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The Dynamics of the Journey of Self Recovery

When men set out on the journey of self recovery and really begin to connect with their needs and wants and feelings, they are embarking on a journey into the long unexplored and long neglected realm of their hidden selves. The relatively few men in our culture who are courageous enough to take this journey can get deeply immersed in their needs and wants and feelings, so long ignored and possibly screaming for attention. The danger now, if they are in an intimate relationship with another, is to make what they need and want and feel preemptive; that is, more important than their relationship with the other. This is a challenging and often relationship-threatening place for a couple to find themselves.

The work of recovery takes on another dimension. I really begin to get that my needs and wants and feelings matter and are important and yet not more important than the needs and wants and feelings of the significant others in my life. Now I am faced with, maybe for the first time in my life, really being able to negotiate on an equal footing about needs and wants and feelings with another person rather than take entitled positions with them! This is because I am finally getting in touch with more of the whole of me than ever before and more able to be in touch with the whole of you.

But being able to do this is not enough. Now that I am more able, I must choose to do so; indeed to exercise and practice this new ability if it is to be more than just potential. In other words, now that I am truly growing up, I must also show up and know that I won’t do so perfectly. But you, my love, probably knew that anyway, and you may have been waiting a long time for me.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

A Better Alternative to Addictive Attractions

In the waning years of the Roman Empire, the citizens of Rome were given free bread and entertainment in the form of bloody circuses involving wild animals eating people, and gladiators fighting each other to the death. In this way, the leaders of Rome in its decline managed to keep the population under control with free food and spectacles to minimize the possibility of dissension and revolt. I guess they figured that a populace satiated on circus entertainment and free bread would be less likely to make waves or protest the decline of the general welfare. A bit chillingly like today with much of TV being mindless crap, and obesity stemming largely from empty calorie fast food approaching epidemic status.

Why is it so hard to resist the siren song, the addictive attraction of mindless entertainment and plentiful, empty calories?

I think, in large part, the empty calories and entertainments fill the emptiness, the void of meaning, that many people feel in their lives.

barren image

We live in a time when meaning is a scarce resource; one that is not readily available in the culture at large.

At the Relationship Resource Center, we don’t offer free food and spectacles, but we do address the lack of meaning our clients may be experiencing. We see this work as one of the most important services we can offer, and one of the reasons that we believe psychotherapy and coaching really matters.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The Key Component to a Successful Professional Working Relationship

It has been over forty years now that Mary Simon, Howie Lambert and I have been working together. In 1973, I joined Mary and Howie at Gilpin House, a community mental health center that was an outreach of Denver General Hospital. We formed strong bonds in the ensuing years that would lead to our forming Enrichment Resources and later, with Roz Cantrell, The Relationship Resource Center, a wonderful coming together of therapists and clients.

joined handsI think the core psychotherapists have stayed deeply connected with one another for so long, longer indeed than most marriages, in part because we are committed to telling the truth with love to one another on an ongoing basis. This is the essential condition for evolutionary or integral love to grow. What integral love means is that we work to transcend and include personal love and invite and give feedback to one another to recognize, integrate, and move beyond our ego and personality structures.

This demands that we challenge each other to delve even deeper than what our ongoing commitment to professional growth and development requires. The nearest equivalent I know is the Buddhist “sangha,” although we do not come together in any specifically religious context. Our connection at its deepest level might be called psychospiritual in nature, and we work to support our own evolution, as well as the others that we come in contact with, in our lives and in our practice.

The Relationship Resource Center is an amazing place to live and work. I am deeply grateful for what we have created and delighted to be part of its ongoing evolution. The wonderful and challenging practice of what I am calling integral love demands that we continue to grow and show up more and more in our lives. It is immensely helpful to have a context like RRC that supports this essential development in each of us.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Perspective on Adult Definition of Play: A Balance of Energy

Play is fine for children, but what about us adults?

I think our culture needs an adult definition of play.

The perspective on adult play that I like the best is the following:

Pretty simple and extremely important!

Unless we experience a balance of energy in our lives, coming in as well as going out, we are likely to feel pretty unhappy. I think most of us experience more energy going out than coming in on a regular basis, and the expectations that we put on ourselves and others tend to not help matters. It is well known that on average, adults in the U.S. work more hours and take less vacation time than most people in the developed world. The demands of daily life can be extremely draining, and addictive behaviors do not really address this energy imbalance that many people experience in their lives.

So I recommend that we look at simple, healthy behaviors that we are already doing in our daily lives that give us more energy than they take.

having fun

This is our play, and we might want to be really subversive of the dominant culture and decide to play even more!

Take some time out of your day to go and play!

Let us know your thoughts – share comments below.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Nurture First, Then Work is Essential

The Protestant Ethic is strong on work before play. Get your work and tasks done first, and then relax if there is any time left.

Much that is useful has come from following this maxim, and there are times when work must precede more pleasurable activities.

Unfortunately the ethic itself is based on the belief that people are inherently lazy, and unless they drive themselves or are driven by someone else, they will succumb to their lower nature or some such gobbledygook. Also, there frequently isn’t any time left when all the work is done.

While it is important to learn how to delay gratification, this works best if it is a conscious process on the part of the individual rather than a rule that is bound up with fear and survival energy.

nurturing environmentMy own experience is that when I am well nurtured in mind, body and spirit, I work at my best. Enough sleep, healthy food, exercise and a meditative or journaling practice seem to be important for my optimal functioning at whatever work I need or choose to do.

