Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Separating Truth from Shame

Loony Lunettes, Paris, 2015
Like a lot of people, I find it very, very tricky to engage with people who dislike me. Especially those who refuse to admit that that is the core issue, affecting their judgment of things such as "my unprofessional manner."

Yes, it is true that part of it relates to me wanting everyone to like me - survival skill! However, there's also an element of relentless meanness that sneaks in under the radar under the guise of shame. I often experience it as them exposing something "real" about me, something I feel ashamed of, my embarrassment flushing up. But I have come to see that actually when I feel that way - red in the cheek - that's actually a sign that someone is being excessive. Sometimes even bullying. Basically, mean for the sake of being mean. Trying to make me feel bad. And for awhile, it works.

It's hard for me to put my foot down. Say, "That's enough." I have to ask my wife to read an eluding email, to recount a difficult conversation a few times in my journal, or go for a run in order to clear my head. Often meditation doesn't work in those circumstances - I am actually too stirred up.

Ilana is very, very good at seeing through the muck and pointing out what might be useful information. I crave finding that - it's often buried in there and I want useful feedback. However, most people, myself included, are not that skilled at separating out useful feedback for someone from what is simply the person taking an opportunity to piss on me. The journal has mixed results - I have many, many, many notebooks filled with endless one-sided conversations from adolescence and that's a painful habit I have had to unlearn. The run can really reset me. Eventually, once I get a little space, some Tonglen or Metta helps, especially because I know, deep down inside (and after whirring around a bit, I can actually feel it) that both of us are in pain - me and also "the other".

Quotes like this one from John Welwood help me keep the view:
Our ego itself is testimony to the force of love. It developed as a way to keep going in the face of perceived threats to our existence, primarily lack of love. In the places where love was missing, we built ego defenses. So every time we enact one of our defensive behaviors, we are also implicitly paying homage to love as the most important thing.
from Toward a Psychology of Awakening

My defenses, their defenses. All those fences, trying to duke it out for love.

Thank you my dears, for all of the fears you have assuages over the years. 
Now it's time to open up and move on. Stop trying to eke out acceptance from someone who has decided I am useless. Not shut down on myself because I have been refused by another.  

I know it feels counter-intuitive - all those decades of protection being asked to drop away in the face of someone who very well may hate me. But that is what I am asking. Let's pay homage to love your way, then try another way. Just to see. Just to watch the cause and effect. Just to play. Don't worry. I'll hold your hand. I will not leave you behind.

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