spent several happy months reading and discussing The Pattern Language, an architectural manifesto by Christopher Alexander about the types of spaces people feel good living inside of, and why.  I had never given spaces any thought before this, and considered any place with adequate storage to be the pinnacle of good design.  But this book opened my eyes as to why the dense, thick-walled architecture in old European cities feels so delightful and how sensitive design truly enhances our well being).   

So consider shelter and prospect in your own life:  think about your primary relationship(s) and ask yourself what part of that equation is easy for you and what part might you need to rebalance? 

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