If work before play is sometimes necessary, self-nurturing before work is often essential if we are wanting to move beyond a strongly entrenched survival ethic that frequently took a dim view of human nature.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

How Entitlements Are Destructive to the Entitlement Holders

I have long pondered the question of how entitlements may be destructive to the entitlement holders themselves. It is clear to others that your entitled positions are painful to them if they are wanting a relationship with you. There is also the piece about how for every hour of entitlement you take in a relationship, you get about an hour and a half of resentment from your partner. But there is something else that happens as well. When I take entitled positions, I am discounting my own needs, wants and feelings as well as those of others, and I may not even be aware that I am doing that or of the consequences.


I recently wrote about my retirement entitlement. Clearly as an entitled position, it was not respectful of the needs or wants of my wife or daughter. (Again, it’s not that I don’t have the right to retire, it’s the entitlement that’s not relational). What I gradually got in touch with was that in taking an entitled position, I was discounting my financial situation, my desire and want to keep doing work that I love that is of real service to others, and my feelings of deep connection and joy that I find in my work. In my entitled position, I was riding roughshod over myself as well as others that I care about.

Sadly, one of the first lessons most men learn in guy school is to put away their own needs, wants and feelings. In replacement for the richness that is taken from them, they pick up the barren mantle, the stone shirt of entitlements. In the Men’s Journey Work at RRC, we help men recover their birthright of owning their needs, wants and feelings and put down the entitled positions that are hurtful to others and themselves.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The Golden Rule vs. The Platinum Rule

Most of us have heard of the Golden Rule:

This couple I know joined together in holy matrimony; he just loved his newspaper in the morning, and every morning he would lovingly bring her a newspaper. She craved her morning coffee and every morning, she would fix coffee for both of them.

One morning, about six months into their relationship, as he gave her the morning newspaper, she said, “This is so thoughtful of you, but I need to tell you that a newspaper in the morning is wonderful, but it’s not that important to me.”


He was taken aback and said, “You know, I don’t care that much about coffee in the morning. It’s nice that you fix it for me, but actually I prefer tea most days.”

They had a good laugh and discovered the Platinum Rule:

She loved it when he would fix coffee for her, and he felt very cared for when she would bring him some tea and the newspaper!

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Catch Them Doing Good: Significance of Small Successes

Quite a few years ago, when I was a social worker at Fort Logan Mental Health Center, I was intrigued by a colleague’s work in another part of the hospital. He dealt with children who came to the Center with very challenging problems. He had amazing and wonderful success with many of them. One day, I asked him what he was doing different that seemed to work so well.

He said: “John, it’s simple. I catch them doing good.”

key to successYou see, instead of focusing on their problems, his focus was on what they did well, even if this was in the smallest increments. It’s not that he ignored their acting out behavior, he just wasn’t very excited by how they messed up. He was very interested in their small successes and acknowledging these.

I left Fort Logan not long after our conversation, but I had learned a great lesson from him.

I became much more interested in what people do that works rather than what they do that doesn’t work for themselves or others.

This approach doesn’t usually sell newspapers or make for exciting TV.

But then, I stopped watching most of what is on TV a long time ago.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Boys Into Men: Turning Away From One of the Most Formative Training Experiences of “Guy School”

In 1959, I was 18 years old and had just started college. The Vietnam War was just heating up in this country, and ROTC was a big deal on my Catholic college campus. Signing on sounded good to me. I would be an officer instead of a private; if I had to go into the Army, I would be in a higher pay scale and likely have more options on the inside. So I signed up for an introductory class and went to my first day of training.

We went into a long room with small tables for each person and on each table was an M-16 rifle that we were told to assemble and take apart until we could do it either way in under a minute. To this day, this was the best hands-on exercise I have ever done in my life! Here I was, feverishly putting this gun together and taking it apart, when I suddenly realized, like a bolt of lightning hitting me, that the sole purpose of this gun was to KILL PEOPLE!

Do Nothing, Do SomethingRight after the class, I went up to the officer in charge of the class and told him that I was resigning. He said something like “Bad idea, son, you will have to go in as a private before long.” I didn’t tell him that I just had one of the most important experiences of my young lifeI was NEVER going to go into the armed services – and I would go to jail or Canada first.

At 18, I was a very young man, still a boy actually, and I had just turned away from one of the most formative training experiences of guy school.

I was lucky.

War is supposed to turn boys into men (and today, girls into women).
I just wasn’t willing to kill people.

I would find other ways to serve my country, my world and become a man, such as becoming a social worker, a philosopher and a psychotherapist.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Taking Action In Your Relationship – No More Shame, Blame or Criticism

When people have been in a committed relationship for a number of years, they usually each have a fairly accurate map of how the other needs to grow and change. It’s one of the benefits of being in a longer term relationship; that our partner has this unique perspective on our personal landscape and they do not hesitate to tell us, whether we want to hear it or not. They are often better able to see us than we are able to see ourselves.

We should be eternally grateful to them for their pointed observations. Right?


variety of relationship emotions

The problem is that more often than not, our maps contain “BASEBALL BATS” of shame, blame and criticism, which we use to beat each other up.

“Read my map!”
“No! You read my map!”


We need to take the bats out of our maps and leave them out for good. No more shame, blame or criticism. Then our partners may be able to read our maps, which often are useful and accurate representations of how they need to grow. And who knows? If they do the same, we just may be willing to look at their maps of ourselves as well!

Have you found yourself using the “BASEBALL BATS” of shame, blame and criticism in your relationship? What have you done to stop this action?

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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