For Tension In Relationships













In the formative period of the Earthtribe, the wisdom of developing an effective model for tension balancing emerged from Spirit and a council of Earthtribe elders. For years, Will Star Heart and other Earthtribe elders developed and fine-tuned a tension balancing model that became a core teaching within the Earthtribe. This model posits that within our psyches are multiple selves, or a council of selves, that can drive our behavior without our conscious awareness, sometimes leading to that we call bonding patterns that can cause problems and constrict our growth and happiness.Recently, this core Earthtribe wisdom jumped front and center and called for some renewed attention and focus.



This booklet includes contributions from several Earthtribe elders and Great Spirit, even a bit from coyote. Consider this a “living document” that continues to evolve as Earthtribers provide feedback and insights.



Ecology of Selves (Inner Council)



For many years in the Earthtribe, we have explored what we have come to call the ecology of inner selves as a sacred manner of growth and potential. Up until recently, we used the term “psychology of selves” or  “the inner family of selves,” but now “the ecology of selves” seems more to the point. Ecology is a branch of science that focuses on the relationship between various aspects of the environment, and, as we will see, that is precisely what we are about in looking at patterns of connections inside and outside ourselves. The importance of introducing this term will become increasingly evident as we proceed. For the moment, try thinking of your jostling inner world as a weather system that gets more turbulent with the pressure of tension.



Upsets with others can be approached as “bad weather.”



As we approach tension within our interior lives and in connecting with others, exploring a view of our inner council — our inner cast of multiple selves — is crucial. The Medicine Wheel offers a rich resource in that each direction points us to a cluster of selves. For example, the East points us to a natural self before our families and culture create other selves. Often, this natural essence is called “The Wild Heart.”



Other directions reveal other selves: The South shows us the vulnerable selves; the West, the hidden or shadow selves; the North, the protecting and organizing selves. So, when we experience tension with others, we realize that we have a community of inner selves interacting with a community of selves in the other. There may be stormy weather on all fronts as our interior interacts with the exterior of pandemics, climate change, autocrats, and daily stress.



But each circumstance holds in its hands love of ourselves and others as the tensions can lead, eventually, to an intimacy built into the universe.



Let’s delve a bit deeper to see how.



Shift metaphors to government. Just as the thirteen original colonies of the USA had names, the primary council has names like the inner critic, the pleaser, the perfectionist, the victim, the persecutor, the pusher, and the rescuer. As we develop, we add others in order to cope with an environment presenting us with stressors and tensions. The organizing force within our personality patterns, like our federal or state governments, becomes an operating ego, which attempts protection and control for all the parts of the council.



In our USA governmental form, we have the executive function (the ego), the congress (all of the selves running around often making little sense), and the judicial function (the Supreme Court, ideally but rarely neutral). The executive ego discovers its limits as the tensions within the council and outwardly in the environment impact the balanced action of the council. Consequently, we need to develop a neutral witnessing presence within the inner council that can stand aside and observe the arising tensions in order to make informed decisions and reach a consensus.



In the state of consciousness of the witnessing presence, you are both entirely free of the whirlpool of a cluster of sub-selves and, at the same time, totally able to absorb what the different selves have expressed. Much of our work will be to expand this witnessing form of consciousness, as we will see in our explorations shortly. To achieve that form, we will need to avoid becoming trapped inside a sub-self or, at the other extreme, denying the sub-self. Achieving such a form of neutral consciousness (the ideal supreme court) presents a large challenge because the sub-selves (the congress) keeps trying to take over to preserve power, and the ego (executive) drifts towards autocrats.



We aspire to learn how varied and many are the inner voices of our inner landscape or ecology. Sometimes these inner voices agree with one another and sometimes not. When they don’t and argue, we call that a negative bonding pattern, which is the focus of this ebook. Such a council drives every decision and action we take. Shaped by this inner council of selves, different personality patterns emerge for the purposes of coping with the internal and external world. This pattern of selves does its best to protect us from real and perceived threats even though its strategies eventually precipitate tangled bonding with others because the default solutions grew out of our families of origin and their limitations.



A well-meaning mother might teach her daughter, by example, not to challenge “her man openly.” Rather, “we have our ways,” she demonstrates. Such a script develops in a cluster of sub-selves of the daughter as a way to live in a patriarchy. In the short run, the cluster of selves has some success, but then the innate self that can speak up and out is pushed into the shadows, often resulting in a form of depression. When we find the voices unacceptable to our value system, they wiggle around “off stage” as shadow parts that still have an occasional break out voice as we project them on others. What we hate in others is actually a disowned self that is saying, “Pay attention to me as I present you with an exaggerated version of yourself in this person you despise.” The Putins and autocrats in our own state and national governments gain power through what we reject in ourselves. Sad to say.



