Posted on May 30, 2013


Over the weekend I decided that the working title for my next book (of which I have none) will be Continua.  My basic premise is this.  Any character trait, any way of relating, any view of the world that one of we humans has is somewhere on a continuum between two extremes.  We are rarely either this way or that way, but rather we are somewhere in between the extremes.  Further we are not generally fixed in our positions, but our positions move over our lifetimes and with changes in circumstances and with experience.  My assertion is that mental health, relationship health and life satisfaction is found between the two extremes.  Pathology is often found by being out of balance.

Let me pull a few examples from things I have already written.  In my post about the “Self-Other Continuum,” I asserted that in relationship we are all somewhere on a continuum between being completely focused on our own needs and being completely focused on the needs of our partner.  My premise is that for the relationship to function well, the combined “other-focus” of each partner needs to be sufficient to create a surplus of giving in the relationship.  Few would argue that two partners who each focus exclusively on their own needs would have difficulty sustaining a relationship.  Relationships require some giving and some amount of self-sacrifice.  However, the other extreme is also problematic.  If one were to completely abandon one’s own needs in relationship, this would not make for a very satisfying life nor a relationship that can be maintained over a lifetime together.  The goal is to have a mutually satisfying relationship.  Some balance is required.

I took a similar position on the “Me/You – Us Continuum.”  This was a discussion of how one views life within a committed relationship.  The question is “Do you view how things impact each of you as individuals or how you are impacted as a couple?”  Healthy marriages require a good amount of “us” thinking.  Again one does not want to completely abandon one’s sense of self as an individual.  This is not a novel thought.  Murray Bowen, one of the pioneers of marriage and family therapy, had asserted that health in marriages and families is achieved through a balance of togetherness and separateness.

Another (that I haven’t yet written) is the continuum between ascribing internal versus external responsibility for events and outcomes.  When something goes wrong, where do you place the blame?  Do you accept the responsibility yourself (internal) or do you ascribe the responsibility to circumstances and people outside of your control (external)?  Again I would suggest that good health is somewhere in the middle.  Failing to take responsibility for things that are within your control can be problematic in life in general and in your relationships.  Assuming blame for things outside of your control can create its own set of problems (stay tuned.  I will write more about this soon).

Life requires balance, and it also requires adjustment across changing circumstances to stay in balance.  Few things in life, relationships, and human behavior are binary.  We are somewhere on a continuum.  Health is in avoiding the extremes.