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The Relationship Handbook – Shakti’s Story


Shakti’s Story
An excerpt from The Relationship Handbook by Shakti Gawain

By the time I was in my mid-thirties, my books were selling well and I was getting to be very well known. I traveled all over the world speaking, teaching, and leading workshops. I loved it. I had great passion for my work and found working with my students and clients very rewarding. Unfortunately, my work also consumed my life. Too much of my awareness was centered on, connected to, or based in my work, and I started to sense a great imbalance in my life.

My personal life had taken a backseat to my professional life. I was having difficulties with my romantic relationships in particular; I found that difficult patterns were increasingly repeating themselves in those relationships. This became a painful process for me, and I was longing to find a true partner. I wasn’t finding the intimate connection I was looking for or the partner I thought I was ready for.

Of course, I only thought I was ready. I had done a lot of work on myself, which included a lot of emotional processes. I studied with different teachers, read books, participated in workshops, and went to therapy. But old patterns kept coming up, and in a certain way I felt stuck. The tools that had been working so wonderfully in the other areas of my life didn’t seem to be working in the relationship arena. It seemed that a whole other level of my process was being revealed; a deeper level of consciousness was trying to emerge.

Finding myself in this challenging place, I began to visualize some new guidance and direction. I was eventually led to a couple who are therapists and teachers, Dr. Hal Stone and his wife, Dr. Sidra Stone. Through their work, they discovered we have many “selves,” aspects within us that act as individual selves with their own ideas, opinions, likes, and dislikes. The Stones developed a technique to dialogue with these selves in a way that brings consciousness to this ongoing process inside us. Their body of work is called “the Psychology of Selves and the Aware Ego,” and they call the technique for “talking” with the selves Voice Dialogue. They quickly became my teachers and mentors and now are my dear friends.

When I began to do Voice Dialogue work, I became much more conscious of all the things that were going on inside me. I became more aware of what I was feeling, and I discovered all these different parts of myself that I hadn’t even known existed.

Concerning the partner issue, I discovered that I was only in touch with the parts of me that wanted a committed relationship, and so I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t happening. I was certain that I wanted a relationship and believed I was ready for one. I kept wondering why all the men I was attracted to were unavailable or inappropriate — or lived thousands of miles away! I kept thinking something was wrong with them. But, as it turns out, there were some parts of me that I was unconscious of that weren’t ready for a partner or didn’t want one at all.

All of this seems so obvious now. I was traveling the world teaching that one’s outside life reflects what is going on inside, and here I was longing for the right relationship and it wasn’t happening. Of course this had to do with a process within myself. When we truly want something and it isn’t happening, a part of us is blocking it. In my case, some inner conflict was causing a great deal of ambivalence about relationship and commitment.

I knew I was struggling, but I didn’t understand what the struggle was. I developed much more consciousness about what was happening through working with my selves. I began to explore and understand the parts of me that did not want a relationship or were fearful of it. For example, I had always been a strong, independent woman. I was close to forty, and a part of me didn’t want to give up my independence or have to compromise with someone else. Another aspect of myself that I discovered was my Caretaker self. I feared, unconsciously, that if I were in a close committed relationship, I would just end up taking care of someone else, and I wouldn’t know how to get my own needs met. I had been in a number of relationships where I had been in this role, so I had good reason to fear this would happen.

On a deeper level, there was a child in me who feared opening up and getting close to someone. This aspect, or self, was afraid of being hurt and abandoned — especially because of the pain I experienced as a child when my parents divorced. Other parts of myself were also involved, but these parts were the most dominant in my process.

Now that I had discovered some of the different voices in me, I could clearly feel the ambivalence of these conflicting selves. One of the wonderful things about the Psychology of Selves is that it allows us to be with our ambivalence, acknowledge it, and really hold it. Most of the time, most of us are trying to choose one side or another. We think one part of us is right or that there is a right way to be. We decide we want to be one way or another — “I want to be like this, and I don’t want to be like that.” Or, “I want this part of me, and I don’t want that part of me.” This black-or-white way of thinking doesn’t work because all parts of us exist, and we can’t just wish them away. You can bury and repress them, but sooner or later they come forth, often during a relationship upset or a health crisis. We need all of these parts in order to experience true balance in our lives. We need all these selves, although we may not know it.