Instead of bringing these shadow and vulnerable selves into the council circle, our operating egos attempt to protect the status quo through a variety of control measures, compulsions, and reactive addictions. Automatically and without awareness our operating egos rant with voices of anger, self-righteousness, rationality, judgment, criticism, and, most of all, stress-filled activity.



We mistakenly believe if we just work hard enough, we will feel better.  Courage comes through when we face and develop the parts of the inner council that are hiding on the outer edges in the shadows of our inner council. When they finally raise a voice, it can be off key! The daughter can bring the assertive selves into awareness. In the beginning, these selves may be powered by anger but have the potential to take care of the hurt little girl in transactions with over-controlling men when they gain balance through awareness and experience.



To bring these vulnerable and hidden selves into the council, we need to pay attention without the domination of angry, critical, or self-righteous voices. In other words, we listen:



  • without interruption
  • without calling them stupid or uninformed,
  • without seeing them as victims,
  • without rescuing them,
  • without criticizing them as being in denial.



Once we include them in our awareness with deep listening, and they feel safe, they can offer great wisdom for our journey. Each sub-self in the inner council has a kernel of truth to give us. But this potential gift becomes troublesome when we don’t discern the seed truth they attempt to give us. That’s understandable because the louder these voices speak, the more inclined we are to be dominated by them. Such is often the case, for example, with the inner critic. Though harsh, the inner critic can have a seed of truth if we learn how to listen to its voice without being dominated and damaged.



Easier said than done!



Consider a child’s seesaw as a way to face our inner dynamics. Our protector selves sit on one side, and our vulnerable and shadow selves on the other. When the shadow selves gain enough weight or momentum, they take control of the seesaw. Often the seesaw goes back and forth wildly. Our aim in this work is to gain balance in the middle through our evolving bonding pattern map. Eventually, we can move back and forth until we develop from the witnessing presence an aware ego that can balance in the middle. Then, we can take what we learn into our more aware, everyday dance with tension. Thus, the very tension that shows up in our bodies and minds as pain can lead us to a loving practice of eco-intimacy.



Now, let’s bring into focus more specifically bonding patterns within and without.






Our inner council of selves greets the world 24/7 and processes whatever stimulus is occurring. The tension of a particular stimulus that arrives, and most often (2/3 of the time), leads parts of the council into what we call bonding patterns. So, what are bonding patterns? And why do we use that term? It may seem a bit cumbersome, but it has considerable value. Let’s explore why.



Bonding patterns are voices in our inner council that raise our awareness and focus our attention to a particular stimulus. Therefore, we use the term “bonding pattern” is used to define the interactions we experience in the relationships and connections we make as human beings:



  • within the sub-selves of our inner council,
  • with other humans,
  • with organizations in our culture, and
  • with the natural environment/eco-field outside ourselves.



When bonding patterns leap out of the West, a mysterious hidden domain, we wonder what hit us? We ask of the Universe (Creator), why me? I was just going along minding my business, and then this upset hits me in the stomach. Immediately, we want to try to resolve the issue and feel less tension or just ignore the situation, but the troublesome tension just keeps cropping up in different forms with different people. Why?



Bonding patterns are not random events that come from nowhere, according to our view. They persist for a reason. It seems bonding patterns come along right when we need them to offer opportunities to expand our awareness and growth into larger forms of consciousness as evolutionary possibilities. Put another way, they meet us to make us better and bigger people. They are the key to unlock the door to the next room.



If such a statement has even a little validity, then pursuing the bonding pattern map has crucial merit.



Hal and Sidra Stone noted that there are only three ways we know of that human beings bond with each other:



  1. Positive bonding – which sweeps tension under the rug in denial
  2. Negative bonding – which inflames and dramatizes tension.
  3. Intimacy – which works through and balances tension.



Bonding patterns, therefore, can be positive or negative based on the reactive choices we make from the discriminations of our perceptions, made explicit in the inner story we tell ourselves that are created by voices in the inner council. These stories originate in our interior landscape from our protecting and controlling ego, as well as shadow selves, and can cause quite a storm. It is not the stimulus/tension itself that produces a bonding pattern. It is the resulting story we tell ourselves. That’s my story, and I am sticking to it becomes our mantra.



