The Work of Love


I receive the weekly e-mail from Mark Nepo and his peers at Three Intentions (www.threeintention.com) and find his writing  inspirational and challenging. It integrates well into my way of seeing the world. I am including his weekly intention here, because it is a good thought to integrate. Tomorrow I will post a “rabbit trail” of my thoughts about his three covenants. Until then, I hope you take time to read and ponder.

Three Covenants

Our love needs to be bigger than our insanity. —Henk Brandt

There are three covenants that keep us engaged in the work of love. To begin with, when we see something true and beautiful in someone, it is not the work of love to change them or force their growth in our direction. It is the work of love to create conditions by which what is true and beautiful in all we behold can grow and blossom, bringing forth its deepest nature.  At the same time, the work of love depends on giving others, especially young people, a sense of safety in the world, nurturing their confidence to lean into life and the unknown—not away from these eternal resources. Still, being human, we constantly slip from integrating our experience to being consumed by our experience. We move, almost daily, from having our fear, pain, and worry live in us to living within our fear, pain, and worry. So the third covenant of love is to keep each other company when we’re drowning in our experience and awash in our feelings, until it all can right-size, until our experience and feelings can once again live in us. These covenants exercise the muscle of compassion we call the heart.

—excerpt from Seven Thousand Ways to Listen, forthcoming from Simon & Schuster, October 2012

Advertisements

Move In To Move Out


Human nature is human nature.  We are no different from anyone else with whom we interact.  I was talking with someone the other day and he noted that he knows what he is doing is wrong, but he can’t stop doing it.  On top of that after he does the “not-desired” behavior, he hates himself all the more.  I told him as much as he didn’t like his behaviors and saw himself with shame, he was not unique in the “do-hate-shame” pattern, and that acknowledging/exposing the pattern was a first step.

I so appreciate that much understanding of human behavior is being seen, more and more, through an attachment lens.  I worked for some years with children who did not experience healthy attachments, and who learned to “survive” with their own means to manage life.  Briefly, let me explain.  If mice don’t experience nurture or care, they die.  Humans have greater self care.  Instead of “dying physically” our psyches are brilliant, and learn to adapt rather quickly with much resiliency.  Simply said, the psyche takes on ownership/responsibility of the lack of care/neglect so that there is some sense of control.  It (the psyche) becomes self-reliant as best as possible, and needs to do so in order to manage the reality that “love” is absent or chaotically confusing.   Control becomes a survival – their “gift” to themselves.  However, the truth/belief behind the “gift” is this:  “It has to be my fault/responsibility that I am not loved because if it is the responsibility of those who were supposed to love me, and they didn’t, then I don’t think I could survive.”

The concept in parenting or creating attachment, then, is not to move in and “shower love and gifts”, and “makeup” for the absences of trust and love, because that is threatening to their trust in their own (brilliant) system they instinctively created.  If you understand the upstream/downstream concept, then trying to force your agenda and love will send the person upstream becoming more protective of his system, less trusting, and more defensive.  It does the opposite of our “good intentions”.  Instead, we need to: move towards slowly with validation, acknowledge his “brilliancy”, support/come alongside in his “doing life”‘, and wait for him to “grow” or expand his trust circle.  We teach parents to have time-ins instead of time-outs, in order to demonstrate that they are going to be there, they are not going anywhere, and that they are able to be trusted when the child is ready.  (Time-out reinforces the über-protective self-reliance and increases a chasm in trust because it justifies the “fault” and consequences.  The child knows fault/responsibility and “safely” stays in that control of “it is my fault,” “see I’m bad” way of managing life.)

So, how does all of this discussion relate to the original issue of our “do-hate-shame” pattern?  Our behaviors are “protective” of our homeostasis.  We learn patterns, habits, behaviors because they meet some need in us.  Our being is always seeking homeostasis and balance, so when we “meet a need” with a behavior and it unbalances the system, then we counteract with another behavior, a belief, an emotion, to regain some sense of balance in the system.  If we move into the system and judge the behavior as “bad/wrong/not good”, then like the child above, our system is going to respond defensively, paddle harder upstream, become secretive in both the action and the shame.  In a sense the same needs with attachment with others, is what we experience internally with our own ego states or management styles.  Homeostasis is best when the different management styles in us (reactionary behaviors) know, trust, and feel safe in the system called self, and trust our heart/soul/true self.

Like the parenting style suggested, we need to “move into the behavior, validate the “why’s”, normalize, eliminate the judgment, and minimize the flip-flop reactions in the system we brilliantly created.  When we do so, there is greater homeostasis and less reactionary behaviors, which in turn, in a way, dis-empowers the negative behavior and therefore, then also, minimizes the “do-hate-shame” cycle.  Hope that makes sense.

Integrative thought:  We need to move in to the behavior in order to move it out.

Not Done Cwyin’


Oumar and Crying Child
"I'm not done cwyin'!"

I was talking to a friend the other day and she told me this story about her nephew.  I thought it was both interesting and profound.

This little guy was at a family gathering and he tripped and fell.  Of course, he cried and was unsettled, but not hurt.  He sat on his mom’s lap for a few minutes and continued to quietly cry.  He was soaking in the nurture and love.  After some time his mom encouraged him to get up and play, and a few nearby relatives started to try to make him laugh.  He had no interest in laughing nor getting up.  Finally after a few attempts from the well-meaners, he said, “I’m not done cwyin’!”

When she shared that little story with me, I thought how profound.  He wasn’t going to be fooled.  He wasn’t going to be rushed.  He knew what his needs were.  He was safe to say what he needed.  He wanted more touch-time, comfort, and nurture, and he didn’t want to be rushed. 

How often do we try to talk people out of their feelings, or rush them through their emotions, or try to make them laugh when they don’t feel like laughing?  How often do we just sit with them quietly, without words, answers, or jokes?  We often don’t because we are uncomfortable.  We don’t like when people are sad or mad or hurt.  We don’t like when there is uncertainty, quiet, feelings, pain.  So often I think we try to comfort out of our own motives – so that we can move on and feel ok – so that we don’t have to feel.  Often we get into our “own stuff” and feel inadequate if we can’t fix things, change things, or make things go away.  Selfish motives?  Maybe?  Ouch.

Kids know what they need.  Adults do to if they are not trying to be brave, or “selfless”, or strong, or without needs.  It is more than ok to be ok with any feelings.  It is more than ok to ask for what you need.  It is more than ok to declare, “I’m not done cwyin’!”.

If you are with someone with needs, it is more than ok to not have the answers; to sit quietly; to hold the humor; to be present without an agenda.  It is more than ok to just be, to hold his/her needs safely, to pray, to not understand.

Integrative thought:  Take the time to “cwy”…you know your needs, you know your timing, you know what feels good…honor that.  If you are being with someone who is honoring his/her own needs…take the time to do the same…see what happens, you might be surprised…you might learn something…just a thought.