relationship dynamics

by Milena Braticevic

The study of relationship dynamics is an all-encompassing science. It requires examination of interactions between aspects of the macrocosm, as well as analysis of aspects in the microcosm. The study of relationship dynamics brings about important questions regarding the nature of the universe and the place of humans in it: What are the forces that affect human life? What does it mean to have a healthy lifestyle and relationships? How do humans interact, and affect each other? What is love, and how is its power manifested? The ancient science of astrology can be used to understand relationship dynamics, the influence of stars and planets on human development, and the role of karmic influences in creating relationships. To understand life purpose, it is useful to examine how humans are connected at various levels of being. Humans are connected to stars and planets at the celestial level, the elements - fire, water, air, and earth, which make-up the material world, and to other individuals. One of the most important aspects of relationship dynamics can be examined through an individual’s relationship within him or her self – between various aspects and archetypes held deep inside; the spirit, soul, and personality. This relationship dictates the capacity to relate to one's surroundings, to receive and give love, and to experience connection with the world.

Love is perhaps the most important concept to understand in the study of relationship dynamics. It does not merely refer to a romantic affinity towards another, but to the principle of creation, of interaction and exchange. It is a natural process resulting from openness, acceptance, and unconditional appreciation of oneself and another. In his book The Art of Loving, Eric Fromm (1956) outlined the basic psychological premise that love of oneself and love for others are not alternatives. He stated that “Love, in principle, is indivisible as far as the connection between ‘objects’ and one’s own self is concerned” (p. 55). Fromm (1956) explained that loving somebody is the actualization of the power to love, which implied love of all humanity. Fromm (1956) explained:

… It follows that my own self must be as much an object of my love as another person. The affirmation of one’s own life, happiness, growth, freedom is rooted in one’s capacity to love, i.e. in care, respect, responsibility, and knowledge. If an individual is able to love productively, he loves himself too; if he can love only others, he cannot love at all. (p. 55-56)

The inner world represents a reflection of the macrocosm of influences the individual is exposed to in his or her lifetime, and beyond. By understanding and mastering these internal dynamics, the individual could be simultaneously affecting the outside world and transforming him or her self in relationship to it. Relationship dynamics, therefore, can be viewed as the science of life – an individual cannot exist without his or her relationship to the world, and quite possibly, the world would not exist without the individual’s transformative role in it.

Astrology as a Science of Relationships

Manly P. Hall described astrology as a religion, philosophy and a science, and not merely a predictive art (Hall, 1971, p. 7). Hall (1971) explained that a man consisted of two parts, the greater part being his spiritual unity, his divine nature; and the lesser part his personality, which was merely one manifestation of his spiritual nature (p. 7). Hall (1971) stated that “what the body of man is to the spirit of man, prognostic astrology is to philosophical astrology” (p. 7). To study esoteric astrology is to examine the mystery of the Macrocosm, which Hall (1971) defined as “the wholeness of nature both visible and invisible, corporeal and incorporeal, physical and spiritual” (p. 8). When ancient mystics spoke of the world, they referred to the complete nature of creation, and not merely its physical structure (p. 8). According to Hall (1971), in ancient astrology the earth referred to the element of earth, or matter; while the planetary orbits were zones of magnetic energy, forming the “soul of the world” (p. 9). Beyond the orbits of the planets lay the constellations of stars, which were the source of the spiritual energy of nature (p. 9). Hall (1971) explained the esoteric astrological view as follows:

Thus we have a formula: the spirit of all things [comes] from the stars, the soul of all things from the planets, and the body of all things from the elements or matter. These three great divisions – spirit, soul, and body – consciousness, intelligence, and force – will, wisdom and action – are related to stars, planets, and elements. (p. 9)

Therefore, man receives three kinds of energy into his own nature: spiritual energy from the stars, physical energy reflected from other planets in the solar system, and elemental energy or force from the physical earth (p. 9). Constellations are complex environments of energy, which modify influences of planets as they move (p. 22). The human body constantly received energies into itself. The stars exercise a moral energy according to their own nature, which is neither good or evil on its own, but could be manifested in various ways when applied to the magnetic field of the Earth (p. 23). Hall (1971) stated that every part of outer space affected the corresponding part of Earth’s constitution, the energy constantly being received and distributed; the unity of the worlds being the key to astrological theology (p. 25). Hall (1971) believed that the problem with modern science was that it worked from a material foundation. According to Hall (1971), “astrology cannot be scientifically proven until science itself becomes aware of the super physical worlds and their effect upon the order of physical life” (p. 25).

