Oligotropos and the Oligoamory
The beginning of a new year usually offers an opportunity to look back on previous achievements. And since I had also done this for the first time in January 2020, I would like to start a small “tradition” herewith, providing another summary of my expedition results on the remote island of Oligoamory so far.
The inaugural year 2019 was marked by the disclosure of Oligamory’s “general parameters”.
This included the realisation that Oligoamory had much more in common with e.g. community building and the search for self-chosen relatives than with just another feasibility model for multiple amorous arrangements. Concerning this, two milestones were to establish the correlation that freedom and commitment are not mutually exclusive opposites, and that an invisible “emotional contract“ presumably begins to form almost simultaneously behind all incipient human close relationships, which contains reciprocal or universal attributions regarding the scope for the shaping of the relationship by its participants.
This revealed a background that calls for a high degree of awareness, both in terms of one’s own potentials and limitations in terms of relational capacity, as well as in terms of compassion and communication with the other parties involved.
In this way, it also began to emerge that “good oligoamorous relationship conduct” requires a constant commitment to all-round trust (including trust in oneself!) – and the courage to face new developments and one’s own “blind spots”.
In this sense, Oligoamory turned out to be a kind of “path of development in loving relationships”, where all participants assist and motivate each other in bringing forth the “best version of themselves”.
Thus I entered the year 2020 – where it really became psychological quite often.
In January, building on the ideas above, I invited my readers not to stray too far into some more tempting distance in their search for the supposedly “best” or “better” catch, but to first explore appreciation, care and satisfaction in themselves and in the relationships they already have.
Since wherever we go we “take ourselves along”, this is literally one of the most important “home-chores”, since a mutual wholeness – as is the aim of Oligoamory – needs a committed centre. And this, I tried to show with Entry 43, must be highly human and built on an all-round trust, so that all participants are allowed to show themselves vulnerable to each other.
The confession of one’s own insecurities and the realisation that “trust” always also contains the very important part of “trusting oneself” led to three entries that were very strongly influenced by humanistic thoughts:
Already back in 2019, I invited people to become a courageous “somebody” in Oligoamory, which I expanded on in Entry 44 with the component of authentically showing up as the same person in all aspects of one’s life. Our fellow relationship participants benefit from this attitude when it comes to the values of consistency and coherence, which are so important to Oligoamory, making it easier for all partners to assess and appreciate each other.
Entry 45 specified this by promoting a day-to-day relationship that would strengthen the important variable of “familiarity” – characterised by a tolerance of human fallibility that might eventually grow into acceptance and, in the best case, even respect.
In Entry 46, I finally concluded that awareness and self-knowledge have their starting point in our self-worth – in the sense that we should be worth it to ourselves to feel “secure enough” in our loving relationships to be able to allow ourselves and others to be whole. The oligoamorous spark of every benevolent sympathy is hidden in the (self-)realisation that others are much more similar to us in most aspects of human existence than we usually superficially believe.
This was followed by my four-part “History of Oligoamory” 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 in which I showed that concerning Oligoamory
- our potential is usually always greater than that which we believe ourselves to be capable of;
- every sense of self begins with the permission of individual feeling and an access to one’s own inner life;
- multiple relationships have a better chance of success when they represent a balanced synthesis of self-realisation and (small-scale) community building;
- there needs to be a constant process of awareness raising, perception, entitlement and participation so that all those involved may also recognise themselves as valuable in a broader perspective.
In Entry 51, I subsumed the results of this series concerning the dimension and suitability of Oligoamory as a deontological state of mind (sounds complicated, but basically means that in any target-achievement, the approach to the target is more decisive than the ultimate target – according to Václav Havel‘s quote: »Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something has meaning, no matter how it turns out.«), a humanistic view of humankind (who would have guessed…) and a commitment to awareness and attentiveness.
Consequently, the following Entry 52 revolves once again around the topics of “assuming (overall) responsibility” and “personal accountability” within a relationship.
Entry 53 then expanded on an older Entry (14) about how we might be able to recognise and manifest our significance in a model of shared values – corresponding to a committed loving relationship. The oligoamorous answer is to “include the other participants into one’s own decisions” and equally to experience how oneself would be “integrated” into theirs.