Voice Dialogue work is about developing consciousness and creating awareness of all of the different selves within us. It’s about bringing them all forth and getting in touch with them. When we are aware of the different forces operating within us, we can work with them in different ways. I worked on acknowledging and experiencing — we often call it “holding” — my own ambivalence about relationship, reaching into each part of myself and feeling the parts of me that really wanted partnership and feeling the parts of me that really didn’t want it. I didn’t need to fix this ambivalence or change it; I just needed to be deeply present 
with it.

Shakti Gawain is the author of The Relationship Handbook.  A bestselling author and pioneer in the field of personal growth and consciousness, she cofounded New World Library with Marc Allen in 1977. Visit her online at

Excerpted from the book The Relationship Handbook ©2014 by Shakti Gawain and Gina Vucci.  Published with permission of New World Library.

The Path of Relationship


by Shakti Gawain
An excerpt from The Relationship Handbook

Most of us have a desire to connect deeply with others. We long to give and receive love and to share with each other in many ways. Often, however, we find the closeness we desire to be elusive. Relationships of all kinds may come and go, or they may change. At times, relationships can be very painful. Many of us have not had very good role models for relating to others, especially within our families or among those closest to us. We are all doing the best we can to figure out how to be the best parents, friends, partners, brothers, sisters, daughters, and sons to one another. As the old adage goes, “When we were born, they forgot to send the manual!”

Fortunately, we are living in a time of great change and discovery. We’re learning new ways of living more consciously, and one of the main ways we are learning is through our relationships. More and more people are seeking help and understanding about how relationships work — not just our intimate partnerships but all our relationships. Many people who seek help for their relationships want to improve them (although we tend to secretly think it’s the person we’re having trouble with who needs to do most of the improving!). A desire to relate to others in a healthier and more fulfilling way is a worthy goal, and learning to communicate effectively can improve all our relationships. Communication is a tool we are continually developing, especially as we grow and change and learn more about ourselves.

Countless psychologists and teachers, with a variety of perspectives and different types of wisdom, focus on helping people improve their relationships. Many of these teachers are extremely effective and very helpful to their clients, but they usually focus on the relationship itself.

There is a different approach to relationships, however. This perspective is not found in popular relationship models, and yet it is the most powerful path to increased awareness that I have ever experienced. It is the understanding that our relationships are our teachers and can guide us through our lives if we know how to use them that way. This approach shifts the focus away from the relationship itself and instead looks at what we are experiencing in the relationship and what that can teach us about ourselves and our inner process.

Regardless of whether we stay in a relationship or move on from it, every relationship is an opportunity for us to learn about ourselves and to grow. Working with my relationships in this way has been the most powerful and comprehensive path to consciousness I have experienced, and I love to pass it on to other people.

When we view relationships as a path of consciousness, we recognize that the most important relationship we have is with ourselves. Ultimately, this is our primary relationship, the one that provides the foundation for the rest of our life. All other relationships are mirrors reflecting back to us what we may or may not know about ourselves. The process of using these reflections to learn about our development and ourselves helps us to become conscious, integrated beings. And each of our relationships, when viewed in this way, can become a powerful journey into healing and wholeness.

Shakti Gawain is the author of The Relationship Handbook. A bestselling author and pioneer in the field of personal growth and consciousness, she cofounded New World Library with Marc Allen in 1977. Visit her online at

Excerpted from the book The Relationship Handbook ©2014 by Shakti Gawain and Gina Vucci. Published with permission of New World Library.

Creative Visualization Techniques


by Shakti Gawain
An excerpt from The Relationship Handbook

Creative visualization is the technique of using your natural, creative imagination in a more conscious way to create what you truly want. Discovering the technique of creative visualization has been magical for millions of people around the world. It is being successfully used in the fields of health, wellness, spirituality, creative arts, psychotherapy, business, and sports, and it can have an impact in every area of your life.

When we refer to “visualization,” it is important to mention that mental imagery is different for everyone. Some people may “see” images and pictures; others receive their information through color, sounds, and objects or experience a simple sensing or knowing. All these forms work, and however you experience it is just right. Just feeling your desired state of things is the most important thing.

