4 Seasons of the Psychosocial Cycle: What Every Relationship Can Learn From Nature

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Our relationships tend to fluctuate between drawing closer to one another and drifting apart. It’s a cycle with four natural seasons.

Relationship Cycles

From falling in and out of love to starting and then ending a job, life if filled with the ebb and flow of ever changing relationships. One way to help understand its cyclic nature is with the Native American paradigm of the sacred circle.

For the purpose of understanding relationship dynamics, it helps to think of two sets of hemispheres overlapping each other. Together, these form four relationship seasons.

Being: static hemispheres

One pair of hemispheres are static. These represent being together in the relationship and being apart.

Being together is when you are fully in love, and establishing the agreeable boundaries to the relationship. Being together also applies to growing on the job as a valued employee.

Being apart is when you explore how much you can do for yourself, and not always depending on others who may not be there when needed. Being alone is also as simple as leaving your work issues behind when going home for the day.

Moving: dynamic hemispheres

The other pair of hemispheres are dynamic. These represent moving together toward each other and moving apart.

Moving together includes romantic rituals, like flirting, and then getting to know one another. Moving together also involves applying for a job, from the hiring process to the initial training.

Moving apart often involves questioning any returns on emotional investments. “Am I getting all I need out of this relationship, or job? Or is it personally costing me too much?”

4-part psychosocial cycle

What we end up with is four quadrants that capture distinct seasons in our relationships.

Spring. Moving together becomes the planting season of your relationships. New life, new hope, new dreams. Or renewed life, hope, dreams.

Summer. Being together is the growing season of your relationship. Here is where you cultivate depth, and bond more closely.

Autumn. Moving apart unfolds during the harvest time of your relationship. Relationship building can be draining. So you naturally seek some return on your investments.

Winter. Being apart is that season of withdrawing into self-reflection. The relationship may not be over, merely on ice. Reenergizing oneself often segues into renewal of the relationship, into the next spring cycle.

Relationship Dynamics

We normally do not shift abruptly from being apart to suddenly being together. And leaving a relationship typically is preceded by a phase, not always visible to others.

In fact, the boundaries between seasons are generally arbitrary. The end of autumn may feel no different than the beginning of winter.

It is the middle of each season that is most distinct from each another. A dotted line may help convey the ambiguities of these seasonal transitions.

Season lengths

These phases are not necessarily equal in time. Your winter with your partner may be significantly briefer than your summer season together.

For a relationship that isn’t growing, the opposite may be true. An extended winter is likely a permanent season apart.

Season overlap

While you are going through these seasons with your significant other you are also going through these seasons in your other relationships. Life is filled with intersecting cycles.

You may be in autumn with your spouse while entering springs with a newborn child. At the same time you may be in winter with your employer, perhaps when you are on family leave.

Relationships often end in winter. Or abruptly in autumn. Short of outright acts of violence or tragedies, relationships typically do not end in summer. Relationships that end in spring are those that never fully form, such as passing on a job offer.

Seasons within

There are also seasons within each season. During the passionate summer season of a relatively new relationship, for example, you may find some of your romantic feelings waning.

But this “sub-autumn” or “sub-winter” follows with renewed energy of spring as the relationship grows deeper. In fact, relationships without personal growth during their winter are unlikely to enjoy much mutual depth during their summer.

Each day can be broken down into four seasons.

  • You start your day in the spring as you increase your social interactions with others.

  • Midday is summer as you engage heavily with others.

  • Evening is autumn as you withdraw from the day’s commitments.

  • Night is winter when you are asleep and fully into your own world.

The traditional work week follows a similar pattern.

  • Each week starts in the spring of Mondays, slowly getting into the grind.

  • Midweek is the summer of your productivity.

  • Friday evening starts with the harvest of your paycheck.

  • The weekend is winter when you are freely on your own.

Seasonal balance

Each cycle level balance your time with others with time alone. Each balances external resources with internal resources. Each impacts your psychosocial wellness in some way.

The more readily you find psychosocial balance in these shorter cycles the easier it is to maintain balance during the longer cycles. Otherwise the larger cycles tend to vacillate sharply, often with painful consequences.

Relational Understanding

Seasons naturally occur in all relationships. Relationship strains during their autumn and winter are a normal part of relationship growth, albeit unpleasant.

Those with low pain tolerance may be ending their relationships prematurely, or too frequently. Those avoiding the personal depths of winter may be suffering the displeasure of shallow summers in their relationships. This too may contribute to painfully terminated relationships.

Relationships serve as barometers to our psychosocial wellness. We naturally seek a balance between self-efficacy (psycho-) and trusting others (-social).

Sometimes we trust others more than ourselves. Or trust ourselves more than we trust anyone else. Such imbalance is not optimal. And often spells trouble to our psychosocial wellbeing.

Relationship troubles can be a clear sign of poor psychosocial wellness. Exploring your relationships with a qualified counselor may boost your psychosocial wellbeing. And let your love flow more freely.

In our highly individualized culture, some level of psychosocial imbalance is something of a norm. In fact, it fuels much of political and religious rhetoric. It betrays a yearning for missed potential.

I will be writing more on this in the days to come. Or later this year, depending on what personal season I’m in.

The 4-part wellness wheel not only illustrates this psychosocial cycle but many others as well. This site will delve into many of them in the coming seasons. If not, I’m amidst my winter.

Steph is a self-described transspirit, which is a kind of sacred misfit. By transcending conventional limits—gender norms, religious identities, political polarities, and more—Steph experiences a unique connection in life. And suspects others do as well. This blog shares that spirituality, and affirms others of a similar state of being.

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