Friday, May 4, 2012

Chris Dierkes - Integral Relationships: A Book Review

A while back, Chris Dierkes at Beams and Struts reviewed Integral Relationships: A Manual for Men by Martin Ucik. I have not read the book, partly because of the price tag and partly because it is so closely aligned with Ken Wilber's AQAL model of masculine/feminine (which I find to be highly problematic, as does Chris) and Wilber's "kosmic address" stuff, which Chris also critiques in much the same way I might, but he does so more eloquently and with more erudition.

It's an excellent review - I'm offering a little from the beginning, but it's very detailed and comprehensive.

Integral Relationships: A Book Review

Written by  Chris Dierkes 

Editor's Introduction (Chris): Based on the positive recommendations of some colleagues of mine, I contacted Martin and asked him if he would like me to review a copy of his book for Beams & Struts. He very graciously agreed.
Integral Relationships: A Manual for Men by Martin Ucik is a very intriguing text. Ken Wilber describes something he calls The Kosmic Address. The Kosmic Address is the location of any reference in existence, be they thoughts, emotions, systems, or places, and so on. We might even say each person has a distinct Kosmic Address (or perspective) within existence. The metaphor of a Kosmic Address takes something from the physical world and applies it to our inner worlds. This locational metaphor allows Wilber to describe integral theory as a kind of navigational or guidance system. So while integral theory can get quite complex at times--with its states, stages, lines, types, etc.--deep down its purpose is always about finding or locating the reality of beings and tuning into their worlds.

integral relationshipsIn Integral Relationships, Martin Ucik has taken the navigational dimension of integral theory--this desire to locate the experience and inner world of another--and sets its parameters to the experience of a man seeking to find a beloved woman. Ucik is very upfront that this book is for straight men and that his work is not geared towards gay men nor does he feel that he is in a position to speak to their experience. (For those interested in the subject of same sex relationships from an integral perspective, see The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada).

The book follows a deeply logical and consistent pattern. It is also very heavy on the theory, a combination not uncommon in German writers, I suppose. It's a very deep study of the topic of heterosexual relationships from the vantage point of men. Ucik makes what I think is a persuasive case for the need to have a text on relationships focused for men. He gives what I found to be wise advice that men are better advised to simply read the book, absorb its perspective (as they find it helpful) and then go about being more compassionate, present, centered beings with women. They should follow that pattern rather than necessarily sharing the book and trying to talk about quadrants and levels and lines and how this is helping them understand love. To put it mildly, that latter approach might not work so well.

There's great value in a book written especially for (straight) men that takes seriously their inner lives. Issues like pain and shame and vulnerability are not ones men typically address in our society.

Full disclosure: As a reviewer I'm not in a position to make any determinations relative to Ucik's dating advice (Chapter 13 in particular). All of the men I've talked to who have read this book are, like me, in long term relationships. As someone in a long term committed relationship, I did find the book to be very helpful in coming to terms with both the past and the present of my marriage.
Read the whole review.

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