by John Mariner, L.C.S.W.
In a previous newsletter article, entitled “If Only We Could Talk About It,” we discussed the One-Up/One-Down model of relating that is prevalent in our culture. We made the point that this model makes true intimacy impossible. In this article we want to explore more fully the concept of relating from a Same As position, one, which allows and supports intimacy.
The Same As position is achieved when an individual acts both with appropriate power (i.e., the power to do and say what I need to do and say) and with empathy (i.e., being aware of and concerned about the impact that my words and actions have on other people). One of the simplest, most powerful descriptions of Same As is that which former Boston Celtics center, Bill Russell, says he learned from his mother. She said, “Son, when you get out there in the world, remember there ain’t nobody better than you and you ain’t better than nobody else!” With these words she cut to the heart of the matter.
If no one is better than I am, I have the right to express and act on my needs and feelings without fear of being wrong or bad. At the same time, if I am not better than they are, their feelings and needs have equal importance to mine and I need to take them into account in what I do and say.
When we are caught in the dynamic of One up/One-down, we believe that either I get what I want or you get your way. So we tend to either a) make unilateral decisions that give us what we want, b) give in to the other’s preferences – and resent it, or c) fight about who will “win”. In the “land of Same As” we know that we can negotiate a win/win solution that takes both of our wants and needs into account.
Another aspect of Same As is that it is a move from a 2-dimensional one-up/one-down perspective to a multi-dimensional reality that includes caring, cooperation, and freedom to choose from many options. It is like moving out of a dark well where we can see only up or down to a place on a high hill where we have an unobstructed view of the vast and varied landscape. We do not see only flat land but hills and valleys, forests and rivers. There is a sense of openness and beauty and it is possible to see things from many perspectives.
Yet another way to think about Same As is that it is a move from the programmed reactions of our 5 year-old character structure to a grown-up thinking place from which we can nurture and protect the child in us and respond in caring ways to the child in others. When we can regularly access this Adult state, our young child feels safe, worthy and loved. We do not need the faulty protection of taking a One-up stance because we know we are enough and we matter just because we are. In addition, this nurturing, protective grown-up can provide a safe place in which others feel that they matter also. With this protection and support, the Child in each of us can be free to love and play, knowing that the Adult will solve whatever conflicts come up between our wants and needs and those of others.
Being in a Same As position also means that I recognize and accept that we all are flawed human beings. So, when we realize that our behavior has caused pain for another person, we experience and express remorse and make amends. And, when another expresses genuine remorse and offers amends, we can forgive and let go of my pain.
The Adult, Same As position is the only one from which we can engage in true dialogue with others. In this place we can speak our Truth lovingly and we can acknowledge and make room for another’s reality as being of equal value. Only when we can do this do we have the possibility of achieving deep connection and intimacy.
Ultimately, Same As calls to all of us with a deep resonance in our hearts as well as our minds. Same As beckons us home to our deepest selves – home to relating without fear, to the possibility of being fully alive and not merely surviving in this awesome universe. Same As invites the end of fear and survival as the governing forces of our lives. Many years ago Ignazio Silone uttered these words: “To be together and not afraid, this is the beginning.”