Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

That’s the question, and the answer depends a lot on how you fit into the larger context of the world. Whether you believe that the world works better with collaboration or independent action—or a combination of both.

 Self-Sufficiency/Independence

These are often words used when we’re in a view that each of us is separate, not only from all others but from all things, and even from ourselves. It’s also often the jargon of the “money-world,” where the only thing of value is money. In this world view, we exist as solitary beings who can rely on no one but ourselves.  Everything we accomplish is separate from what everyone else accomplishes. We tend to hoard our resources because we believe that it’s up to us to help ourselves. We imagine that we are on our own, that it’s all up to us alone and that everything we achieve is created by us alone. On the other hand, we appreciate being able to accomplish and earn and make things happen in the world. This view is useful for some aspects of life.

 Collaboration/Unity

In another world view, we all are energies fluidly flowing in and around in all directions. There’s a sense that we, as a whole, have everything, nothing is lacking. All is provided. Sometimes, it’s provided by “my” effort, sometimes by “yours.”  Sometimes by synchronistic happenstance. For example, when I was a lot younger, driving 40 miles to work and 40 back every day for little pay, my car kept breaking down. It was finally on its last legs. I felt scared and alone. Suddenly, out of the blue, I got a call from my parents. They figured I’d probably need a car and they wanted to buy one for me! I hadn’t told them anything about my situation.

Or how often does it happen that you suddenly think about somebody that hasn’t crossed your mind for ages and they call that day? Or you’ve got plans with somebody and you’re so stressed with everything you have to do that you’d just like a few hours to relax and that person calls and cancels? This could make us think that we’re all connected somehow, that we’re part of a larger unity. This view is also very useful in life, and is another kind of self-sufficiency—the self sufficiency of being part of the larger whole.

 A Different Kind of Self-Sufficiency

This kind of self-sufficiency requires awareness and integrity.  It requires that, rather than thinking of myself only as an individual person, I also identify as the larger whole. This is a feeling that inner and outer is one. The “I” that I’m identifying with also includes everyone else. If one part of the larger “Me” is hurting, all of us know it and help it.  If one part is doing too much, all of us know it and make it easy for that part to rest.  This combines independence and collaboration.

For example, when you’re aware of the larger “Me,” you notice what you need and don’t need. If someone who is overly generous wants to give you something, you think of them as part of a larger “You,” wanting to give something to another part of the larger You and you help them out by letting them keep it.

In this world view, we are a huge network of umbilical cords, where everyone is connected to everyone and everything else.  You can’t cut them, because then the whole system dies.  And why would you want to?  That’s so lonely.  This doesn’t mean that we don’t “lead our own lives.”  It does mean that we are aware of what we are and what we can give and what others give and we intertwine with the giving and the receiving.  Some people are good at money and some are good at atmosphere or love or light or joy or relationship or discernment.  In the money-world, only money is “something” and everything else is just taken for granted.  In the collaborative world, everything is “something”—miraculous, precious and treasured.

For more on Relationships, more on Group Dynamics, and also my posts on Self-Acceptance (scroll down to get to the past posts after this current one).

Giving Your Power Away–And Getting It Back!

couples-counselingWe’ve all heard the idea of “giving your power away.” Most people assume that this also means that someone else has your power and using it against you. But that’s not quite right. Usually what happens is that people don’t speak up, don’t stand for what they need, or fall back in the face of someone else’s requests or actions

Relationship Counseling for Emotional Freedom

In my practice, I often do relationship counseling, both with individuals and couples counseling with two people together. Take, for example, Jordan, who feels he’s at the mercy of his girlfriend, Anne (names and biographical details have been changed to protect anonymity). Often, when on Monday he asks her out for the weekend, she tells him she doesn’t know what she’s doing over the weekend. When, midweek, he asks if she’s made up her mind, she gets angry at him and tells him he’s always hounding her. Then, 4:00pm Saturday she calls him up and says “come get me at 8:00—there’s a party at a friend’s house.” He’s angry because, after waiting for her to decide all week, he’s in the middle of catching up on work. With resentment in his voice he says, “All right” and heads off to her place. At the party, she barely spends any time with him and he wishes he had just stayed home. When he tries to tell her he’d like to leave now, she’s angry and yells that he’s no fun at all. This pattern of behavior shows how we can get stuck in relationship unhappiness and feel at the mercy of others when just a small but powerful change in behavior would create a sense of emotional freedom.

