These blogs are always amalgamations of either my own experiences, friend’s or acquaintance’s experiences or those of my many students. There are patterns in these experiences simply because we have all been programmed by the same social forces. That’s why it’s common for people to think I’m writing about them.
One of the primary social suggestions we experience is that we should pair off and become couples—that relationships between two specific people are what we should strive for. I won’t get into the details of why that’s not actually necessary, but since many people will still want this anyway, I’ll focus on how it can be achieved in the healthiest possible way.
I’ve had several of these over the last few months so I’ll illustrate this point by combining a variety of examples into one. Let’s say it’s about a guy—let’s call him Dennis. Like all human beings, Dennis has been shaped by his experiences. Those experiences have brought him things that help him move forward through life, and there are things that inhibit his movement and trap him in rumination, judgment and disappointment.
Thanks to being one of the many kids with very demanding parents, Dennis has never felt as though he can do enough and so he becomes a good ego-match for people that never feel as though they are getting enough. Bent pots need bent lids.
After ending a very long relationship, Dennis rebounded to some degree into a woman who met many of his desires. She was very physically attractive, had an engaging personality, and she was very sexual. That helped him feel successful which felt very appealing after growing up with such demanding parents.
He is very kind, handsome and capable, so he was very attractive to the woman because she came from an unloving, chaotic background. So the attraction made sense on many levels. But it was still ego-based. They were still looking to each other to fill in holes created by insecurities in their egos. She wanted wholeness and security from him and he wanted acceptance and support from her. And that worked for a while.
Eventually one or the other or both are going to have their insecurities flail a bit. And when they do they’ll look to their partner to quell their anxious thoughts. In the example I’m constructing, we’ll say it was the woman who began to feel unattractive. Like many women I meet, she wanted more compliments. More outside-in validation of her value. But of course no one can truly validate us but ourselves, so the exercise is ultimately futile. But Dennis, he needs to do enough—meaning he’ll try to offer her the validation that she could ultimately only give herself.
While this is happening she’s stopped focusing on what she likes about him and now she’s focused on what he’s not providing her ego. His ego then tries to provide it and just becomes frustrated because making her feel better is ultimately an inside job—only she has the power to do it by appreciating what she already has. Every life has unpleasant parts. It’s just a matter of how much attention you place on those parts. And if we don’t recognise what is offered, then resentments eventually develop.
Of course Dennis’s relationship ultimately fails because it is based in ego. This is not necessarily a bad thing if both people take the lesson from that and work in the right directions. If their ego just races out to find someone else to prop it up, or to give it things to do, then they will simply keep repeating the same patterns. That’s why most people end relationships for the same kinds of reasons every time. But if they learn from why that relationship failed, then they can take the sort of action that will result in a better situation next time.
So what did Dennis do? Did he learn to give more compliments? Yes and no. Yes he can give them more freely now, but the reason is because he’s not being asked to do it; he’s naturally motivated to do so by being appreciated.
By giving up the idea that he needed someone in his life and instead focusing on the fact that he needed to be responsible for his own enjoyment, he began feeling less of a responsibility to be impressive to others (because of how he was raised), and instead he started prioritizing his own enjoyment of life. He started relaxing into being okay with who he already was. There was less striving, less trying, less reaching. There was no where to go. No deficit to repay. He just wanted more fun.
As he got better at it, he found he was less attracted to physical beauty and more attracted to fun. And yet the people who were good at fun seemed more beautiful than anyone he had ever been involved with, because before he ego-matched to someone who wanted him to be his tortured ego, not his free spirit.
His job before was to work to satisfy an outside judge of his behaviour. But now he was living in spirit without the feeling that he was wrong or missing something or otherwise failing at being the right person. He was simply being himself. Lo and behold he found out there were people that are naturally attracted to who he already was. They didn’t need changes. They liked him as-is.
You don’t need to change for people. Accommodate them if that feels good as an aspect of you being your natural self. But don’t try to become someone else for someone else. That is pure folly. Be who you are and let others join you simply because they naturally want to be near the energy you give off through living your life.
A natural attraction like that is at the heart of every truly great and successful relationship. In those cases there are no commitments or agreements or demands or rules, there is merely choice; and the choice is to be near each other because in large part it is enjoyable to do so precisely because you are never being asked to be someone other than who you naturally are.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.