October 18, 2013

Tips from a Gentleman: On How Hurt People Hurt People.

Love-Life Logic for the Humans on Earth

According to tradition: your suggested soundtrack.

As always, these are real people and real situations which I have artfully interpreted and rendered readable. Straight to the point here, people:

“[Dear ele-Gentleman,]

I went on a romantic weekend (which turned into a weeklong) getaway with this guy I just met. Enjoying our great physical chemistry, we drove along the ocean, napped on the beach, and one foggy night, stayed in this beautiful, intimate hotel. Everything was perfect, until after dinner when I was feeling satisfied in every way except the one I most wanted, and instead of capping the night off right, he fell asleep.

He just wasn’t into it, and I was left there feeling rejected while he slept. I wanted to say something, but wasn’t comfortable putting myself out there any further, having already had one pretty major request denied. What gives? How can I deal with the anger and anxiety this caused?”

Thank you for sharing.

Male or female, being rejected in intimate matters is one of the great horrors available to our human experience. Whether we’ve been sleeping with a partner everyday for the last week, or year, or decade, as soon as we become dependent on them for comfort or well-being, there exists the danger that that comfort can be withheld.

The idea that this cherished person can vanish and abandon us without so much as a moment’s notice looms and is primordially abhorrent to the psyche. Indeed, separation anxiety is the fundamental source of all spiritual seeking.

For whatever reason, most of us feel less than whole. We spend this life searching high and low for completion, and we come to know a wide spectrum of experiences as a consequence of this seeking — the shame and bliss, the putrid and sublime.

While the divine ideal of Love is unconditional, we as humans tend to demonstrate our love in a less-than-perfected form.

I believe most of us have nothing but the best intentions, but we stumble nonetheless, blind to our blockages, projecting old wounds onto others while pretending it’s their issue, not ours.

Given this hostile landscape, we have learned that it is risky to be open. It seems dangerous to disclose deeply felt sentiments and expose our tender heart to what may come, especially when what has come from such openness in the past is shame or rejection, even violence.

Note: In this context, we are discussing relatively subtle complications and discomfort between two more-or-less consenting adults. I know many situations are less pleasant than this; there are many places of far less safety. Perhaps another article (or author) can better explore the nature of such violence, suffice for me to say that deeply tangled karmas are its prerequisite. Such dense scenes are built by lives upon lives knotted impossibly together, crashing back and forth without forgiveness.

When considering how much heart to expose, we think:

What if the response is painful? (It has been before…)

What if it pushes your most carefully guarded buttons? (I guard them for a good reason…)

What’ll happen then? (I don’t want to find out…)

And so we expose nothing, or next to it. We close up and hold tight, thinking the anxious pain we hold in is surely preferable to being seen and the risk of that greater pain: rejection. How perfectly human.

Seemingly because of him, you are hurt, and holding it in so as not to expound the pain. He knows you’re holding something back, but probably doesn’t understand why you wouldn’t straight up tell him. This signals that, just as he suspected, it’s not really safe to share, so he too continues to hold back when in fact, in his heart-of-hearts, he is really hoping to feel safe with someone. Same way you are. If only there was anyone trustworthy enough. But there’s not, so no one says anything and the wheel is unbroken.

We teach each other to hide, because hurt people hurt people.

Everybody has their guard up, and will sabotage potentially loving relationships because they’re afraid that what happened once will inevitably happen again. A friend of mine was recently lamenting all the,

“people who are afraid to trust others. Afraid to be vulnerable because they’ve been hurt. Seems like it’s everybody. I do it too, but I’m trying to make people feel comfortable being themselves with me, because that’s how I want to feel too.”

I think that attitude is a good start. What else can be done? How do we break the cycle?

For this particular situation, it is necessary to mention the fact that the only thing comparably terrifying to romantic rejection—is actual acceptance followed by failure to perform. There are massive corporations making billions of dollars each year exploiting this singular fear. It happens in all sorts of ways, for all sorts of reasons, to all sorts of people, but there is one constant: no one wins.

So ladies, a touch of compassion please. Don’t we all have our soft spots?

Guys, if you find yourself in this situation, and there’s simply no way you can (ahem) rise to the occasion, don’t just give up and pass out. That’s amateur-hour.

There are lots of things you can say and do to make your lady feel loved, held and heard without compromising your own limits. It’s not very hard, which really helps when it’s not very hard. Think about it.

She may not get the tender freak-fest she was hoping for, but you can offer something (anything!) to assure her that this isn’t a sign of your underlying disinterest, or a foreshadowing of your imminent disappearance.

Maybe ask if there’s anything else you can do to tide her over—some cuddling, a little massage, or reading aloud, for example. Then at least she can get to sleep knowing it’s nothing personal, just try again in the morning. A little bit of effort goes a long way towards easing the tension in such situations.

Which is all well and good, but that is really just a surface-level solution—a basic courtesy that decent people perform for the greater good of the relationship, and thus society as a whole.

To address the root cause of discomfort and confusion, we must each as individuals refuse to reach outside ourselves for gratification of any form. We must cultivate a sense of completeness within, and establish points of reference, delineating where Self ends and Other begins.

Consciousness can be defined as the ability to recognize Self and Other.

We must actively perform this most fundamental act of consciousness, and differentiate ourselves as unique ingredients in the heterogenous soup of existence. Until you mark the boundary of where you yourself begin and end, it is difficult to determine which thoughts and emotions are authentically yours, and which have been projected into your space by other inhabitants of the soup.

There are many techniques for cultivating this aura, or personal energy field. Here is what I’ve found useful.

Having established your sense of Self, feeling safely grounded and whole, a chosen venture into vulnerability feels far less risky. You can give or receive a thought, feeling or caress without the confusion of attachment.

Knowing what is you and what is other allows for more thorough enjoyment of the interaction between the two.

The capacity for gratitude is enhanced when you can see clearly, Oh, this is a gift. Thank you. (Accepting the gift, or not, remembering that it is not you). Here is something of me in return. (Offering yourself, knowing that you are already whole and cannot be made less so).

Scary as it may yet be, showing what we are unsure of creates a space where our partner can either fill the void, or choose not to. Knowing that fundamentally, I am okay, and cannot be otherwise, leaves plenty of room to give or receive delicate information without wagering one’s dignity in the process.

It is liberating to know that no matter what, it is just information, and nothing that can undercut the essential validity of your individual being.

If it matters to you, it matters. If this person next to you is unwilling or unable to engage with you on that level, then perhaps they are not so-worthy a partner as you had hoped. This realization may be disappointing, but at least now you know, and can make appropriate decisions moving forward.

This valuable information is available only to those willing to engage the process. Be the one to say something. Ask the uncomfortable question. Request information he is hesitant to offer. His response will be an indicator of his seriousness. Or if not seriousness, then sincerity.

If he doesn’t give you anything, well, that speaks for itself, but you may be surprised. He may soften. Your audacity to ask may inspire him to bear his very soul — in which case, you should carefully maintain that self-other boundary, from the center of which you felt safe enough to engage in the first place.

Thus, ideally, your imagined fear transforms into a deeper sense of real safety. You’ve developed agency and power from within, generated another level of connection with your partner, and learned more about the extent to which they can be trusted with your precious self.

Is that at all helpful? Make sense whatsoever? Let me know!

Until next time, have fun, play safe, and breathe carefully.


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Ed: Sara Crolick

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