I Don't Like People. Is That OK? Is That Really True?
Well over a year or two ago, as I was in a session with my Pathwork Helper Moira Shaw, we paused in the session and, based on my comments, Moira blurted out, “Well, Gary, you just do not like people!” I was stunned, and then immediately felt guilt and shame about her assessment. But I also smiled, for there was no judgment in her about my not liking people, but rather delight at my new discovery about myself. Wisely, she let me stew a while in my “guilt,” but then asked, “So, Gary, is that OK with you that you do not like people?” My immediate answer of course was, “Absolutely not! It is not OK to not like people.” “Not liking people” violated core “shoulds” in my Idealized Self Image. I am kind, considerate, loving, and I go out of my way to help people, to be kind to people. This is the “right” way to get along in this world, and I scored above average the way my Ego saw it.
As I sat with Moira’s observation, however, I had to confess that on some level I did not like people. While, as a defense, I pretended to like people, on some level I was not open to connection. And, in the spirit of Moira’s 50/50 work, I could accept this truth about myself without self-moralizing and guilt-tripping myself. I could be curious about this. “Why on earth would I not like people?” And of course I could also explore whether or not this “not liking people” is really true about me or just another image or belief I hold about myself – on some deep unconscious level – convinced that, if I were totally honest, I would surely have to admit that I do not like people. But at the same time I would also have to admit that I do everything possible not to reveal this “not-liking-people” to others or myself. So let’s unravel this situation a bit.
Those who read these blog entries will know that recently I have been working with my sense of having what is called an “Attachment Avoidance Disorder,” meaning that I have not truly come to value connections with people as something I treasure my life. If I am honest I admit that rather than valuing my relationships with people I have come to value my hobbies and my interests in spirituality, cosmology, music, photography of the amazing world of wildflowers, and so on. Through these interests I relate to others with similar interests,(for example, my relationship with Pat as evidenced by our endless discussions at coffee time about our respective journeys of spiritual growth, or with my Pathwork buddy Jenny Zia about Pathwork) but it seems to be only the commonality of interests that join us, not a true deep heart connection per se. As I write this it pains me. Why am I so resistant to deep connection beyond the mind?
What is behind this valuing the rich world of ideas, beauty, and wonder of the cosmos but not valuing simple friendships? The origin goes to how I came into this world (my inborn nature and predispositions of my personality, or perhaps karma) and how I experienced life with Mom and Dad and others comprising my early life (nurturing) where these predispositions to not bonding could develop more fully and be experienced for what they are.
Working with these bonding issues, seeing the pain they caused in my life and the lives of those around me, has become a major purpose of my incarnation this time around. For whatever reason I did not experience in a felt sense an emotional heart connection with Mom or, to a lesser degree, with Dad. Without this experience of heart connection (let me say without an experience of “heart attachment”), I compensated by attaching to things in my own isolated world. So naturally I would come to value how I configured my private world (things, ideas, etc.) and would not come to value what I did not experience (heart connection). This is how my attachment avoidance disorder came into being. I came to not value attachment to people, and hence I avoided attachment with people and chose instead to attach to things and ideas.
With this as background, I see that as I entered kindergarten I was lost. How was I to connect with fellow kindergarteners? I am not saying I am alone in this (connecting is often challenging to people), but I sense that others of my fellow students had experienced more real connection with people (adults, family, and peers) coming into kindergarten than had I. They would be more comfortable than I would be playing together on the playground at recess. As a defense and to preserve my safety in the classroom, I would obey the teachers and try to please the teachers. This reliance on the authority of the teacher would make me feel safe. If the teacher were not around, however, I would feel unsafe. So in general I had perhaps more anxiety in school social life than did most of the other students. They would long for recess, I would long for being in class. To protect myself I aligned with the authority for my safety, and became a “happy loner.”
And as I grew up into adulthood I built my world from this foundation of isolation. How would I relate? I would perform, thinking that I would find peace at least if I were to “stand out” in class and be recognized as somehow “special.” I would obey the teacher, relying on the teacher to keep my world safe. Then later in life I would get into leadership roles that would establish my relationship with others through the roles I played with them. I would not play with others comfortably. I would become a workaholic, not because I wanted to achieve but because working kept me occupied, isolated, separate and safe.
