Healthy Relationships 1.13: A Person is A Process, Part 3

Internal Dimensions

A person is not only shaped by the external system of which he or she is a part (see last two posts), he or she is also comprised of his or her internal system, which includes four dimensions: depth, object, personal and time.

Depth Dimension

The depth dimension includes all the elements inside a person: the spiritual search for meaning and completeness; the abilities to think, feel and make choices; the physiological and psychological processes that accompany these abilities; the physical characteristics, sexual instincts, body image, genetic make-up; the desires to engage with others, to escape certain feelings, to intensify other feelings; fantasy, imagination, creativity, beliefs, worldviews, memories, experiences, goals, purposes, perceptions, misperceptions.

The depth dimension includes a certain amount of emptiness inside—feelings of loneliness, of being a nothing, of confusion, hopelessness, helplessness, un-belonging, sadness, feelings of being uncared for, or that something vital is missing. It also includes a sense of failure, shame, and emotional death. Some people are acutely aware of such feelings, while others are completely unaware of them.

Most fall somewhere on a continuum between these two extremes, but everyone experiences the feelings of emptiness from time to time. It is in this dimension that we feel the natural incompleteness of everything, and making peace with this reality is part of the work of a person’s depth dimension.

Object Dimension

The object dimension of the self refers to movement toward and away from objects, such as TV, a bottle of wine, housecleaning, work, sports, drugs, food, social activities or causes.

Personal Dimension

The personal dimension of the self involves movement toward or away from people. This is the interpersonal dimension.

Time Dimension

The time dimension of an individual is always present, but we tend not to recognize it. If we’re moving physically or standing still, if we’re patient or impatient, if we think slowly or act spontaneously, change or preserve the status quo, if we choose to spend time with people rather than at work, we are involving the time dimension.

Our time dimension can overlap with our depth world when we need to grieve a loss of something precious from a time long past, when we savor a good meal, or when we make plans for the future. People who are living in different aspects of their time dimensions can end up in conflict, such as when one partner is feeling grief over the loss of a childhood and the other partner is interested in making plans for something in the future.

It’s Not Personal

These concepts overlap so closely that the separation between them is imperceptible. This important thing is to allow the terminology to provide a framework for understanding the differences between partners so that they can accept them as such, without interpreting them as a personal rejection or slight.

Tomorrow we’ll look at three areas to manage in our efforts to have a more fulfilling life, including richer relationships.


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