Presence Needed, Not Help

Coffee Time – Thursday June 20…

Pat’s and my morning coffee time led to disharmony in me that lasted into the afternoon. When she first joined me for coffee, Pat was clearly troubled about inner matters in her life. I would listen to her, but not deeply. Along the way as she shared her plight and inner pain, I would also share bits of Pathwork Lecture 17 The Call–Daily Review that has spoken to me these last few days in my own troublesome life experiences. To me the words of the lecture seemed relevant to what Pat was sharing, at least on the surface. But time was short – she had to leave after only 45 minutes or so – and she ended by stopping me and saying that all she needed from me was my presence and care, not my help, though well-intended, from a Pathwork Lecture.

Pat then referred to a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh that she had shared with me a few weeks ago. It had to do with what to do and say when you saw your beloved suffering in some way. It was in two mantras… “You look into their eyes and you say, ‘Darling, you know something? I’m here for you.’ You offer him or her your presence. You are not preoccupied with the past or the future; you are there for your beloved. The second mantra is, ‘Darling, I know you are there and I am so happy.’ Because you are fully there, you recognize the presence of your beloved as something very precious. You embrace your beloved with mindfulness. And he or she will bloom like a flower. To be loved means to be recognized as existing. And these two mantras can bring happiness right away, even if your beloved one is not there.” (Open quote as spoken on Oprah)

Pretty high standard to live by. I felt shame in my being “merely and utterly human.” But I could clearly get what Pat was saying. Words, words, words – even “wise” and “helpful” words – were not what Pat needed.

Certainly I know better on some deep level, but I seemed to have been caught up in this particular Pathwork Lecture and stayed “preoccupied” with the wisdom of the Pathwork Lecture rather than being “there for my beloved.” I was not “so happy at her presence.” I had not “recognized the presence of my beloved as something very precious.”

Of course, this was a disharmonious moment for me. I chastised myself for being so thoughtlessly insensitive. I apologized sincerely, and Pat smiled and shared that she did not want me to take in her words in a judgmental way. I could appreciate this repairing effort on her part, but was still a bit shaken by this disharmonious experience — always wanting to be further along the path to enlightenment than I am! It was good to feel my humanity, and then to come to accept my humanity and its disharmonious feelings with curiosity rather than with moralizing judgment.

As I reflected on this experience several things arose. First I recalled that during the last session of the Pathwork Graduate Program (May 30-June 2) Erena remarked that I sometimes push people away by trying to help them in some way when it isn’t help that is needed. To “help” is one of my love languages, but if it is not the language spoken by the other, in this case by Pat, I cannot be received. My “help” becomes a defense against connection, a mask. I was reminded of Gary Chapman’s very popular The Five Love Languages where he points out that I need to learn to “speak” Pat’s love language of Presence if I am going to communicate with her in a loving way.

Second, I could see how this “foreign love language” of presence and valuing healthy attachment with Pat and others relates to my Attachment Avoidance Disorder. Not being familiar with, and hence not valuing, healthy, secure attachment, here mature presence and love toward Pat, I really did not “get” that simple presence was all that was needed here with Pat.  In fact I did not “get” that simple presence held any particular value at all, and that what Pat really values in me is my simple but full presence to her – as the quote from Thich Nhat Hahn says.

But this space of “simple Presence” is simply not very familiar to me. Offering and valuing healthy attachment via Presence, to use Chapman’s analogies, would be like trying to speak a foreign language. Again, as noted above, this new language of Presence has to be learned by me. I have to learn to receive Presence, to experience it, to come to value it as the high form of Love that it is, and then come to allow this Presence to flow out of my Essence to others. Yes, Presence and other forms of Love live within my Essence, but I block them out in so many ways that have to be discovered and dismantled. This is likely to be a challenging job for one like me who has such a significant attachment avoidance disorder.

Thirdly, I realized that when my “help” of Pathwork “wisdom” was rejected by Pat, this rejection hurt. I felt my language of “love” – here offering helpful words – was not being received. This not being received by Pat was so familiar from times with Mom when I felt Mom did not receive either who I was or the love I wanted to give her.

Experiencing this deep disharmony during our coffee time and afterwards feels so right to me as Pat and I get ready to drive up to Toronto next weekend (June 27-30) for our two-and-a-half day intensive with Sage and Anthony. Each of us has so much to learn about love, and there is so much attachment healing needed in each of us if we are to experience mature secure attachment. We sense this healing and growth into Love is why we are here together in this lifetime – to learn about loving others truly and deeply, and to overcome our respective complement of attachment disorders.

Inviting your prayers of support. Shared in love, Gary