In her book Astrology: A Cosmic Science, Isabel Hickey (1992) outlined various aspects of astrological charts that explained cosmic influences on human beings, based on time, date and location of birth. Hickey (1992) explained that astrology dealt with four factors: planets, signs, houses, and aspects (p. 8). Planets were the energies – what was operating; signs were how the energies operated; and planets in the signs indicated character – individual patterns from other lifetimes, and how the individual was conditioned. Houses showed where the energies worked, and the circumstances – the environmental pattern that was presented, or the opportunities offered by the environment. Astrological aspects, or the flow of force between the planets, showed the use or abuse of energies – disposition and predisposition to action and reaction (p. 8). Hickey (1992) stated that the inner and outer worlds were interrelated:

The horoscope or birth chart is an X-ray of the personality. It shows how we operate within our personal magnetic fields. We are miniature universes. Every energy operating out in the larger universe is operating in our personal magnetic field for we are part of that universe. (p. 9)

Hickey (1992) explained that, as life flowed and changes took place, energies were released, and how they were released was extremely important. While the birth chart showed tendencies and conditioning, it did not show what would happen (Hickey, 1992, p. 9). An individual always has the choice of responding to life’s challenges positively or negatively, consciously or unconsciously. While the birth chart rules the world of appearance and personality, there is also an active spirit component, which guides the person’s will-power. Hickey (1992) described planets as “great planetary beings, which used physical planets to pour certain types of influences” (p. 9). Radiation from the Sun reflects on the planets, and pours onto the Earth. As planets revolve around the Sun throughout the year, the angle of the Sun’s radiation changes, which affects how living organisms receive the Sun’s energy. According to Hickey, the energy of higher celestial beings is manifested through planets such as Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Hickey explained that Uranus (representing intuition) was the higher octave of Mercury (intellect), while Neptune (divine compassion) was the higher octave of Venus (personal affection), and Pluto (regeneration) was the higher octave of Mars (animal energy). Hickey (1992) offered brief descriptions of the Sun’s and planets’ energies and constellation rulerships. The Sun ruled Leo and represented will, individuality, and spirit. The Moon presided over Cancer and represented personality and matter. Mercury ruled Gemini and Virgo and characterized the mind, and the link between spirit and matter. Venus governed Taurus and Libra, and signified personal affections and appreciation. Mars ruled Aries and Scorpio and represented energy, initiative, and courage. Jupiter ruled Sagittarius and Pisces and embodied the principle of expansion. Uranus governed Aquarius and represented independence and originality. Neptune ruled Pisces and characterized compassion, chaos or cosmos. Pluto ruled Scorpio and represented the energy of regeneration, coercion, or cooperation.

Understanding powerful influences of celestial objects reveals important information about the nature of the world, and the complexity of life. If a human being is composed of the very matter and energy of the universe, and is a part of the whole, able to create, give life, and transform, then a human is a complex being. As such, humans require a deeper understanding and a study approach that honors their complexity. In the study of relationship dynamics, keeping in mind the inter-relatedness of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of human beings and celestial objects provides a deeper context for the challenges, and the potential transformative powers of human action.

Hickey (1992) explained that the signs that opposed each other “had many things in common since they functioned on the same wavelength but were opposite poles” (p.10). The dynamic of the influence depended on the level of consciousness present “in the expression of energies in an individual’s character, or in a relationship” (p. 10). For example, while Aries was opposite Libra; both were positive and masculine signs. The key principle for Aries was “I am”, while the keyword for Libra was “We balance”. The focus for Aries was the self, while for Libra it was the relationship. Hickey (1992) explained that opposites worked differently on the level of personality and the soul level:

On the personality level opposites attract. They oppose each other or complement each other according to their level of consciousness. On the higher levels, the soul levels, similar wavelengths attract. However, friction means growth until we evolve to the place where harmony reigns. An advanced teacher once said, ‘You can take the path of friction if you wish, but there is a better way.’ (p. 10)

In other words, on the personality level, the level of appearances and the senses, what is opposite is complementary. On higher levels, however, it is not opposite qualities, but similar frequencies that attract each other. Frequencies of similar vibration tend to join together to create a greater power. As individuals are largely operating at the personality level, friction is created until more information is gained, more understanding is acquired, and wavelengths begin to match. Therefore, friction is not necessary, only a desire for understanding, and an action that followed this understanding in a harmonious way.