In order to enable this experience, I showed in Entry 54 that for this purpose in such a ” shared whole” – as a (loving) relationship-network represents – , there must be a high degree of agreement on the perception of integrity and commitment, as this is the only way to establish equal worthiness and mutual respect for each other.
Since such consensual ideas are not automatically established from the beginning, I added in Entry 55 how our own conscious acknowledgement of the other participants can help in this process by allowing us to admit our own heterogeneity and our own points of conflict – precisely because this gives us the chance to finally let go of our reflexive standard reactions of compensation or avoidance.
To this end, in Entry 56 I call for allowing and enduring all feelings as deeply as possible (not only the “pleasant” ones)! and thus to agree to the permission to really let oneself be taken over by the emotional energies, as these are the source of true empathy and identification.
With this step, I finally “outed” my Oligoamory in Entry 57 as a holistic system in which feeling, thinking and acting in relation to each other (especially regarding the persons involved!) constitutes the pivotal point. In this way, each individual in Oligoamory is both an protagonist and at the same time an experiencing part of the whole, whereby a high degree of “feeling alive” can be achieved.
Which “tools” and which questions would be useful for the first steps into Oligoamory was the subject of Entry 58…
…and in Entry 59 I devoted myself once more to the multiple-relationship evergreen “jealousy”, this time focussing on the more mundane aspect of “envy”, which revealed that most of us still very often think in terms of inner downward comparisons, as well as not taking good enough care of ourselves regarding the implementation of co-creation and self-efficacy.
Finally, Entry 60 substantiateded what “devotion” means in Oligoamory: the courage to face one’s own fears over and over again in a loving relationship in order to actively prevent relationship-poisoning through acquired assumptions and a still unresolved, hidden fear of life.
Dear readers, how quickly is a year’s summary completed.
At the same time, I realise how much a bLog with such a topic is basically a self-revelation online and in XXL…
For personally I must confess that for a long time no year with its events in the world outside has confronted me with old fears and internalised resentments as much as 2020.
And since I am diligently writing about the “ideal Oligoamory” here, this has made it very clear to me where the limits of my own ability to relate and love really exist in that respect.
Current example: In 2020, I, Oligotropos, experienced a federal and state government which, in my perception, behaved like my former authoritarian parents: Despite not knowing exactly what was going on and sometimes being powerless in the face of a highly complex issue, restrictions were imposed at intervals that were difficult to calculate, using a paternalistic diction of the vocabulary of blame and punishment, which in their very wording usually implied that they were unappealable…
“Woah, that Oligotropos… Is he also such a covidiotic contrarian now…?”
Indeed, it is very easy to see here how quickly things can go off the rails. And if they can do this in this way in public discourse, then how soon will this be the case in our personal (loving) relationships?
In the light of day, an UFO-dwelling observer who could not know my inner state, and who would only watch me through a telescope interacting with my surroundings, would surely be deeply puzzled by my statement above. She, he or it would probably even say:
“That Oligotropos-guy? He virtually lives in self-isolation under normal circumstances already…! Why has he suddenly gone off the deep end? Almost nothing has changed for him! Well, yes, he now wears a mask when he goes shopping. But before, he didn’t go on holiday, didn’t eat out, never visited a disco, hardly ever went to the cinema, rarely met acquaintances, barely left the house, hardly ever travelled out of town… – what’s wrong with him now?” And this UFO-dweller would be completely right.
For beneath my surface, invisible to UFO-dwellers, I am (to quote Mrs Estés again from Entry 60) dragging my own skull-teeth rattling fears and chests full of preserved resentments (to quote myself from Entry 35) with me.
I cannot know what judgement the history books will make about our present time and the present political decision-makers – but unfortunately I notice how I react to the present time and the political decision-makers – and I am passing judgements already.