Negative bonding patterns then result when emotions stir an inner vulnerability and the power selves move forward in the inner council to tend to the hurt. The emotional energy that fuels them is born of previous experiences, remembered or not. Until the vulnerability of those tender sub-selves receive care and are recognized and included, they continue the cycle of bonding patterns. Plus, we have hidden aspects that are shadow sub-selves we have relegated to the edge of the stage of our inner council, mostly as a result of our upbringing, as undesirable behaviors or traits. Although we are no longer aware of them, they are strong energy forces that fuel a bonding pattern.



What we need to break the cycle is an awareness of our adult ego that is enriched by a witnessing stance. Then we have an opportunity for choice in how to respond to the tension coming our way.



Inner Council Bonding Pattern



Let’s review for a moment. The unruly pattern (-bp) begins with tension, when the heavy hitter of the other person or entity stirs up the vulnerability in our inner council, confusing us and throwing us off balance. Feeling one down, our usual operating ego steps into a power response (heavy handed as it is) and addresses the vulnerability of the other. The other then comes back again from their power (also heavy handed) to address the vulnerability within us. The shadow selves on the sidelines are energetic gateways for our reactions.



We will have more to say about negative bonding patterns (-bp) in a moment, but, first, turn your attention to positive bonding patterns (+bp). A positive bonding pattern appears when we are powerfully attracted to someone, or something. We have a sense of warmth and safety in their presence, and a feeling of attachment. In psychotherapy, it is common to project an ideal on the therapist in this manner, sometimes called transference. Falling in love constitutes another instance. The person of your dreams becomes the object of your attachment (+bp), but when tension arises over time, a skirmish ensues (-bp). Buying a car is another attachment (+bp). You fall in love with a car (+bp), and then when something goes wrong, you may have buyer’s remorse (-bp). Positive bonding is often mistaken for intimacy.



Intimacy, the Wild Heart of the Universe



Intimacy surfaces when we sort through our array of selves, listen to them without being captured by their story, and find balance. This balance births a love within that becomes available to others. The achievement of intimacy does not involve power plays or “one-up-man-ship.” When tension bubbles up, the persons involved can call on a spirit wolf to follow the scent. Spirit wolf follows an olfactory trail in the inner forest rather than projecting on the other. Usually, it is to one or more vulnerable points within. Listening to these various interior voices opens the door to taking better care of a cluster of sub-selves that quiet down when they have our rapt attention.



As that happens, then balance returns (only after doing your own work and tracking down the self to come to internal balance), and you can consider a conversation with the important other. Assuming the other person has also done inner work, a new connection is birthed called intimacy, a form of conscious exchange that is rare and beautiful.



Tracking this intimacy is, according to our view, our primordial destiny. It is our essence, our soul’s delight. Our brain waves return to alpha. For a golden moment, we swim in the pulse of Earth’s harmonics, 7.83Hz. We know we have spiraled home and are part of the Universe’s thrust toward an unbroken wholeness. Words reach their outer boundaries and are replaced with smiles, easy breathing, appreciative inquiry and acts of conscious kindness. Yes, rare but beautiful.



Having noted definitions of positive and negative bonding patterns, and intimacy, let’s begin our exploration of these patterns with the positive side.



Positive Bonding Patterns



In positive bonding patterns, a powerful attraction arises in one inner, sacred council to bond with another sacred council. The phrase – bonding pattern – refers to an energetic exchange between a person and the outside world taking the form of power/vulnerability or occasionally roles of parent/child. The bonding repeats until it forms a groove or pattern etched in the personality so deep it resists change.



This positive bonding groove can occur between the inner council of any person with another person’s inner council. The pattern can happen in your marriage, in your friendship, with your house, your pet, your auto, your computer, your school, your nation, and with any aspect of the environment, including the wilderness. While attractive, pleasant, pleasurable, and workable for some limited period of time, positive bonding patterns are often confused with intimacy. They eventually can flip to negative attachments.



Switching the Bonding Pattern



In positive bonding patterns, a powerful attraction arises in one inner, sacred council to bond with another sacred council. The bonding repeats until it forms a groove or pattern etched in the personality so deep it resists change. The pattern can happen in your marriage, in your friendship, with your house, your pet, your auto, your computer, your school, your nation, and with any aspect of the environment, including the wilderness. While attractive, pleasant, pleasurable, and workable for some limited period of time, positive bonding patterns are often confused with intimacy. 



They eventually can flip to negative attachments. They often feel like a slap.