One of the most valuable ways to use creative visualization is in improving our relationships. Although many people share stories of how they visualized their perfect partner and ultimately manifested this person in their lives (sometimes down to the smallest details), our focus in this chapter is on using the power of intention to improve our relationships on every level. We do this through imagining what it is we want to bring into the relationship. We may want to bring clarity and visualize clearing out old patterns of thought and behavior. If we want to improve the quality of our connections with each other, we might imagine strengthening our bonds and increasing a sense of intimacy and closeness. We can bring peace or a sense of harmony through practicing affirmations and meditations. We also can use specific exercises to open ourselves to what is trying to happen in our relationship or what the universe might be trying to bring to us.

When we are experiencing difficulty in a relationship, we can use creative visualization to bring about powerful change. This is most effective when combined with the other tools in this book. One way to do this is by simply recognizing the power of our thoughts. As we have seen, when we are in relationship, we are sensitive to the other person, and they are sensitive to us. We have an entire level of nonverbal communication with those closest to us. This sensitivity affects the thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs we have about each other. This is important because what we believe about a person or a situation shapes how we act or behave toward them.

Through acknowledging this naturally occurring process, we become empowered to change the thoughts, attitudes, or beliefs that are affecting us negatively. Through the power of our imagination, we can use creative visualization techniques to let go of old belief systems, to change our ideas about ourselves or an-
other person, and to affirm new ways of interacting. In fact, our awareness of this process, in and of itself, can bring about radical change and healing. As we practice manifesting new ways of seeing ourselves, and those we are in relationship with, we can bring balance to our relationships. This begins a process of aligning our outward actions with our intentions. As a result, we bring consciousness to the entire relationship.

By using visualization, we are acknowledging that we have the power within us to make significant change. Through accepting this personal power, we can see how we play a role in creating and cocreating our reality. This means that if we accept that we play a part in creating our reality, we then have the power to change and influence what happens next. We accept and act on our ability to create positive change in our lives and within ourselves.

Taking this position compels us to look at how creating our own reality does not always result in a positive picture. Sometimes we don’t like what we see when we evaluate our life or, more specifically, someone in it. If a situation or relationship is unacceptable, we can acknowledge that we have helped create this on a deep level, and therefore there is a purpose to what we are experiencing. The truth is that we get what we expect and ask for on the deepest levels. This is not about blame, pity, or being a victim, however. If we believe we play a part in creating it, then we believe we can play a part in healing it.

This is actually a way for us to become empowered and break old patterns. We can adopt an attitude of total responsibility. This is a powerful first step in using our relationships as a path of consciousness. As we pursue the idea that we have manifested the situation we find ourselves in, what we are trying to learn is revealed. In meditation, we can ask ourselves why we have created this situation in this way. Why have I manifested this person in my life? How is this person helping me to learn and grow?

If you have a genuine desire to experience a deeply fulfilling and happy relationship in your life, and if you are ready to accept this joy in your life, then you can and will create relationships that work for you.

The Basic Creative Visualization Technique

Here is the most basic creative visualization technique in four steps:

1.    Pick a goal. Identify something that you desire to be, do, or have. For example: “I would like to be have better boundaries in my relationships.” Or, “I would like to have a wonderful and fulfilling intimate relationship.” Or, “I would like to have lasting love in my life.”
2.   Make an affirmation out of it. State it in a simple sentence, in the present tense, as if it were already true. For example: “I assert clear boundaries in my relationships.” Or, “I am now creating a wonderful and fulfilling relationship.” Or, “I am now creating lasting love in my life.”
3.    Picture your goal or feel it as if it were already true. Usually it’s helpful to close your eyes and just pretend or imagine what things would be like if it were true. Don’t worry if you can’t picture the scenario clearly — just feel it or imagine it in whatever way is easiest for you.
4.    Consciously turn your goal over to your higher self, or to the higher power of the universe, and let go of it. This means you don’t try to make it happen; you relax and let the higher force go to work within you to create it. Then just go about your life — but be sure to follow your intuitive impulses and promptings, and be open to growing and changing.

Shakti Gawain is the author of The Relationship Handbook. A bestselling author and pioneer in the field of personal growth and consciousness, she cofounded New World Library with Marc Allen in 1977. Visit her online at

Excerpted from the book The Relationship Handbook ©2014 by Shakti Gawain and Gina Vucci. Published with permission of New World Library.