The Invisible Field of Relationships

by Paul and Layne Cutright

Sandy and Robert had just broken up and it was a mess. They were part of a group of friends that went back fifteen years and the emotional tension was driving a wedge between all of them. They just couldn’t hang out together anymore. Everyone was on edge and walking on eggshells. It is the kind of thing that taints the harmony of groups when just a couple of people are at odds with one another.   

Have you ever been in a group when everyone just “goes polite” while the emotional undercurrents are slithering and turbulent? Everyone is tensed waiting for it to blow over.


We were asked to do some “trigger work” for this whole group. We gathered in a comfortable living room, sitting in a circle. We went around and had each person identify what was hurting them the most. For Sandy, it was watching Robert be affectionate with others in the group. For Linda, it was the familiar conflict of having to choose between the people she loves, something that went back to her parent’s divorce when she was a child. For Stacy, it was feeling helpless to help. For Robert, it was guilt because he was the one who initiated the breakup and felt like this groups problem was “all his fault.” Everyone identified what the deeper issue was for them and measured it on a scale of 1 to 10.

We were able to work with the whole group at once while each person was noticing the emotional intensity drop. All but one of them had experienced a significant drop in their emotional pain and reported relief from the physical discomfort that accompanies distress and confusion. Left untended to, relationship pain stuffed in the emotional body changes into physical dis-ease. Our group complained of a variety of physical symptoms, headaches, nausea, and tightness in the face, chest, stomach, throat and neck.

After the emotional intensity dropped we started to discuss how the “breakup” had been playing out in the larger group. Instead of everyone feeling heavy and stilted, they were all laughing again, joined in the familiar camaraderie that had kept them together for fifteen years. It was a dramatic shift. Insights and connections were “popping” for everyone.

An Invisible Aspect of Relationships

Relationships live in a field of unseen energy. We have a variety of terms we use to describe it, the field, the garden of relationship, or sometimes the relationship entity. Over the years, in our work with groups we have deepened our own sensitivity to fluctuations in this field. We can watch emotion move through groups like waves in an ocean. The full spectrum of emotions can come into play, from anger to anxiety to love. It can be volatile sometimes and learning when and how to intervene before it becomes emotionally dysfunctional is the mark of an emotionally mature group. This is true whether the group is of a personal or professional nature.

What has helped is having specific distinctions about what actually causes relationships to be the way they are. These distinctions point the way to deep healing, rebuilding trust and evolving relationships, even relationships that may appear irreparable. It is like having x-ray vision into the deep structure of relationship. Knowledge of these emotional nuances prevents us from using a band aid treatment to resolve a situation that requires a deeper remedy for something more serious like internal bleeding.

We’ve worked with a variety of groups, families, communities and company teams. We have been called into work with families that were being torn apart, harmonious communities spiraling into dissonance and business teams who could barely think straight because of emotional distress.

What many of them had in common was an unresolved issue between two people affecting the whole group in an undesirable way. All of our relationships exist in an invisible field of energy that can be calm and stable, in a state of homeostasis. But when there are powerful emotions between two or more people, those emotions, such as anger, sadness, resentment, hurt feelings, etc. ripple out through the field, having an effect on everyone involved. The more people suppress or deny their feelings the crazier the field gets which has an undesirable effect on everyone in the group.

Emotional Tanking

[pullquote align=”normal”]Emotional tanking describes when we are confusing others feelings for our own. [/pullquote]

When people suppress their feelings they don’t go away. They tend to ooze out into the emotional bodies of the people around them. In the illustration the analogy of two tanks of water symbolizes the emotional bodies of two people that appear to be distinct but are powerfully connected in an invisible way. There is a phenomenon called “emotional tanking”. This occurs when we are confusing other’s feelings for our own. When other’s feelings mysteriously arise in our own emotional bodies it can be very confusing because we don’t even know we are feeling and even acting out someone else’s feelings.

Big feelings need to honored regularly in a relationship coaching practice and it is great having distinctions and tools that smooth the ride to healing. We use a variety of “energy psychology” techniques to facilitate rapid emotional clearing. They are simple and powerful tools for healing relationship issues of any kind. It is another octave of relationship work that goes far beyond talking about feelings to using our emotional nature for enriching our personal evolution.

We use it with couples, families and groups all the time in our coaching practice.

In this situation with the group of old friends, we used some energy psychology techniques to clear some of the emotional dissonance. We reduced the force and velocity of the emotional turmoil within each person, all at once. It took about 30 minutes. When a group has the know-how they can intervene for themselves. It’s a matter of skill and expertise. It can be learned and mastered.

It is one thing to “know about” this as a concept and another thing to seize it as a healing opportunity that fosters trust and creative problem solving. You start with your own emotional field and the benefits ripple out into the rest of the group. You become more present, resourceful and clearheaded in the midst of emotional turmoil.

It isn’t always clear to people that their ability to evolve is directly related to the density of their personal “pain body”. The pain body holds the unfinished business from the past that often determines the perceptions of the now. It’s a filter that we perceive through without knowing it. Because of these phenomena we often can’t see new and powerful possibilities in difficult situations.

It’s no longer adequate to “just get through it.” We can’t simply look the other way and wait for the storm to pass when emotional distress is acted out in destructive ways. There comes a time when an upset between a few people affects the whole. It is important to notice when that is happening and to have skillful means when it does. It is essential that individuals and groups have an assortment of tools and techniques that heal and clear unwanted or destructive emotions.

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8 responses to “The Invisible Field of Relationships”

  1. I was thinking about family members while reading your post, and wondering if old upsets getting recreated/remembered in the present caused the stressful relations where I couldn’t point to anything wrong. Saying what happened, it all seemed innocuous and yet thinking about the interaction I feel sad, upset, a noticeable lack of joy and generally icky.

    • Yes, that is exactly the kind of thing that can happen in current relationships. We wrote a book called, You’re Never Upset for the Reason You Think, which goes into this dynamic in great detail, including what to do about it..

  2. Paul and Layne bring great insights into interpersonal dynamics as illustrated by this real life situation. Very interesting concept…. Tanking. Food for thought.

  3. As always, insightful and timely! When one “gets it”, the path forward is so blissfully easy. But when, like most, one struggles, we experience life as we have it…stressful, tumultuous and, as suggested, full of dis-ease. Thank you Layne and Paul…and a very Merry Xmas and exceedingly Happy New Year to all!

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