Facing Selfishness

As I reflect on my relationship with Pat, my holding “Areas of unfulfillment” AND “I don’t know what to do,” I notice another aspect arise: my selfishness.  I see this young streak in me that wants what he wants when he wants it and disregards the world of the other.  This young part of me bows before the power of the other, hoping that the other will respond, and soon.

So how did I go about getting my needs met as a child? First I find I am not even clear on what my needs were.  Well there were those from the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: food, shelter, etc.  But for a child these are unconscious and if met are taken for granted.  If they are not met, they remain unconscious and show up sideways and indirectly in dysfunctional behavior.

But I think that if I were aware of a need, or let’s say simply a desire, I would not really know what to do.  So I would take an indirect approach to getting the need met.  First I would be a good boy and use the principle that good behavior would be rewarded.  But I do not think I would have asked for what I wanted.

My life was doing what my parents decided would be good for me — scout camp, swimming lessons, piano lessons, band, even dating.  I do not recall being clear on what I wanted and going to my parents and asking for same.  I take that back, I did ask for a 10 1/2 Gilbert Erector Set for Christmas one year, slipped Dad a $10 bill to help pay for it, and lo and behold it showed up under the tree.

What I really wanted as a child was playing by myself.  Reading astronomy and other science books, building, working with electronics, chemistry sets, archery, etc.  So what I wanted was as much freedom to do what I wanted as possible.  Going swimming, playing the piano, or attending scout camp were mostly concessions to my folks, not things I wanted to do.  Interesting to realize this.

So I grew up to see socialization and relationships as constraints needed to get along in the world, not as things that nurtured and fed me, not as things I wanted to engage in.  So I was split.  I would be by myself enjoying all that I enjoyed, or I would be with others and feel constrained by their interests and desires.

But later in life I would have many friends with whom I could discuss matters of life deeply, and this became of real interest to me, especially now.  Now I want to engage with people as never before. I have to be careful and not bring up something deep within me that might draw criticism or disagreement, but I can do that automatically because I have done this my entire life.

So this has led to many friends and deep discussions, and most particularly my relationship with Pat.  But I realize that still I am not totally at ease and not showing up freely and uncensored.  My antennae are up and aware of how others might or might not accept who I am or what is most alive in me.  This means that my many engagements, satisfying as they are, always fall a little short of what my heart longs for — a free open connection where the other and I can be free and uncensored by what we share.

So I sometimes get very uneasy when I am invited to or called upon for deep and real intimacy.  My choice in such situations is either to dive into intimacy and stay with the discomfort and frustration it brings and let it shift over time as I mature, or take the easy way out by withdrawing into my world of many interests and hobbies.

I see this playing out in my primary relationship with Pat.  I hold the two pieces of “Areas of Unfulfillment” and “I don’t know what to do.”  I say I want fulfillment, but I know in my head that to resolve these two aspects of myself I must simply hold them and not run away.

I am reminded by my helper that for these two pieces to resolve into a unitive state a transformation of consciousness will have to occur.  And this transformation will manifest in a level of consciousness that can feel and experience LOVE.  And that a part of me is saying NO to this transformation, NO to Life and NO to LOVE. (This irrational NO is a pivotal deal, but will have to be explored later)

To move through this persistent NO to Love will require more than who I am just now, and this means surrendering to Mystery, to God.  I see how often I am tempted to retreat and go back to my time-honored escape hatches of other interests and activities.  I see this retreat as a residue of  my strategy of selfishness from my childhood.

But I also see that staying in and with the frustration and unfulfillment will bring me back from my immature strategy of selfishness into a mature state of consciousness where I can experience the love of connection, a mutual state where Pat and I are free to be totally who we are moment to moment.  In each case presented to me by life, by Pat, by my own behavior, the choice is mine.