I obviously wear glasses – and probably hearing aids too – that translate what is happening “out there” at the moment as “personality-relativising fundamental criticism” ¹ towards myself. I, who come from the above-mentioned, highly authoritarian parental home, consequently see values such as freedom (of action), autonomy and self-determined thinking curtailed at present. Maybe, if my birth family had been more caring and genuinely compassionate, I would certainly judge somewhat differently and probably be much more likely to see the numerous prudent acts of protecting human life, of resourcefulness and solidarity, for which, however, I have a much less biographically conditioned perception.
So what will happen in my own loving relationships if, for example, my existing partner says to me that …because we are just about to add the new patio, it would be better if I just wouldn’t/stop….
Regardless of what the second part of her sentence would actually be: my inner biographical highway (see Entry 36) has already switched to “patronising restriction of my personal freedom” – and in the discussion that would inevitably ensue, I will hear almost every one of her arguments as “personality-relativising fundamental criticism” ¹ – to hell with radical honesty or non-violent communication…
And then it would take a lot of trust, even more love, a lot of unravelling of the sad pile of bones and shards² and plenty of courage on all sides to restore even such a supposed “trifle” to some degree of adequacy appropriate to the original beginning of the conversation. And allt this, when in a different mood I could possibly have heard in the basic message also care for our resources and a request for support…!
Dear readers: If you have ever wondered in which visionary cloud-cuckoo-land of multiple relationship paradise your Oligotropos imagines to exist – and whether his fingers would never have wavered over the keyboard when writing down his ideals, then I freely confess: Yes, the fingers have wavered (just recently – and massively – by half-time of Entry 58…) and no, a “multiple-relationship paradise” in which fully integrative goodwill prevails everywhere and where the constant courageous wind of acceptance and enduring blows, he himself has not (yet) realised either. For I too carry myself along everywhere I go, haunted by the ghosts of my past and just as regularly sabotaged by my all-too despondent assumptions about what might come.
Therefore, I would like to encourage all of you out there to take good care of ourselves, precisely because we will regularly fail and despair due to our own disposition. In that case it is good if there is someone else with us willing to untangle the pile of bones or shards² scattered all over the place. And it is an enormously important contribution to a more understanding and peaceful world if we can admit to each other that our own enthusiasm sometimes carries us off course in our zeal, so that we suddenly fall back into the old familiar dictate of our habits and fears. Ingrained – but very uncharitable – pathways that all too readily want to suggest to us that whoever is not unmistakably “in favour of” – must surely be certainly biased “against” us. Yet these are often old voices from our past that haunt us and still want to belittle our living present – to deprive us of the air and the vision to perceive what actually “really IS“.
In respect of that, the Irish folk singer Ursula O’Keeffe from Kenmare once wrote the following words:
»One day when our wings got strongwe take our chance to fly;
And when our branches have grown tall
we reach up to the sky.
That day then life will come and gently open up the door
And memories of our childhood days will haunt ourselves no more.«³
I wish us all – since our lives are finite – that we do not let too much time pass until that day, before we get together and prove ourselves as bold flyers and strong trees.
¹ The keyphrase “personality-relativising fundamental criticism” has become a somewhat cheerfully cautious signal here at home through many discussions and occasional arguments when things threaten to get too heated. This is often the case when one party in a discussion feels shaken in the foundations of its existence by some remark of the other party, feels devalued or even ridiculed. Very often in these cases it has turned out that the person concerned is suddenly caught in an old programme in which former inner critics and evaluators have turned the received communicative message into a nasty self-deprecation, flanked by a musty jumble of resurgent former rejections.In the rarest of cases, however, it is the case that interlocutors (even in controversies!) who have affection for us want to achieve such an effect.Then it is good to quickly find out the actual reason for the strong inner turmoil in such a moment, in order to reveal which underlying fears or bitterness(es) have just been triggered – in the hope that this perception will lead the conversation back to constructive cooperation.
² With the “pile of bones” I refer once again precisely to the “skeleton” from Entry 60, which the psychologist Clarissa Estés uses there as a symbol for our inner tangle of longings and fears.
³ Refrain of the title “One Day”, 1992 © by Fairing (Irish: féirín = gift); this is the band name of Ursula and Frank O’Keeffe from Kenmare, Ireland. Their musical home is Sliabh Luachra, a remote rural area in south-west Ireland, north-east of the Kerry Mountains.