According to Hickey (1992), astrological aspects provided insight into the force between the centers of energy of the planets and the magnetic field of the individual (p. 68). Being an “organic structure”, composed of cells that were in simplest form hexagons “similar to those of the honey comb”, an individual is a receiver of celestial influences (p. 68). Hickey explained that energy could be received in such a way as to either “illuminate all parts of the structure in equal lines of influence”, or it could be received at an angle – “a geometric relationship... destructive to organic form” (p. 68). The angle of illumination determined the quality of influence of the planet on the individual. The aspect could be either harmonious and stimulate growth, as with the sextile or trine aspects (angles of 60 and 120 degrees of illumination), or destructive and present certain challenges for the relationship as with square and opposition aspects (90 or 180 degrees of illumination). Hickey explained the dynamic as follows:

Astrology shows that the square relationship between energy sources is destructive to form through releasing the energy that is locked up in the various structures Nature has built; the trine aspects constitute the constructive side of nature, whereby organic forms are created, nourished, and held to be released when subsequent destructive configurations are encountered. (p. 68)

If the energy that was locked up, and released through square aspects simply kept on releasing turbulent vibrations, then the overall state of the structure could be damaged with time. If, however, this energy served the purpose of transformation and growth, then the whole structure could operate at a higher level. While the trine, harmonious aspects served the purpose of providing support, they could optimally be used to bring harmony to challenging aspects through transformation.

An important finding that astrology points to is the importance of functioning in a flexible system – one that allows for change, transformation, and growth. Such a system can fully support an individual, and account for the complexity of life. In the book Geometric Dynamics by Mali Burgess (2004), a description of fixed versus flexible systems was provided:

Relationship dynamics can function as fixed or flexible systems. When relationship dynamics are seen as fixed, patterns tend to develop and repeat, choices appear limited, individuals feel stuck. When relationship dynamics are seen as flexible, choices expand, patterns change, individuals evolve. While the repetitious loops of fixed systems tend to generate conflict that leads to alienation, the dynamics of flexible systems can transform conflicts into catalysts for growth.

(p. 277)

Astrology also points to the importance of seeing events from the point of view of aspects, or dynamics of relationship. Since everything in nature is in a kind of relationship, it can be difficult to describe events in terms of absolutes, such as “good” or “bad”. A more holistic view describes how things relate to each other, what energies are present, and what energies are challenging or lacking. With this approach, an individual can try to activate all faculties in order to fully understand an event, and transform the situation from disharmony into harmony.

Karmic Relationships

Dynamics of relationships can be expressed through conscious and subconscious ways. Each person operates at various energetic levels – physical, mental, emotional, as well as the causal level, which is connected to karmic conditioning and can be hidden deep in the realm of the subconscious. Relationships between individuals can reveal karmic patterns, and can be very informative – indicating motivations, desires, and deep fears. In his book Karmic Relationships, Martin Schulman (1984) explained how astrological aspects symbolized the flow of energies between individuals, and how a relationship, once formed, created a new field of energy, which became an entity of its own, influencing the couple in various ways (p. 2). Schulman (1984) stated that all relationships provided opportunities for development and growth. To experience love meant to become a part of a divine life-force, since feeling true love involved being in tune with oneself (p. 5). This important acknowledgement pointed to the need to understand personality traits, and the karmic conditioning behind an individual’s actions. Schulman (1984) explained how karmic influences manifested:

When karma is involved we tend to feel a lack of control over how we react to these events… Karmically, these qualities must be evolved if the individual is to grow more in contact with his present life. The karmic relationship takes on the tone of each individual, while stripping away the illusions of the other. Through this process, a new awareness is reached, and a sense of lightness and freedom can be experienced as the burden of karmic weight is being released. (Schulman, 1984, p. 5)

Shulman (1984) also pointed out that super-imposed roles could interfere with the essence of a relationship and the learning process:

