Recently I was sitting around a campfire with a good friend talking about the trials and tribulations of intimate relationships. Sigh…. A seemingly eternal topic. She was being very mindful and aware of her own patterns of care-taking others (to her detriment) and trying not to repeat this in a new and very promising attraction. She was, essentially, waiting to “start” this new relationship until she felt sure she wouldn’t fall into her familiar traps. I was asking her questions about how she might know when she was “issue-free” and ready to “start” a relationship that to me was clearly already started, though not yet romantic. As we discussed, it became clearer and clearer to us both that there is no “issue-free” stage. Or person for that matter! In the best of circumstances, one can bring compassionate awareness to one’s patterns and thoughtfully make different choices. But, heck, to think that you wouldn’t ever find yourself drawn toward “care-taking” or quickly angered, or attracted to someone who treated you badly – whatever your “issue” – well, that’s just wishful thinking. We are vulnerable, idiosyncratic and complex human beings. I used to say sometimes when I found myself at a lack for words, or not able to control an upswell of neediness or sadness, “I’m just a regular old girl.” Despite all my training, and attempts to master my own psyche and my own emotions, I’m still just a regular, old girl. With issues, like all of us.
It’s the shame and embarrassment and expectation that we SHOULDN’T have weaknesses that bugs the heck out of me. Why are we so afraid of these? Why do we hide so? Why is it such a horror to ADMIT that we don’t understand why we do what we do all the time, and ask for help to figure it out?
I actually said to my friend that night around the campfire that it is within the crucible of real relationships that we work through these issues. That we CAN’T do this alone. That we are NOT islands. That it’s the paradoxical opposite of what we all think – that you have to be perfect or at least relatively healthy to be deserving of love, of community, of support, of connection. No! It is only through (the crucibles!) of these very relationships that our frailties and failings are healed.
As I was becoming animated about this point – as if I had just learned it for myself again – I went on to proclaim that you can’t have a relationship, any kind, without each person’s constellations of crap becoming intertwined. Maybe it was the clear starry night overhead and the campfire in front of me that drew out such dramatic language. Or maybe that’s just how I talk.
Either way, don’t be afraid of connection. As you are, right now. Don’t be afraid of entering into a therapeutic relationship - an actual, deep relationship like any other, but with precious boundaries that make it so unique to play out and play with your issues. I’m encouraging everyone to be a joiner. Find a group to learn from, where you’re not ashamed to be yourself and admit your weaknesses. That feeling of not being alone is the juice of healing. Don’t wait – reach out! Enter the crucible. I promise, it’s worth it.