Too many friends & in-loves?

“Holy crap! I’ve got way too many people who love me and care about me in my life!” is something I’ve never heard another living soul say.

Truth is, I don’t know, and have never known anyone who complained, at least within earshot, about having too many people who love them and care about them. Close friends, in-love folks.  I’ve never known a soul to fret over being overstocked on either front.

The bonds of friendship and in-love are the very veins through which love and friendship flow; they are also the veins through which loyalty flows.  

The absence of loyalty always poisons bonds between friends and in-love ones. 

I love my friends. How can I not? They’re my friends!

Someone once told me, “You know, you tell a lot of people you love them,” in a tone that led me to think the speaker believed my character trait might be something I should reconsider keeping, or, at least, tone it down a bit. 

Not a chance.

First of all, I can’t help it. And, if I could, I wouldn’t. I instinctively feel love and compassion for my fellow beings, until they give me reason not to. Even then, I mightstill care, I simply don’t act on it. T

There are rare instances when someone’s choices and behavior are so repellent and dangerous, I am unable to feel anything other than anger. Years ago I played in role in helping to put a man behind bars who had raped and sodomized a number of boys, grammar school ages. The brutality that man inflicted on those lives, and the lives of their loved ones, cannot be put into words. At least, I can’t do it.

But these folks, thankfully, are in the minority. 

There’s a man, in his fifties I would guess, who works as a checkout bagger at nearby supermarket. His name is Vincent. Vincent has neatly cut and combed gray hair and a full, well-shaped gray beard. He is small in frame and wears glasses with dark frames over a pair of the kindest eyes you can imagine. 

Always, Vincent is attentive to you, the customer, hopes your day is going well. Means it. Vincent glows with kindness. Now, when we chat, as I leave I’ll sometimes say, “Love you, brother,” and I mean it.

How can you not feel love for someone who brings kindness into the world?

Last year, or maybe it was the year before, I decided, on a whim, to go for a 18- to 20-mile walk on a really hot day, without enough water. I ran into trouble (duh, Peter) and had to call for help. 

The first responders in the ambulance were all about making sure I would be okay with every fiber of their being. These, men, in this case, who did not know me from Adam, were heart and soul committed to making sure I kept my life.

Of course I felt love for them, then and now.

One of the most heartbreaking, and, in a very real way, tragic realities, are the number of friendships and in-loves that implode because one or both could not, did not, or would not, or were incapable of recognizing and accepting the presence of some unhealthy behavior patterns they might be stuck in. Patterns they deserved to be free of!  

When a child gets raised, one way or another, getting the message that he or she is poor example of how he or she should be, and are supposed to me, that child’s self-image gets damaged. Moreover, what “supposed to be” might mean can be a whole other world of hurt for the child.

You don’t come out of these experiences without some unhealthy patterns in your repertoire. Chances are, these no unhealthy patterns were the very ones you had to use in order to survive your childhood. Absolutely. Fair enough. 

Nevertheless, you are responsible for getting free of them, now that they are toxic. Is this fair? Hell no. It’s not fair. It’s reality.

Here’s another reality. You deserve your freedom. And tell some folks you love them while you’re at it.

No one is disposable

If you are treating someone as if they are disposable, stop it. If you are being treated as if you are disposable, stop it. No human being is disposable. What’s more, a healthy relationship of any kind is impossible.

If anyone treats someone else as if they are disposable,  they don’t just wound the other person, they wound themselves! What makes this true? The pattern of treating others as if they are disposable makes it impossible for other person to be close to you.  This pattern of behavior is what I call a distance-maker. Something a person does that keeps others as at a distance.

I’m 65. I’ve been on my own since December 1969 when my mother had me put in reform school and disowned me, having me declared an “emancipated minor” meaning that I was the sole person responsible for keeping me alive. My father, the greatest gift my life has given me, died in August 1969.  I was disowned by my mother and never allowed back into the family again. I know what it is to be treated as if I was disposable. I have a nephew, Joe. A beautiful a human being. A really good man.  The narrative of his life is his to tell. That said, I think it is a safe bet he knows what it is to be treated as if he was disposable being, just as deep  as I do.

For those stuck in this pattern, the questions are not, why am I  bad person? Or, why am I  mean ? You’re not bad or mean. The behavior is mean, but a behavior does not define the all of you. Perhaps the more salient question you might want to ask is this.  How did I come to believe (how was I taught) that intimacy between people was dangerous for me?

Two more thoughts. First, it is more likely than not that those treating others as if they are disposable don’t realize that’s what they’re doing.  Second, it is likely those caught in this behavior’s web fat the moment have been treated as if they’re disposable somewhere back down the line. They deserve compassion too.

When someone loves you

When someone really loves you they may in fact be a direct challenge to anyone or any thing in life that has given you the message — or may still be giving you the message — that you not worth loving. Whether that message is delivered by the punishing voice or hand of a parent or another family member or stranger, or someone alleged to be a trusted member of society, the message is pulverizing, and horribly wrong.