Negative Bonding Patterns



Bonding patterns become painful whether they shift to negative suddenly from the positive, or simply begin in the negative. Power and competition are key words here. The bonding pattern becomes a struggle for power and personal space or safety from a vulnerability. For when we feel emotional pain in a transaction with others, it involves a vulnerability/power issue leading to what we describe as a “bonding pattern.”



When the seemingly victimized person responds and the other responds back again the pattern repeats over and over in a double never ending loop, until the adult in each person can intervene. From this Adult aware ego position, we have the opportunity to step back to a witnessing state and make an aware choice to step out of the bonding pattern.



What a relief that is!!



Finding this adult voice is a seemingly insurmountable and painful difficulty when one is “stuck” in the vulnerability, the emotions, and the struggle for some sort of control. Both participants will need to go to a “witnessing state” and find the neutral position of their inner Adult aware ego. Each will need to recognize their own vulnerability and inner shadows to resolve the issue, if intimacy is to occur. If only one person has the maturity and knowledge to accomplish this step, the intimacy may remain lost.



As we have mentioned before, there is a need for courage to meet our challenges. We need relationship and community. This is true in all of creation.



We seek, but are not capable of union or understanding with one another on the deepest level, until the inner self can confront in intimacy the inner self of the other, and this meeting must be in compassionate, mutual respect and trust. It is in the soul’s need to be seen. Jesus as a shaman understood this very well, as He called for us to love one another. Not only that, but to love our self—with all of our vulnerabilities and shadows. Now that will take some doing.



It is crucial, then, to know and honor our own inner landscape before we walk with another in theirs, so the energy forms along the path, called “bonding patterns,” do not trip us along the way and cause untold damage. Because we are subject to our own vulnerabilities, having a mentor is invaluable. Being able to explore our personal reactions to others with our mentor enhances our ability to walk “with” another.



Working with negative bonding patterns is where the skills of willing, waiting, forgiveness, and relinquishing are important indeed. It may seem in the vulnerability and pain of a negative bonding pattern that our soul is being threatened or deeply wounded. The soul, however, is obscured, but never damaged. During the bonding pattern, it is part of the inner council that is being impacted. Therefore, we need the awareness of these internal voices and the support of those who love us in order to maintain our balance. This deep understanding of our inner council and the love of others assists us in connecting with our souls and ultimately Sacred Spirit. On the other side of the coin, we also need those who enter into tension with us. 



What?? Yes, in the tension lies the possibility.



Tension then (including trauma and crisis) is Nature’s way of drawing into our awareness zone (vision circle) the very sub-selves in our council needing attention. Only by paying close attention to these sub-selves brought forth in conflict can we expand our consciousness and move to the next level of evolution, individually as well as a culture.







  1. We experience bonding patterns within our personal inner council and with the environment (eco-field), especially other people.
  2. Bonding patterns are a principal way we enlarge ourselves and develop identities beyond the usual and are essential in evolution.
  3. Clear agreements help avoid bonding patterns.
  4. Aware boundaries permit avoidance of triangles that often provide a climate for bonding patterns.
  5. An invitation to a bonding pattern from another can enter your inner world ONLY through a sub self within your inner council.
  6. Your first task is to attend to your inner vulnerability and shadow before you approach the other. Talk with a mentor about the issue, rather than the other during a bonding pattern. Talking things out with the other before you do your work often makes the negative bonding pattern worse, not better. When you attempt to talk things out before doing your inner work, your hidden agenda often is for the other to make you feel better. Such often increases tension.
  7. Why do you work on your own vulnerabilities before addressing the issue with the other? The -BP (negative bonding pattern) arises from the wisdom of the eco-field in order to point you to a particular sub self within your inner council that needs your aware care.
  8. Hence, do not address the issue with the other at the time of the bonding pattern. Address the issue only after the other has done the same, and if the other is willing. If so, the possibility of enhanced intimacy arises.
  9. Tension itself can arise without stepping into a bonding pattern. Just because you feel tension with someone, does not mean you are in a negative bonding pattern.
  10. You know you are in a bonding pattern when you lose balance and neutrality as you go over and over the transaction in your mind.
  11. Permit all inner council voices to speak with respect and without judgment when they arise in the bonding pattern. Hearing all the voices with awareness and patience lessens over-identification with one or more voices and allows for choices.
  12. From bonding patterns we learn to create intimacy with ourselves, others and thus open the door to connect with the larger eco-field in an intimate /feeling way.



Here are some guidelines that Will sent to Jyl in the 1990s, based on work by Hal Stone, PhD. and Sidra Stone, PhD.



