Monday, December 19, 2005

The Conscious Heart by Gay Hendricks

A Book Review by Zinta Aistars

# Paperback: 320 pages
# Publisher: Bantam, 1999
# Price: $16.00
# ISBN: 0553374915

While I rated both Conscious Living and Conscious Loving by the same authors, the Hendricks's, with a very enthused 5 star rating, subsequently ordering several of their books, I have stepped back with my endorsement after reading Conscious Heart. This particular book does not detract from the basic message of their work in general with a "conscious approach," so to speak, to life and our various relationships, romantic or otherwise. I still hold to that. The premise is sound. But Conscious Heart has little new to offer; indeed, what is new is a section that rather made me wince.

I am all flags and hurrah banners for a commitment to honesty - to self and to others. Speaking one's feelings aloud, bringing them into the light for full understanding, using that understanding to build intimacy in a romantic relationship but increased efficiency in a work relationship, yes, all of that makes solid good sense to me. But I am also a believer in balance. Often, too much of a good thing becomes, well, not so good. It is possible to exaggerate this idea to the point of being obnoxious and unnecessarily cruel.

Example: The Hendricks couple recount an incident in their marriage that tested their commitment and their honesty. Gay Hendricks, in his own retelling, goes through a scene of seduction that is handled with, to me, absurdity. While I agree with their commitment to tell each other when they might be in danger of serious straying, teetering on the boundaries of infidelity, so that they might work it out together -- I am not at all convinced that this incident, as it is described in the book, is handled in a way that even a reasonably committed couple could, or should, endure. Gay spots a younger woman across a dance floor, someone both he and wife Kathlyn know and trust, but suddenly he sees this woman in a different light. How this temporary desire for another woman is handled between the three of them tests my limits of understanding. The marriage endures -- but my patience and empathy do not. Not only is the disclosure unnecessary, but the concept of commitment seems to get lost in this threesome as they find their proper paths. The Hendricks are, after all, a married couple. Surely that stands for something. This "exploration" of Gay's temptation should have been cut off at the starting line, period.

I still recommend the Hendricks first two books with enthusiasm. Honesty is indeed the best policy. Being conscious of one's own motives and feelings is powerful. But I see no benefit to being subjected to my partner's ongoing stream of consciousness every time he feels a tingle in his tenders, not if it's a passing and momentary thought. Nor do I intend to subject him to same. That kind of banter is wearing, and I see no benefit from it. Not to be confused with open and full disclosure when infidelity, or danger of it, does indeed threaten a relationship. That is always necessary, no exceptions.

My recommendation is to read the Hendricks' first books, Conscious Living and Conscious Loving. The basic idea of this kind of living, after all, is not complicated. I can't help feeling this newer addition was written merely as padding.