We are all teachers and students – sharing, giving and learning as we flow through the stream of life... if we can see these roles and realize the reasons for their existence, we can unfold the meaning and reason for any given relationship. (Schulman, 1984, p. 11)

Aspects in a natal chart showed ways in which individuals learned from each-other, and revealed karmic lessons (Schulman, 1984, p. 11). People who came into an individual’s life might carry a certain type of energy that provided information about something the individual was seeking at that time or a manifestation of unconscious needs. Every relationship was important in the sense that it brought an opportunity for learning, however, when a stronger relationship or marriage was formed, lessons tended to be bigger and required more time and a deeper depth of intimacy compared to other relationships (p. 12). Through their relationships individuals might question their place in the world, the role of ego, and their connection with others. Schulman (1984) explained that friction and conflict were often a catalyst for positive change: “The essence of harmony does not mean the blissful ideal that we may imagine to exist in the ‘perfect’ relationship. Bliss is not growth. It comes in moments as the result of struggle” (Schulman, 1984, p. 12). In evaluating relationships from the astrological perspective, it was important to identify the difference between friction, which could serve as a positive catalyst for learning and growth, and too much conflict, which could destroy a relationship. Schulman pointed out that the goal of understanding the nature of relationship was to create more harmony (p. 130). However, many people have difficulty understanding true love, focusing instead on false personality and desires originating in the subconscious. This can create problems in reaching objectivity and openness required for a deep connection. Schulman (1984) also pointed out that, at times, one could overstep boundaries trying to make another happy, while not allowing the partner to grow according to his or her own needs (p. 131). Schulman (1984) stated:

It becomes important to try to objectively detach ourselves when we study our relationships. This way, we can get a clearer picture of what is actually taking place. In some instances, two individuals can feel great love for each other even though a karmic condition indicates a basic incompatibility. Sometimes, two people don’t love each other at all, but can get along easily because of an ability to share a similar karmic pathway. This too must enter into the final analysis; for there is always a reason why a relationship exists. (p. 131)

Allowing the other person to grow and learn on their own is an important component of a healthy relationship. In their book Boundaries: When to Say Yes; How to Say No to Take Control Over Your Life, Cloud and Townsend (1992) pointed to the importance of recognizing intangible, spiritual boundaries for healthy relationships (p. 31). The authors explained that understanding what the individual was responsible for was crucial in developing a positive and sustainable relationship dynamic, stating “We are responsible to others and for ourselves (Cloud & Townsend, 1992, p. 32). Randy J. Peterson (2000) addressed this point in The Assertiveness Workbook, stating that one of the main misconceptions about assertiveness was the idea that controlling others and getting them to do what one wants was justified. Peterson (2000) explained that efforts to control others will ultimately fail. The key to assertive behavior was communicating one’s needs while relinquishing control over others’ behavior, and taking responsibility for one’s actions while allowing others to exercise control over their own actions (p. 64).

Relationship Processes and Patterns

Relationships are developed based on certain processes and patterns. In his book ProcessMind, Arnold Mindell (2010) explained that there was an organizing factor that simultaneously operated in individuals’ personal lives and the universe (p. 4). This processmind was nonlocal – it existed both inside an individual and was connected to everything around them (p. 4). A kind of a force-field, it was an active and intelligent space between the observer and the observed; which was a factor in the creation of reality (p. 5).

In his book The Dreambody in Relationships, Mindell (1987) explained how individuals were capable of communicating simultaneously on two separate levels without realizing it. The first level, the primary communication process, consisted of issues and themes the individuals focused on (p. 3). The second, unintended, communication process consisted of various signals such as body movements, sitting positions, sounds, etc. These secondary signals could interrupt the primary communication process so that individuals no longer understood each other. Their conversations could become confusing and lead to conflicts, deteriorating the relationship. If chronic, conflicts could create somatic problems (p. 4). The second communication process was called dreambody language because it was dream-like (p.4). Information appeared quickly and was usually unfinished, thereby creating confusion. Awareness of the deeply functioning processes in the psyche could reveal information regarding an individual's deepest desires, motives, and fears. Mindell (1987) believed that an entire family operated as a single unit, each person taking a vital role in its functioning (p. 59). The key to the personality, and the relationship, lay in appreciating the ‘edges’ or unconscious tendencies, and understanding the value of governing myths behind the individual and his or her relationships (p. 55).

