black and white thinking

23 09, 2014

Celebrating the Grey Area in Relationships

September 23rd, 2014|black and white thinking, relationships|4 Comments

 

“Think about this for a moment: Why would you ever choose to be with someone who is not excited to be with you?

 

So starts a popular blog post here giving relationship advice.  Why would you want to be with someone who isn’t enraptured by you?  And why would you choose to be with someone you don’t think is the best person ever?  If someone is good enough for you, you should feel a “Fuck YES!” feeling.  And they should feel likewise about you.

Such posts are very popular on the web because they are simple, easily understood, and can be a temporary boost to the esteem for both those not in a relationship because they are holding out for Mr. Right and those with low esteem in a relationship that is going nowhere, perhaps prompting them to end it.

I’m all for a boost in esteem, but one thing I am absolutely not for is all-or-nothing thinking.  You know the Bush-like thinking – you’re either for me or against me.  You’re either perfect or you’re out of here.  There’s no discernment, nor is there the introspection of what makes someone feel like a good match.

How often are your emotions completely and wholeheartedly unanimous before really getting to know someone?   It doesn’t happen, unless you’re extremely unusually healthy and in complete inner harmony – or you’re in denial.   Denial is far more common than completely healthy childhoods.  We don’t want to wait any longer, so we decide this person is THE ONE and shove any contrary thought to the pit of our stomach.  Where it says until the first big disappointment.

Getting to know someone, whether as close friends or lovers, is a gradual process of building trust, testing the waters with ever increasing vulnerability and emotional risk, then seeing the result.  Is this personal worth your trust and investment?   There are many areas of trust to build:  Keeping one’s word.  Sensitivity.  Listening skills.  Adaptability.  Empathy.  Humor.  Sex.  Reactivity.  Can they give space?   Is there ever a price to pay for doing something you need?   Do they need you to be a certain person for them or do they really want to find out who you are?

Too often, relationships start because both parties feel “good”, which we translate to meaning love.  We don’t understand the reasons why – and for good reason.  It’s not a rational, logical process.  One wonderful Jungian book “The Eden Project” calls it a search for The Magical Other.  We think we’ve found someone who completes us, while trying to not see that we may feel good for non-healthy reasons, such as familiar family dynamics or someone who helps us avoid uncomfortable parts of ourselves.  Part of the journey is to realize that the Magical Other, which might later turn into the Enemy Other, is actually just representing a part of ourself we haven’t welcomed yet.  But I digress.  There is another option to wanting to find the perfect person and place them on a pedestal until they fall off.

Intimacy is not a blind commitment.   Bonding to another human being is not a Romeo and Juliet moment, realizing at first glance you want to spend the rest of your life together or die.

For most of us in this overstressed, f*cked up society, we have plenty of childhood issues, among them:   Lack of reliable connection.  Attachment issues.  Difficulty trusting.   Barriers to intimacy.  Anxieties.  Hurts.   Limited ways of expressing emotions, and feeling we can’t be connected to others through some emotions.

Most of have parts of ourselves that we think “why would anyone want to connect to THIS?”   And so we launch ourselves into relationships where the other doesn’t immediately see those parts – at least until the honeymoon period is over

All those are negative emotions which would mean you wouldn’t feel “Fuck yes!”.   You’d feel at best hesitation, a feeling of “what am I getting into here?”.   But that is what vulnerability involves.    And you can’t have long term bonding without vulnerability.

My Own Story

Let’s take myself as an example.  I came from an extremely distant family with no reliable connection and support available.  My father and brother have Asperger’s syndrome, while my mother had Borderline Personality.  I’m the “normal” one.  No one in my family really knew how to have friends or even to give empathy.  As a result, you could say I had attachment issues, among others.  (I have C-PTSD from my childhood)   This doesn’t mean I didn’t want deep and intimate connections – it simply meant there were a lot of emotions to go through before real bonding occurred.

I have never, ever in my life felt a true “Fuck Yes!”.  The people I’ve previously gotten involved with were often people that I felt something strong, and thought “hey, this is intense – it must be love”.  I wanted love and longed for deeper connections, so I would fool myself.   I would then think I needed to commit and dive into the relationship to get some sort of secure commitment back.  In other words, I would act like I felt “Fuck Yes”, partly because I wished I would feel that, partly out of fear of abandonment or being rejected, but also because that was what was expected. The people I got involved with were usually those that could withdraw from connection suddenly if something felt bad, which I was highly attuned to.  When they didn’t feel “Fuck Yes!”, they were out of there, at least for the evening, so I felt after time I was walking on eggshells trying to have a reliable connection.  I took in a message from them: I will not connect with you unless act like the Mr Perfect I want.