  • All relationships are teachers.
  • One lens for understanding relational conflict starts with the idea the we each have many selves, sub personalities or parts of self.
  • A bonding pattern is a “stuck” relational energy field that recreates a type of parent/child connection.
  • Bonding patterns can be positive or negative.
  • Bonding patterns begin as unconscious process.
  • You can’t get rid of all bonding patterns. But awareness and practice can lessen their frequency and reduce their intensity.
  • The trigger or spark for a bonding pattern is hidden vulnerability.
  • The fuel, or what keeps a bonding pattern going, is one or more disowned selves/parts of the participants.
  • The content of the conflict is less important than than who (which self/part) is talking.
  • The parts of you most easily identify with are likely your primary selves.
  • Disowned parts went “underground” during childhood to help you survive your family of origin and the culture.
  • For clues in finding your disowned parts, look for qualities that irritate you in other people.
  • A negative bonding pattern can include outward conflict or feeling ill at ease inwardly.
  • The first step in resolving a bonding pattern is awareness of your own (not the other’s ) vulnerability.
  • Disclosing vulnerability is important to a healthy relationship, but must be done in a context of safety.
  • Powerful spiritual experiences and spiritual gatherings may stir up vulnerabilities that incubate bonding patterns.


The Eternal Now and Bonding Pattern with Gary
What bonding pattern is the network, or web of life sending me to expand my consciousness today? That’s the question. We like to think about tension, conflict and negative bonding patterns as something we want to avoid, but I am beginning to see that this is potentially one of the beautiful but troublesome ways for us to enter into expanded eternal time. When I asked the sacred web to give me that bonding pattern, to my great surprise, appearing in my circle was Gary Ramsey. Gary had on this old womper jawed hat that was a little grimy with a strap around his chin and he was grinning and saying, “Well, you asked for it.” And I said Gary, “What is this bonding pattern we have from the beyond?”
And I remembered right away that on the Friday before Gary transitioned with a heart attack at a Vision Quest, he came to my campsite and he said, “Will, I wish we would have vision quests somewhere besides Deer Dancer Ranch, because in the first years when I was in the Earthtribe we went to Colorado and it was so cold it once froze our shaving lotion, and we went to New Mexico where we had to carry in the water jugs and we had to carry out our poop in a kordite bag over two miles and I long for that wild dimension that we seem to have lost in the Earthtribe.” When he was saying that to me, it hit me right in the heart. It hit me because, as you may recall at that time, Judith, my beloved spouse, was very sick and I was doing all I could to keep my nose above the water, and here was just something else. Mostly Gary said it from a harmonious place, but there was a tinge of criticism in there, and it came in and I felt tired. I felt like this is just one more thing. And then we started the bonding pattern because Gary could see that I didn’t really like what he was saying.
And then the next day he had a heart attack and left this mode of living. And so in some ways this morning I realized that in this one little small place in my life and I had been keeping a negative charge with Gary. And I said to him, “Gary, man, thank you for pointing something out! I see in my shadow what what hidden from me at the time, it was the role that the wild is playing and is going to play in our evolution as a species. It’s very important, I had written about it but evidently I hadn’t gotten the point because when I talk about the wild heart, I talk about that dimension inside of us and outside of us that is little controlled or influenced by human power and structure. And so now Gary, I’m telling you, Thank you for bringing that up to me, because I look at the Wild and how it’s coming to me. It’s coming to all of us in the pandemic. It came to me in the form of Judith’s illness and my illness. It came  in climate change and the big freeze. It’s coming in the floods. Now its coming in the wars with Ukraine and all of the autocrats that seem to be arising out of our species. And so I see you were telling me something I needed to hear, but because I was overwhelmed I didn’t hear it. But now I do. And I am taking care of the part of me that’s vulnerable. The first question I ask is ‘What is my vulnerability in the negative bonding pattern with you?’ And the second question I ask is ‘What is the hidden shadow?’ The vulnerability is my lack of being able to overcome and handle a lot of the situation. I feel some tears coming up. That’s coming from one part of me. And the next part is that wild part that I had been suppressing over a period of time, and realizing that as beautiful as the ceremonial grounds are at Flying Buffalo and Deer Dancer that we need as a spiritual community not only in the Earthtribe but all around the world, to go and be with places that are not so influenced and dominated by humans. And so, Gary, thank you for appearing this morning. I don’t know when it’ll be, but maybe not too far in the distant future I’ll see you over on the other side. And we’ll have a lot of jokes and intimacy.”

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