Wrestling with Negative Intentionality in a Loving Relationship

Pat came home after five days away with members of her spiritual community. They were in California at the home of their spiritual teacher. It was an intimate and beautiful gathering, a very rich experience for Pat. In anticipation of Pat’s return, in my meditation I asked myself how I was feeling about her coming home.

Even in posing the question to myself I felt my inner censor come up immediately with his view of how I ought to feel about Pat’s return rather than allowing myself to honestly explore how I do feel. Of course there are many inner voices to listen to here. The arrival of the censor was revealing in its own right. What in me so quickly moves to censure when it relates to feelings? What does my censor fear so much that he would step in to prevent any spontaneous arising of feelings?

What I noticed was that there was a part of me who did not want Pat to come home! What? How could this possibly be? Yet these feelings of fear at Pat’s return were there. It would be the return of Mom and I would have to shape up. While “Mom” was away I was totally on my own. Being on my own is what I loved growing up. I had endless by-myself hobbies in which I could indulge – model airplanes, working on my electric train layout, playing with my tools, organizing my chemistry set, building electronic gear, listening to Beethoven (I still remember discovering Beethoven’s symphonies when I was a sophomore and falling in love with his music) and the like.

Less enjoyable would be the social side of life, limited as it was — playing games (cowboys and indians, “guns” firing away, or endless rounds of Monopoly, or listening to episodes of Big John and Sparky) with one or two others (exclusively with my brother and our neighbor Johnny Ebeling). And beyond that I did not experience much pleasure being with people. Oh I did group stuff like scouts and band, but truly did not find my pleasure there beyond crafts and things we made. And, I am ashamed to admit, I did not have much pure pleasure being with my family either, except for family food functions – lots of pleasure in eating, though the consequence of obesity was anathema to my dad.

So with Pat away these five days I had indulged myself on many fronts and pretty much enjoyed myself. I figured out how to do video on my Mac, though much more to learn here. I printed out and read three Pathwork Q&As, again being fascinated and enlivened by the wisdom of this material. I had a delightful walk/talk with a Pathwork buddy of mine and later a long phone conversation with another. I stayed up late most nights. The loneliness I thought I should have had was simply not in my awareness. The little kid in me did not want to give up his freedom. And the censor did not want to see that. “How could you not be waiting with baited breath for Pat to return?”

So in preparation for Pat’s return, the censor would consider doing things that might make Pat happy upon her return – a “pleasing Mom” carryover. Growing up I got lots of pleasure from pleasing Mom. It’s how I came to relate to Mom on some level. I would be the obedient son, the son who would surprise Mom with gifts that he may have made himself, and of course the son who would perform, though the latter got more attention from Dad than from Mom. So regarding Pat coming home, this “good boy” part of me would think about cleaning the house and doing the laundry before Pat came home – taking pleasure from doing so.

I would not tell Pat that I did these things but rather I would let her discover what I had done. The motivation here was not exclusively the manipulative work of my inner censor or performer. There was also a part of me that genuinely wanted to do these things for the pleasure of pleasing her, actually loving Pat, but that motivation was hidden beneath my also-unconscious manipulative desire to please Pat so she would not be upset with me. I would not really allow myself to feel love in me for Pat. Love energy, though obviously at work, was pretty cut off and held back from my consciousness. There would be no allowing of feelings of love to arise in me.  How strange.

And of course I saw another piece in me who did not want her to discover what I had done, deriving negative pleasure from not being seen or appreciated for what I had done. All familiar from childhood experiences with Mom. These are strange and complex energies floating about in me! And of course my energy of not wanting to be appreciated manifests just that – not being appreciated. I would see to it that this “being unseen” and “unappreciated” would happen – this is all part of “negative pleasure” – my child-self coming to define as “pleasurable” whatever his experience of Mom was no matter the objective truth of what he was feeling with Mom.

So as I said, it seems the missing element here is really feeling my love for Pat, that is, feeling the deep pleasure of loving and being loved in Pat’s presence. This would be the simple pleasure of being in Pat’s company, or Mom’s or others’ company. Somehow this “deriving pleasure from simple company with another” was not part of my make up coming into this world, and I, with the help of Spirit, created situations for myself where this absence of strong love feelings would manifest – “as you believe, so you experience.”

Rather than having simple pleasure in connecting with and loving others I attached negative pleasure to non-loving experiences, especially with Mom and Dad and with peers. And this negative pleasure is what I have set up in some aspects of my relationship with Pat. I simply do not know the pleasure of living with another person. My feeling palette is blank on those colors. I am not being critical of myself or judgmental; quite the contrary: I am seeing a bit of truth that can help me in my development.

All spiritual paths speak of love as being the highest and purest state. But, as Pathwork states so often, we cannot command love feelings to show up. Oh I can do acts of love in order to please another, but would not allow truly loving feelings to be experienced in me for whatever reason. Rather I now have to undo the blocks to feeling love that is there deep within me waiting to shine forth – blocks like my negative pleasure derived from love being withheld. Yes, I can feel pleasure when love is being withheld, strange as that is to see in me.

So the third ME, joining my child-self and my censor-self, is my Divine Essence, the part of me that is deeper and lying beneath both my child self and my censor self, though my child-self is likely closer to my Essence than my censor self. So I can now know intellectually that my Divine Essence with its full capacities of love, creativity, wisdom, equanimity, and the like lies deep within me waiting to be invited out. This may be a long process, but the process can be shortened as I continue doing this self-facing work on myself.

The self-facing reveals that part of me gets too much pleasure from having love withheld, and so now this is one of the aspects of me that can be understood and dismantled. Prayer is in order and required because this dismantling these powerful blocks to love is beyond the capacity of my ego. But my ego can know that this is what has to happen, know that it is beyond its own ability to fix, and can ask for help. This decision to ask for help has to come from my healthy ego, not my little ego that either gives up or simply wants “God-out-there” to take over and do it for him (perhaps the “cheap grace” model of Bonhoeffer). The choice is mine. The journey continues.

Shared in love, Gary