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This is obviously not love, but with an oversimplified, all-or-nothing thought process this was what I created.  So I changed how I approached relationships.

Building a Healthy Relationship

With Kirsten, my wonderful partner now, I tried to bring everything I felt.  I brought my doubts and fears and allowed them to be visible.  I let myself be tentative instead of pushing fears aside and diving in.  I brought that I liked her and distrusted her at the same time – because in my family, there was always an agenda for being warm.  For months, I would ask her “what do you want?” with suspicion at her warmness.   We wouldn’t actually fall asleep together and I would never sleep over at her place.  She would learn later that this was because I get panic attacks in someone else’s bed, but of course initially she took it a little personally.  She distanced a little and learned to let go of expectations regarding me.   I was seeing another person at the same time, so that added to the feeling of instability given where we were at.   In some ways, she was ready for the relationship to end at any moment, but was also willing to see where it led.

Despite the negative emotions I had, there were of course also other signals that I liked her a lot and was letting her in; she wasn’t sticking with me because of any lack of self esteem.  I would communicate as best as I could what was going on with me, what PTSD was, and what I thought I needed.  I add “I thought” in there because like most people, I don’t think I really knew what was needed, because I’d never received it.

Yet the relationship grew.  Kirsten once said that every time she really let go of an expectation regarding me, I responded positively and we grew closer.  I didn’t fit the norm of relationships, but really wanted to be in a close, connected relationship.  So when there was room for more of me to be welcomed, I stepped forward.  I wasn’t trying to be her Mr. Right, but I was being more me when close to her, and she found she could be more herself as well.  We weren’t trying to be anything for each other.

I know most people don’t have PTSD, but I haven’t met anyone who has had an idyllic childhood.  Given the lack of family connectedness, stress levels, overwork, and confusion of discipline with love, some form of attachment or anxiety issue is the norm rather than an exception.  So while my experience may be more extreme than most, I think it serves an example.  Rather than saying “I will hold out for someone perfect”, we started out by being imperfect and finding in a gradual, struggling pace a way to connect through that.

We all know what the honeymoon period is.  It’s the months that you are able to stay in the zone of not being able to show your imperfections.  Inevitably that collapses – and it’s rare to find two people in a relationship that are coming down from that high truly want to see the others (and their own) imperfections.  We didn’t have a honeymoon period.  The first 5 months were a real struggle, constantly wondering if it would end.  Would the other person truly want to be with me as I am?  The transition happened when I had an emotional meltdown, bawling for close to an hour straight, where for the first time she saw me in a raw state how I had never received unconditional support in my life, and so saw more the visceral source of my suspicions and distrust.  Is this really unusual for men in this world, where you’re always supposed to have it together and you’re rewarded for achievement and success?

We’ve been together 18 months now and this is by far the best relationship I’ve been in.  I love her more than I thought possible – and my idea of what love is has changed along the way.  It’s not a feeling, but a dynamic deep seated curiosity about the other.  We want each other to be themselves, so are automatically giving space and asking questions, doing weird and quirky things to bring it out.  No matter what she’s feeling, even if it were rage at me, I would unflinchingly want to hear it.  Part of that is the trust we’ve built, because we know there’s nothing in each other that wants to hurt the other.

We also are committed to not taking emotional responsibility for each other.  It’s not either of our jobs to make another feel better.  We will be connected to each other no matter what either of us is feeling, and bad days are not failure, so they are no big deal.  We both want to learn to be more ourselves – and there’s nothing better than seeing the Self reflected in another’s clear eyes to seeing this.

I am so, so, SO grateful for her for sticking with me when I struggled with showing more of myself.  We would never have developed the bond we did if I refrained from showing my hesitation about getting close – or my hurt emotions during the times when she was showing warmth without a hidden agenda.

So the idea of a “Fuck Yes!” rule to me is internet trash at best.  No psychologist would ever buy into something so oversimplified.   True intimacy is scary – you have to risk a lot to get there.  You have to gradually bare yourself, including all the self-protections we have, and learn to embrace our own contradictions, our own desires and fears at the same time.  We’re taught to distance ourselves when things feel bad.  We avoid pain.  But my story is an example of what happens when two people decide against the love illusion, against the waiting for Mr or Mrs Perfect and just say let’s connect as we are.  And the result?  This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt I want to grow old with someone.  The relationship feels built on foundations where we can grow and change and by doing that, get closer instead of further apart.