Don Miguel Ruiz (1999) wrote about the tendency of a person to dream, and the need for mastery of subconscious tendencies in his book The Mastery of Love:

To master a relationship is all about you. The first step is to become aware, to know that everyone dreams his own dream. Once you know this, you can be responsible for your half of the relationship, you can easily control your half. It is not up to us to control the other half… if we respect, we know that our partner, or son, or mother, is completely responsible for his or her own half. If we respect the other half, there is going to be peace in that relationship. There is no war. (p. 70)

In his book Supporting Love: How Love Works in Couple Relationships, Bert Hellinger (2000) explained that relationships depended on a continuous exchange of giving and taking (p. 4). This dynamic needed to be in balance for the relationship to have a positive influence. In many relationships, instead of a positive exchange of love and support, there was a negative exchange of hurts. In this case, individuals subconsciously tried to maintain the negative balance by hurting each other in the same way they had been hurt, which bound the couple together, but only in unhappiness (p. 5). Hellinger (2000) explained that often the main obstacle to reconciliation was the partner who felt “in the right” (p. 99). This feeling of righteousness disturbed the dynamic because when one person believed that they were superior in any way, there was no sincere openness or equality between the partners. In his work on family constellations, Hellinger (2000) discovered the importance of recognizing each family member in their role as a father, mother, child, etc., and of allowing all members of the family to express themselves and play their role in the family. Hellinger (2000) pointed out that the superficial issues couples faced were typically not the real problem, and that the essential exchange could be taking place at a completely different level. Individuals could subconsciously act out dynamics that were hidden in the unrecognized roles of family members, trying to fill a void that had been left unfulfilled (p. 162). Understanding family dynamics could bring to light conditioning, allowing individuals to release limiting patterns and assume an appropriate position in the family unit.

Love as the Ultimate Relationship

The quest to feel special, to be loved and experience deep connection, may ultimately be a spiritual one. In his book Only Love Is Real: The Story of Soulmates Reunited, Brian Weiss (1997) told the story of two of his patients, Elizabeth and Pedro, who tried to find answers about their love lives through regression therapy. They both yearned for a feeling of deep connection and a love they intuitively knew existed. Elizabeth and Pedro had to grow as people and experience many hardships and internal struggles before they could recognize their soulmate in each other. Weiss (1997) explained that often the capacity for true love is forgotten:

It is not only that we are capable of becoming loving and spiritual people, people who are charitable, kind, and peaceful, filled with security and joy. We already are. We have just forgotten, and our egos seem to prevent us from remembering. (Weiss, 1997, p. 118)

Weiss (1997) explained that individuals used their lifetimes to perfect their energies so they could move on to higher worlds (p. 82). Real power came from listening, and applying knowledge in the right ways (p. 104). If two individuals recognized love, there could be a knowing from the heart that they were meant to be together, to continue growing and learn from each other (p. 91).

In Teachings on Love, Thich Nhat Hanh explained that in true love there was no place for pride (Hanh, 2007, p. 72). Suffering was not caused by the other person, the key was for an individual to restore communication with him or her self, going beyond pride, and acknowledging personal needs. Individuals could open up to the possibility of a loving relationship by recognizing their deepest desires (p. 73). Hanh (2007) stated that happiness and love were a creative process, requiring a specific skill:

We have to learn the art of creating happiness… So in our practice community, we try to learn the art of making people happy. The problem is not one of being wrong or right, but one of being more or less skillful. Living together is an art… Try to be artful with our speech and action. The substance of art is mindfulness. When you are mindful, you are more artful. (p. 103).


The personality is one aspect of human nature. The science of relationship goes beyond interactions at the level of personality and towards the deeper understanding of relationship dynamics. The study of the interactions between individuals and celestial bodies, elements, the family unit, and aspects of the self, provides knowledge about the individual’s role in the world. Like life itself, relationship is a process of becoming – it creates, forms, and transforms individuals throughout their lifetime and beyond. According to the Ayurvedic scholar David Frawley, relationship is the key to truly understanding life:

We are not only related to everything we see, we are everything that we see… Real relationship is to see ourselves in all beings and all beings within ourselves…Once we realize this we can never feel isolated or alienated. We will find communion everywhere, even in silence and solitude. (Frawley, 2000, p. 57)


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