 
You are well worth loving and you always have been well worth loving. Whether you truly know this to be true or not, it is true.

 
If a child lives in a environment in which he or she is told, every day of their life, that they are bad, not worth loving, ugly, stupid, fat, and so on, what else would one expect a child to believe? Children have no reference point they can draw from to understand what they are being told about themselves is completely false.

 
So, when someone loves you, that person, that love, is a direct contradiction of the myth the wounded child has come to believe, and therein lies the challange. Breaking free of the myth, getting free of your history.

 
This is not easy, I know. But it is, I promise you, possible. I know this too.

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Fear of intimacy

They are wounded.

Keep this in mind when you see or experience people — or yourself — hiding or running from real intimacy in a relationship.

I am not talking solely about physical intimacy or love-making intimacy. I say love-making intimacy because people have been having sex for years without an iota of emotional and spiritual intimacy to be seen for miles. Physical intimacy, holding hands, holding each other, cuddling, simply touching, can be a steep climb for the badly wounded. Love-making intimacy, even steeper.

Avoiding intimacy takes many forms. One of the more common is when people enter into relationships with partners who are either unable or unwilling to be intimate. At times, this allows the partner seeking intimacy to both bemoan the absence of intimacy on the one hand without ever having to  be intimate on the other. Choosing to be with someone who can’t be intimate can be a way of avoiding intimacy in and of itself. This does not mean either person is aware of the intimacy-avoiding pattern they’re trapped in.

If emotional and spiritual intimacy were physical beings the amount of intimacy being lost could fill the Grand Canyon on a daily basis.

There are real reasons deserving of the deepest respect people fear intimacy. Almost without exception the fear revolves around the following truth. At some point in time, usually in childhood, but not exclusively so, you were in some way taught that being who really really are was dangerous. Emotionally, physically, or sexually dangerous. Someone you loved with all your heart died. You were abused physically, emotionally, spiritually, sexually. Somehow, through no fault of your own (even if you are still making the mistake of holding yourself responsible (You’re not!)), you came to believe truly being yourself with someone else was dangerous.

For an array of reasons, I believed it was dangerous for me to be myself with someone for years. For me, getting free of this fear began with two understandings. First, getting free of this fear meant getting free of my history. Second, who deserves to be in control of my decision making? Me or my history?  I pick me.

Talking about the fear with someone is not only an immense help, it is necessary. Talk to someone: a psychotherapist, a member of clergy, a close friend. Now, for those who believe asking for help is an act of weakness, let me ask you something. If it is an act of weakness to ask for help, then why is it so hard to do? After all, if it was an act of weakness, asking for help would be easy. And, it’s not so much that I think each of us need the help. I think we damn well deserve it. Why? Because you deserve to get free of your history’s decision-making power. Promise.

FEAR OF INTIMACY

Fear of intimacy is an epidemic in my culture. This fear, this unkind barrier to people fully loving each other, robs so many people of the relationships they deserve – and want.

To my mind, there are three primary forms of intimacy: physical, emotional, and spiritual.

There are numerous essays and articles on the net talking about communal relationships as opposed to exchange relationships, or, as one article I ran across calls the latter, strategic exchange relationships. This latter form of relationship is highly problematic if your goal is to be in a loving intimate relationship with someone and not simply use someone for sexual or material gain.

While it seems to me the strategic exchange relationship is by far the most common relationship we see, I believe most people honestly and honorably want the communal relationship.

As I understand it, the strategic exchange relationship is a relationship where one person is seeking to get something or give something to the other in part by convincing them that the relationship is based on true intimacy. To my mind, this pattern of manipulative behavior can be driven by the subconscious as well as the conscious. According to more than one source, strategic exchange relationships are rather brittle and likely to break apart and come to an end when disagreements and differences arise.

Communal relationships, the truly emotionally, physically, and spiritually intimate relationships, are the durable ones. These relationships are far more likely to weather the storms. Their foundations are not so apt to be fractured and damaged by disagreements, differing views, and the traumas life dishes out to us all. Why? Because there is trust. There is a belief that each is their with the other person’s best interest at heart. There is a belief that neither would knowingly do nor say anything to wound or damage the other. This type of bond does not exist in the exchange relationships.

But why the exchange relationships in the first place? Why the fear of intimacy? Why the fear to trust? These fears arrive in our lives for real reasons: past wounds, betrayals, abuse of all kinds endured as children, or adults for that matter.

In other words, it’s our histories. Components of our histories provide the biggest obstacles to our ever realizing the kind of communal relationships so many deeply and sincerely long for.

So, here’s a thought to take with you. Who deserves to be in charge of your ability to be in the kind of communal relationship your heart desires? You or your history? I say, you.

The thing is, when the fear arrives, when your history raises its hideous head in an attempt to derail you, talk to the person you are with about your fears. If they listen, you are in good stead. One other thing, let them talk, and when they do, listen to them. Listen to each other; don’t judge each other.

And for god sakes, don’t forget to hold each other.

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