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The Relational Soul: Moving from False Self…
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The Relational Soul: Moving from False Self to Deep Connection

by Richard Plass

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At the heart of who we are is a longing for connection and relationship. This longing is thwarted through our woundedness but it doesn’t go away. One of the joys of coming to Christ is being brought into relationship with the Trinity–Father, Son and Spirit. We are invited into the primal relationship! Our spiritual maturation involves us learning what it means to give and receive love, the way this God-in-relationship does.

Richard Plass is the president and Jim Cofield is the the co-director of Crosspoint Ministry in Jeffersonville, Indiana. There they invest in the spiritual formation of leaders and in matters of soul care. Their approach to spiritual formation is biblical rooted, psychologically sensitive and historically informed. Their new book, The Relational Soul: Moving From the False Self to Deep Connection, explores the relationality at the core of our being, how unhealthy attachments cause us to act out from the false self and how our relationship with Christ enables us to move towards greater relational health and wholeness.

While there are no formal ‘parts’ to this book, there is a natural division with a brief interlude between chapters one to six and chapters seven to ten. In the first section (chapters one through six), Plass and Cofield make the case that relationships and our longing for meaningful connection are central to how we learn to navigate our world. Our ability to form attachment in our families of origin (chapter two) and our emotional memories (chapter three) determine how we respond to the world around us. To the extent that we are wounded, and we are all wounded, we react out of our False Self (chapter four). The False Self keeps us from real relationship because it motivated out of a sense of self-protection. This cycle is broken in our life by the operation of grace as we enter into relationship with the Triune God–the God in relationship! (chapter five). It is through our relationship with God that we learn that relationship with God enables us to move from our ‘reactive False Self’ to the ‘Receptive True Self.’

While these first chapters lay the ground work for the movement of spiritual formation, the last four chapters focus on the practical aspects of spiritual formation and accompanying disciplines. Chapter seven examines the necessity of self understanding in the spiritual life, chapter eight the importance of community; chapter nine explores the core spiritual disciplines for engaging with God (i.e. solitude, silence, contemplative reading of Scripture, and contemplative prayer). The end goal is chapter ten: transformation–dying to the (false) self and being raised with Christ, being fully enabled to give and receive love.

This is a phenomenal book full of rich insights on our fallen tendencies to protect ourselves from hurt, and thus cut ourselves off from true relationship. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus came to set us free to love and be loved. When we enter into the life and freedom that Christ brings, we enter into relationship with the Triune God and that changes everything. I really loved Plass and Cofield’s description of the process and their insights on how we are formed spiritually.

The concepts in this book are not ‘new’ to me. I have had my own struggles against the false self and had to wrestle through ways in which I was relationally ‘shut down.’ My false self is buoyant and independent and holds others at bay. It took some loving and committed friends and mentors to help me confront the relational patterns which were keeping me from growing in my friendship with God and others. I can say experientially that the movements which Plass and Cofield describe are true. They also describe the journey I still need to take as I still strive toward greater wholeness and transformation.

I highly recommend this book but I read it all wrong. I read it by myself and didn’t discuss it with anyone. I think this book is ideal to read together with others (i.e. in a small group, with a partner or with a mentor/discipler). This is a book that will spur on conversation and mutual self-exploration. This is a book which will help people move away from unhealthy patterns of relating toward deep relationship. The next time I read this book, I will not do it alone. I give this book five stars: ★★★★★ ( )
  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0830835873, Paperback)

What does loneliness tell us? "Be it chronic or acute, slight or significant, loneliness is proof of our relational design. At the core of our being is this truth—we are designed for and defined by our relationships," former pastors Plass and Cofield write. "We were born with a relentless longing to participate in the lives of others. Fundamentally, we are relational souls." Our ability to make deep and emotionally satisfying connections rests on the capacity to trust, and we all know trust can be difficult. Early-life relational "programming" and patterns of attachment can serve as blueprints for relationships later in life, whether good or bad. But no matter our conditioning, God is out to reclaim and restructure the deepest terrain of the human soul by helping us shed our reactive "False Self" and put on our receptive "True Self." Through spiritual disciplines and a conscious participation in the love of the Father, Son and Spirit, we transform our self-awareness and our connection with other people. Authored by counselor Dr. Richard Plass and spiritual director James Cofield, The Relational Soul brings together concepts from psychology and spiritual formation. Each chapter includes introductory stories and practical "If this is true, what about you?" questions to help readers engage in relationships in more life-giving ways. When the presence of Christ and community connects with a soul that is open, we witness the miracle of transformation.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:31 -0400)

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