We Often “Teach” Others to be Inconsiderate

It would be easy to think Anne takes advantage of her boyfriend, and that she is selfish and inconsiderate. However, another way to look at it is that her Jordanhas “taught” her to be this way because he never requires anything of her overtly while inwardly resenting that she isn’t doing what he wanted to require. It looks like Anne has all the power and is using it against him. And this is true, to some extent. If she were a paragon of virtue, she would realize how considerate and generous and accommodating her boyfriend is and she would reciprocate.

In reality, hardly anybody does that; almost everyone takes what they get and, quite soon, becomes unaware that they’re even getting anything. It soon seems quite natural that this other person is giving and they just use what they are given.

What Can Jordan Do to Get His Power Back?

It’s like Jordanhas metaphorical feelers going outward, focusing on Anne. Imagine him pulling his feelers inward and noticing what he needs and wants and what he wants to offer and doesn’t want to offer, and acting from that. In other words, assertiveness. For instance, if he wants to go out with her on Saturday, he could ask her to do something specific with him. When she says that she doesn’t know yet, he could say, “OK. I’d love to go to the movies with you. If you can let me know by Wednesday afternoon, I’ll be available. After that, I’m going to make other plans.” And then, of course, he would need to stick by that and not give in to her at the last minute—or anytime after Wednesday.

Co-Dependence is Never Saying What You Want

The hard part about this is that, often, people are afraid that the other person will leave if they make a requirement. They become “co-dependent.”Jordanmay be afraid that he likes Anne more than she likes him and that if he doesn’t go along with whatever she does, she’ll go find another boyfriend. So he keeps on “giving his power away” and being miserable just to hold onto Anne.

Paradoxically, many people value people who make limits and stand by them more than people who don’t. In essence, people value those who value themselves more than those who don’t. It’s a risk, but it may be better than losing oneself and being unhappy.

For more on relationship counseling, see my Relationship Counseling page.

Wishing you a free and joyous life,

Zoe

Freeing Ourselves From Negative Mind Loops

When I was a child, my father was always busy,  so it’s not too surprising that often his business came first, home came second—and children came a definite third.

Most of the time that didn’t bother me. I had my own life with my friends. I rarely thought about my parents. But one time, about middle-school age, I was part of some troop or other (I don’t even remember) and there was to be a father-daughter banquet. A very strange concept for me, because I had never really done anything alone with my dad. He was either at work or we’d do things together as a family.

So this was a very special event for me. Not so special for him. In fact, so unspecial that he totally forgot about it. It probably hadn’t even registered for him in the first place. There I was, in my pretty dress, waiting for him to come home to take me to the banquet. After a while, I figured out he wasn’t going to come home—he was at work.

Suddenly, an interesting thing happened inside of me. I realized that I could make a big deal out of his forgetting me. I could let it etch into my mind as “my father doesn’t think I’m important; my father doesn’t care about me; I’m not important.” It was, in fact, starting to etch itself in like that. But then I realized I didn’t need to do that, and I realized I was going to let it go, because I knew my father. Father-daughter banquets were not in his reality. I knew he loved me because he worked really hard and came home every evening and we all had dinner together. We always had a stable home where the kids played outside with their friends and the parents did whatever they did to make sure everyone was clothed, fed, and safe. My father was not “touchy-feely” with the kids. We all knew that; it was our life.

Mind Loops Cause Emotional Pain—Uneccesary Emotional Pain

In my private practice, I see a lot of people who get into mind loops where something that happens with another person seems to “mean” something, or represent something, and it gets etched in and petrifies—and causes a lot of emotional pain. Because of something a person said or did, the relationship becomes stuck in a loop and it can’t get out and breathe again.

This often happens when painful family relationship patterns develop in childhood.

When childhood family patterns become overlaid onto an interaction with the person in front of us in the present, the interaction might represent something in our minds that’s not actually there, or that’s there in only a homeopathic dose, so to speak. The current interaction becomes etched in and rigidified, and the relationship suffers because of it. Coupling together the two—past pattern and current event—can easily etch an emotional interpretation into the mind.

For instance, if I had not had the luck to realize I didn’t need to etch in the interpretation that my father didn’t care about me or that I’m unimportant to him, I could have started generalizing and feeling slights all around me. I could have imploded into myself and made myself more and more invisible, and increasingly hurt when people didn’t see me or ignored me.

Process Work and EFT Help

I’ve found that combining Process Work (ala Arnold Mindell) and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is wonderful for getting at the core of these patterns that affect current relationships and transforming them into self-acceptance. Check out my Families and Relationships pages for more on how I work with childhood family patterns, relationship counseling and more.

Wishing you a free and joyous life,

Zoë