 

 

PS.  Before I posted this, I showed it to her and her response was “well, actually I was feeling a Fuck Yes about you throughout all those first few months”.  Go figure.  Maybe she should see someone about that.

13 01, 2008

What is healing, exactly?

January 13th, 2008|black and white thinking, channeling, choices, love, Self, spirituality, suffering, transformation|14 Comments

Much of my exploration of love and spirituality has come directly from my own healing journey. I, like seemingly everyone, have had wounds from childhood that influence me seemingly all the time. In addition, I’ve had many physical maladies manifesting something going wrong internally. Right now I’m in a state of being unable to work or be active physically, because I get disoriented for hours if I do anything. Including getting groceries and household cleaning. Rather than getting disheartened, I’m using this for the gift that it is to do some inner household cleaning.

To honor this, I thought I’d share some channeling surrounding what healing actually is. Any similarities to actual persons in the examples are 100% not an accident. Nothing is!

On to the channeling…

Questions: What exactly is healing? How does one “do it”? It seems like a lot of times we think of healing as “getting over it”.

When we use the word ‘heal’ or ‘healing’, we are talking about allowing something to revert or assume its natural state. Most of you go through your lives with some part of you either physically or emotionally in a other than natural state. This creates conflicts and imbalances which allow you further opportunity for learning and growth. Healing, then, allows those parts of you to revert to their ‘normal’ state: A state of rest, a state without conflict, a state of peace.

22 09, 2007

The beauty of gray

September 22nd, 2007|allowing, beauty, black and white thinking, love, positivity, wholeness|6 Comments

Recently it’s hit home just how pervasive black and white thinking is.?It’s fairly intrinsic to the American culture, so attitudes like the following list can be accepted without a second thought, or reacted to instantly:

  • “You’re either for me or against me”
  • “If you saying someone is wonderful, that’s fine, but bringing up mistakes made is blaming and should be stopped.”
  • “I’m through be controlled by my fear!?I won’t listen to it any more!

The latter two are less obvious than the first one, so let’s look at them.?In the bringing up of mistakes, there are an infinite number of ways this can be done.?It can certainly done out of blaming and desire to punish.?It can also be done out of a sincere desire to help others via gentle teaching, much like we naturally do with children.?It can be done simply as a desire to bring people together, for walking on tiptoes around issues in order to be “positive” usually drives a group apart in time.?It is sincerity and goodwill that brings people together, and there are myriad ways this can be expressed – sometimes in ways that may result initially in conflict.

For the last example, there’s an assumption that fear is simply an enemy to overcome, all in one step.?Of course, our fears are usually not as simple as being afraid of heights.?They pervade our entire perception.?The humor in this is that rarely does someone proclaim overcoming fear except when they are motivated by fear.?”I’m afraid of fear, so I’ll make war on it!” might be that reasoning brought to light!

Bringing up the concept of fear is of course intentional, because it is central to black and white thinking.?There’s always a core of it in that thought process.?Within the desire to go to extremes, there is a universe avoided in the remaining spectrum of life, which clearly has infinitely more colors than just two.?Even in the spectrum of gray there can be a swirling of colors, so to speak, and a great beauty.?There’s little beauty in a black and white world; it’s a harsh world of enemies and allies in a constant battle.

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reaching

Everyone is affected by fear.?I too am affected by it on a daily basis.?And yet, by allowing myself to experience fears, without refusing them or trying to get them to end, I’m finding more and more there’s a perfect completeness in that.?Fear helps me.?It’s meant to bring awareness to threats, to pains, to issues needed to be resolved, and that’s what it does if it’s allowed to.?It’s not necessarily pleasant, but there is a great feeling of aliveness when I fully invite and surrender to it.

There is no one on Earth that has no lessons to learn, that never makes mistakes.?There is also no one who makes nothing but mistakes.?(Yes, that includes George Bush!)?We each have a limited perception, and acknowledging that is loving, because it allows the full totality of someone, warts and all.?It’s wise to be aware of potentials, for there’s always room for growths, but focusing entirely on them and not being present (and thus allowing) with the here and now is a form of cutoff and division.?

