Free To Be Human, and Often Wrong
It seems I have been plagued with anxiety my entire life — “Anxiety Not Otherwise Specified” was the official diagnosis 10 years or so ago in the psychologist’s office, and I was offered meds to reduce this anxiety if I wanted. I didn’t.
So choosing to do Pathwork instead of meds, at least in the first round, I looked at myself and my anxiety. What was causing it? I seemed plagued by a need to be right, to be honest, to be positive, to be inspiring, to be, above all, for God’s sake, in integrity, whatever that meant. Pathworkers easily recognize these as part of my Idealized Self Image, a kind of elementary idea, but one that has been a pernicious companion for me even through ten years of Pathwork.
Then in just the past few days it was as if a burden was lifted off my shoulders. I could be wrong! Yes, I could be wrong, out of integrity, dishonest, negative, boring, and the world, my world, would not collapse. It does not seem an exaggeration to say this was a huge deal for me. The freedom to be wrong! The freedom to be human!
How did this change in me come about? I’m sure there are lots of reasons — my helper sessions, my faithfulness to my morning practice of EmbodyBeing, conversations with Pat and other friends, Grace, Life. But what stands out is my spending time in Pathwork Lecture # 90 — Moralizing — Disproportionate Reactions — Needs. It is one of the longer lectures, one of only five running over an hour in my audio recordings. It is on the heals of and builds on Pathwork Lecture #89 — Emotional Growth and Its Function.
Yes, this change in me is all about emotional growth. I realize that I could spend months with Pathwork Lecture #90 and still have room for growth. Of course that could be said of most of the Pathwork Lectures, or of Scriptures or other sacred writings. But it is important to realize this.
One of the core issues behind my anxiety according to this lecture is my lack of self-acceptance and making my entire personality bad and unworthy on the basis of my simple human shortcomings. Intellectually I know that the purpose of my life is to grow, and as I accept my shortcomings fully I can begin to grow out of the anxiety slowly but surely. I am not going to foolishly try to summarize this lecture as if its power were some kind of magical intellectual understanding. No, growth is much more subtle than that. If interested, I would suggest just spending time with this lecture, digesting it, applying it, responding to it, letting it percolate in the soul sentence by sentence. For a month. Or a year. Or…
But let me share another concept from this lecture that proves extremely helpful to me. It deals with transference and counter-transference. By transference I mean trying to get from another (one whom I have given authority over me) something I refuse to give myself, something like self respect, acceptance, or love. By counter-transferrence I mean trying to get from another (one who has given me authority over him or her) something I refuse to give myself, something like self respect, acceptance, or love. These two, transference and counter-transference, are close, aren’t they? And the idea can apply in peer as well as in authority relationships. A complex topic.
But the lecture does not deal with this issue simplistically. One could say, as I did, “But I need another to give me respect, acceptance, and love!” And the lecture says this is true, even as adults! But the issue of satisfying my needs remains my own responsibility in that for some reason I am refusing to accept the respect, acceptance, and love that are enough and are freely available all around me. I may choose to seek it from those who cannot give it to me or I may not be able to receive it from those who are able and willing to give it to me, but either way, the need that I have is not being met because of me, my obstructions, and my choices, not because the world all around me is stingy and unloving.
And when, because of my own issues, I do not have my true needs met (respect, acceptance, love, etc.), I go after false needs — like money, sex, food, appearance, trim weight, exercise, power, cars, houses, — and when left unchecked, the power I give these false needs makes me compulsive and out of control regarding them. And, because they are false needs, I can never really satisfy them. Chasing them leads me into a vicious circle, wearing me out, diverting me from that which gives my life meaning, exhausting me, and leading me nowhere.
Back to my anxiety. I am invited to ask myself, “So what is my need” from each and every action I take, from each and every person with whom I interact, from every email I send, etc. Am I going after false needs (like, “Oh, please respect me,” or “Oh, please approve of me,” or, “Oh. please tell me that I’m right (a big one for me),” or, “Oh, please love me,” or, “Oh, please connect with me.”) — false not because I do not need all these things but false because I am refusing to take them when they are offered OR, false because I am trying to get them from those incapable or unwilling to give them to me. The question to approach and be curious about is, “Why am I refusing what is offered all around me?” or “Why do I continue to try to get what I need from people who cannot or will not give it to me?” These explorations of the “Whys” are the key to my growth.
Another twist. For every action or non action I am, consciously and/or unconsciously, intending to meet some real needs and some false needs. This leads to the first part of Pathwork Lecture 90 — the need not to moralize, the need to not make things totally wrong or totally right, the need to not have to determine whether a need is really a true need or really a false need — needs that comes from my being human and living in a dualistic reality. It seems that my relief from anxiety came in being able to give up my need to be perfectly right in my discernment about what I am doing to satisfy false needs and what I am doing to satisfy real needs. The Truth: I am intending to satisfy both true needs and false needs all the time! “Deal with it, Gary.” No, actually, “Smile at yourself, Gary. You are merely fully human!”
So take these many blog entries for example. They have always made me anxious. In writing them I ask a lot of questions. Am I being arrogant? Am I being the fool? Am I trying to get connection or praise from others for my courage to be open? Am I simply excited about my journey and wanting to share it? Can it be all of these? Well if I insist that I get the answers to these questions correct in the sense that my answers always put me in the best of light, guess what? I’ll be anxious. But if I say, “I’m not really sure whether my intentions in writing these blog entries are positive or negative, and that seems OK,” I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders. But what if my confession “that it seems OK” is only words and deep down it doesn’t seem OK? Guess what, from my new place of being, this is OK too. How about that! Guess I’m becoming free to be fully human. At least in this moment.
With love, Gary