These patterns led me into the rest of my life, and certainly led to “rewards” of “success” and “security.” Deep down, and mostly unconsciously, however, I was very lonely. I denied this loneliness and numbed out my loneliness by staying very busy. Busier than most. And people “appreciated” and “rewarded” me for all that I offered through my busyness. My “service” to others became the wall behind which I hid to feel safe. I had separated myself from the anxieties of the amorphous structure of kindergarten recess on the playground and grown into a “mature” adult in the fixed structures of my religion (even including today in the Pathwork organization) and culture. In this fixed framework in which I could find my identity, I felt safe and secure.
But this, of course, has been a pseudo safety, a pseudo security. Without a strong feeling of heart connection with others I was, unconsciously, very lonely inside. Eventually I began answering my unconscious loneliness through emotional and sexual connections with a few women over time, but, though very energized in these relationships, I was at the same time quite immature in these relationships. Counselors would say I was in mid-olescence (mid-life adolescence). As long as I was undeveloped in my emotional and physical worlds I could not develop a healthy mature complete connection with a woman. I could not see this at the time and was very frustrated in my relational life. I did not realize that much more personal development was needed – I needed to return to “kindergarten” and develop from my inferior side, from my state of physical and emotional immaturity.
This past weekend I participated in Module IV of the Pathwork Graduate Program led by Erena Bramos at Sevenoaks. It was extraordinarily meaningful to me, with additional pieces of this puzzle about “who I am” coming to the fore and fitting into my life self-portrait. In this workshop I noticed that during dancing segments, something we do all the time at these gathering in order to get into our bodies, that while I truly enjoy dancing – either alone or inconspicuously among all the others in the group – when a person – man or woman – would come up to me and start dancing in front of me, inviting me to join into a dyad thus created, I freaked out. I would go to my head and start dancing deliberately rather than spontaneously. I was very self-conscious and not at all in my body – I had in effect left my body when the other person stood if front of me inviting me into a dyadic dance. After I shared this experience and observation with the group Erena noted, “Of course you couldn’t dance freely with another, Gary, you were no longer in your Essence, that is, no longer in your body.” Another example of Attachment Avoidance Disorder.
I also noticed that it was hard to connect with Erena as teacher. This realization surprised me. Oh, I would respect her, delight in her humor and leadership, enjoy my time throughout the workshop. But it was challenging for me to relate to her from my heart, to really connect with her beyond the student-teacher relationship. This was, in a way, still a recreation of how I have always related to teachers, not able to connect with a teacher in love but rather “use” them to establish my identity and frame of reference, to make me feel “safe.” Many years ago, in an elaborate work scene, a teacher asked me quite urgently, “Can you feel even a fraction of the love I feel for you?” I could not, not at all. I could not even imagine being “loved” by a teacher, no matter that sometimes teachers spoke of their love for me. Erena was no exception to this stance. I simply noticed this behavior and was curious about what led to such awkwardness in me when being invited to one-to-one relationships, especially with someone in authority.
One of the Lectures we were invited to read in preparation for the workshop was Pathwork Lecture 161 Unconscious Negativity Endangers Surrender of Ego to Involuntary Processes. I had listened to this lecture numerous times in the weeks preceding this workshop, and I had listened to it once again while driving over to Sevenoaks from Cincinnati for this workshop. I was struck by a section of this lecture that dealt directly with this issue of “Not Liking People.” (open this teaching and read it carefully, please do). I shared this lecture’s teaching with the group of 16 students, and others began nodding, recognizing similar energies in themselves. The “I don’t like people” became a mini-theme of the workshop. This was very freeing – I could be honest with myself, accept what I experienced as true for me, and then work with this material to grow beyond my blocks to connecting.
Finally, I considered the possibility that I do like people, at least some people, but perhaps I just am not recognizing this “liking” energy, as yet. Also during class we distinguished “liking” from “loving.” I could come to a state of love for another without having to like the individual or without choosing to spend time with a particular individual. Loving and liking are two different energies. This insight was helpful. I enjoy being with at least some people quite a bit, but I am probably blocking the deeper love energy on some levels with everyone. Always time for more growth, even at seventy!
There was much more that I got out of this workshop that I may share at some point, but now I must leave for another workshop that Pat and I signed up for months ago. It is the DARe workshop – Module 1: Overview – Healing Early Attachment Wounds. Seeing this timing being so right for me, I again have to smile at the perfection of life, that the Universe, Source, God, whatever I call the world of Spirit, continues to meet me where I am. I feel held by Source in the Cosmos. Perhaps this is what experiencing love is all about – being held and holding another, no matter the circumstances.
Shared in love, Gary