Tuesday, November 1, 2016
The translucent line between "self" and "other" care
Many I speak with have come to the conclusion that it is not okay for them to have a need. Or that it is certainly not very “spiritual.”
As little ones in our families of origin, expressing a need was usually not very safe and often met with dysregulating empathic failure. We learned that having a need was the fast path to hopelessness and disappointment, watching as attunement, contact, and affection was removed from the field around us.
Because it was too unsafe to allow for the reality of any sort of limitation in our caregivers, we defaulted to the conclusion that there is something wrong with us and that we are not worthy of having a need. While that realization was so painful to let in, we could temporarily rest knowing those in charge of taking care of us are good, whole, complete, and safe. All the while attributing the blame to ourselves, laying the foundation for the deep shame that so many experience as adults.
As adults interested in spirituality, often this core belief gets validated by teachings which (overtly or otherwise) confirm that having a need is some sort of sign of lack of progress on the path, evidence of not enough faith or trust, too much attachment, misunderstanding some sort of “secret,” having a “low vibration,” a reflection of how we don’t understand the teachings on “no-self,” and so forth. The shame and blame continues, but with flowery spiritual language replacing the voices of the “bad other” (at least it appears that way, but the voices sound surprisingly just like Mom’s and Dad’s).
There is nothing wrong with having a need. It’s so human, to have some yearning in the heart, some longing for connection, to be met, to be seen, to be heard, to be touched, to be held. We are relational mammals. We will not be overriding millions of years of evolution anytime soon, after some great spiritual weekend workshop. Let us end the aggression of shame and blame once and for all, including its “spiritual” expressions.
While having a need is perfectly natural, the reality is that it is very unlikely all your needs are ever going to be fully met, especially by another. With your heart open, make your requests to your lovers, your friends, your co-workers, and your family. And know that they will sometimes be able to meet you, to see you as you are, and provide what you are asking for. When they do, you can rejoice in that and give thanks. And when they do not, you can rejoice in that and give thanks, for the opportunity to see how you might be able to radically take care of yourself in a new way.
It is not the job of others to take care of your unlived life for you. If you look carefully, you may start to see the ways you are asking others to in fact do this. As you remove the burden from others to metabolize your emotional world for you (as was required as a young infant), you open into the naturally-existing field of completeness that is always, already here, regardless of whether every one of your needs is met or not. Whether your needs are met or not, you may discover that this is not any sort of accurate indication of your worth as a person. And in this realization new circuitry is written inside you.
As you learn to rest in this discovery, you may come to discover that you are complete and have always been so. Here, “complete” does not mean you get everything you want or think you need or are told you can “manifest.” It doesn’t mean that life or love will conform to all of your dreams and your laundry list of things you must get to complete yourself. But that is no longer the foundation from which you are organizing your experience.
Rather, it is pointing to something much more fundamental than that: the erupting reality of your being and true nature, exactly as it is now – alive, luminous, and majestic. It is not dependent on any inner or outer circumstances, but is self-existing and alive, rippling with energy and creativity.
Please continue to make requests of your lovers, in all of the forms they may take, but remain committed in every moment to taking care of yourself, to the seeding of a new pathway of wild, untamed, uncompromising, unapologetic self-compassion.For it is by way of this pathway that the very translucent boundary between self and other will be revealed, and the seemingly solid line between self-care and other-care will dissolve into the vastness.