Though I rarely make reference to the Bible, one section I like (and usually find in a different interpretation than my own) is the part on Adam and Eve eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.?Most people overlook that description of the tree – the awareness of good and evil.?To me, that simply speaks that it is the splitting of our perception into “Good” and “Bad”, “Black” and “White” that takes us away from “Eden“.?Letting go of judgments and filters, and simply allowing whatever occurs without labels instantly brings us back to that state of primordial innocence.

11 01, 2007

The secret – my own thoughts

January 11th, 2007|beliefs, black and white thinking, boundaries|0 Comments

For the last few months, there’s been considerable amount of hype about the movie “The Secret”. I finally saw it not long ago. For those who haven’t seen the movie and don’t consciously know about “The Law of Attraction”, or “like attracts like”, I would generally recommend it, along with the comments below.. However, it brings to mind certain other patterns common to new age movements that I wanted to share my thoughts and insights on.

The first of them, obvious to anyone who’s seen the movie, is the subtle (and not-so subtle) assumption that being rich is better. As a lot of new age workshops evolved from marketing, this is fairly common. If you truly get it you can be as rich as you want!” is voiced. It’s a subtle push of spiritual greed. At the core of things, there is no “better” â???? there is only “does it help for doing ____”. It’s certainly more comfortable not having to work overtime to survive or being able to buy organic foods, but 5 million dollar homes aren’t better than a comfortable 1 bedroom apartment. In fact, from the soul’s viewpoint, it’s all about the lessons; sometimes money issues distract from the true learning going on. (That’s why it’s good to be very in touch with one’s entire being before placing intentions; a mixed message from different parts of the psyche generally brings mixed results. )

Secondly this movie has a LOT of hype â???? even in the movie itself, the first 10 minutes is just that. Hype in itself is quite interesting. When there’s hype there’s always a message of lack. You need to know this! Your life will be better off with this knowledge!” â???? a message spoken with passion and zeal. However, if you look deeply into this, there is always the flip side: your life is not perfect just as it is.” All hype contains this â???? the perception of emptiness and lack that must be cultivated before a desire is born. Advertising knows this process intimately. So anytime you hear hype and sales, look inward and see what part of you buys into it; it’s the same part that doubts its own perfection.

The way things are spoken communicates far more than the words themselves, too. The maxim of “be the change you wish to see in the world” speaks to this â???? the embodiment of a message teaches more than words do. For those of you who have seen the movie (parts of it are available, as shown below), see if you can see the difference in the subtext between, say, Neale Donald Walsh or Esther Hicks and another subtext given by Rev Dr. Michael Beckwith, a fairly new age pastor. With Esther Hicks speaking, there’s no “push”, no need to convince anyone. Esther seems to breathe compassion, not because anything is wrong, but because it’s the unfolding of her natural being and who she is creating as “her”. As far as I can see, she’s speaking to give others more tools for joy, but totally seeing their perfection as they are. With Neale Donald Walsh, there seems to be a bit of humor thrown in. This is all a game, and we create our experiences, collectively and individually, and everything is truly perfect â???? let’s play consciously!” is a message I got. There’s a great acceptance and presence.

With the Rev Dr. Michael Beckwith, I felt his positive intentions glowing â???? he was obviously in touch with his sense of higher good. At the same time, there was a “push” and hype involved, leading me to feel a “I absolutely know what’s best for you!” energy. It’s a desire to help without a positive humility and perspective.. While this may feel good to those who want another to take away difficult choices, to me it doesn’t truly help at all, because of the subtext involved.. I know what’s best for you” in a passionate voice that hasn’t investigated each person individually is the same as “you don’t know what’s best for you.”

Back to myself, it’s been part of my lifelong learning to see that everything in life is just perfect as it is. This includes George Bush, poverty, inequitable distribution of wealth, and all the problems we perceive out there. It also includes, of course, the soul’s natural desire to help others out of love â???? it’s not meant as an excuse for complaisance. Lately I’ve actually been feeling intensely grateful for my problems and limitations. The tension in my body, coming out regularly, is a great sign of lack of trust in the universe â???? and having it made physical makes the learning of that concrete and deep. Perhaps it’ll only take a few more lifetimes to learn â???? who knows. And in effect, who cares? Simply knowing we’re on a continual expanding process of knowing and loving is enough, simply as it is. Patience is another thing we’re all learning.