It is a universal truth that you are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness; you are only responsible for your happiness. So spiritual teachers say, take responsibility for your own happiness. But I have discovered something. When we teach these universal truths, it is so easy to misconstrue them. “Don’t make anyone else responsible for your happiness, take responsibility for your own happiness” has such a good way of sounding like “isolate yourself and work on your issues alone… Alone, alone, alone.” But that isn’t what it means. If your happiness includes being surrounded by people who can help you to work on your issues, then surrounding yourself with people is taking responsibility for your own happiness. I woke up with an anxiety attack this morning. It was bad enough that I was dry heaving on the bathroom floor. And I tried for twenty minutes to work myself out of my fear and tell myself that I need to take responsibility for myself before I realized that I was being self abusive. I realized that taking responsibility for myself meant calling Blake to come help me. And so I did.
I am in the eye of the hurricane. It is emotional hell. Deep emotional upsets are not unlike being caught in a violent ocean. Over the course of the day, you are tossed in the surf, consumed by the waves and you feel like you are drowning. Then the waves spit you out and you can see light and take a breath, but just for a short time before the next wave hits you. But when I get a glimpse of the light, I know that my fear is the byproduct of believing that my future will be painful. I also know that being in this position makes me better at what I do for people. The more practiced you are at ascending from a deep, dark ravine, the better you are at teaching other people how to ascend from it. Pain has such a way of convincing you that there is no end to itself.
This experience is really teaching me what NOT to do with someone who is suffering from something they feel ashamed about. There are many people who have been sending me support after yesterday’s blog post. I can feel their energy from time to time. But so many people that I have surrounded myself with say, “I told you so” or things to that effect; a masturbatory gesture of self-congratulation. And then they launch into a long, detailed list of mistakes I have made to bring it upon myself. I’ve decided it is just about the most painful thing you can say to someone who is suffering because they suddenly discovered that they had a blind spot for something other people saw. We live in a culture of shame. As if shame will cause a person to learn from their experiences. It won’t. All it will teach you to do, is avoid shame.
I have recognized so many patterns in myself during this experience. Chief among them is my pattern of taking responsibility for other people’s pain, unhappiness and lack. I wanted someone… anyone to take responsibility for my pain when I was a child and they did not. I was isolated in my pain and alone and I had to rescue myself. Now, I go around trying to rescue other people like I wanted to be rescued. It’s like I still haven’t received the memo that I am safe. And it is compounded because I perceived that what made my abuser like he was, was that he could not connect to the pain of others. He had no mercy and no empathy. And so, I thought that what made me different than him was how attached I was to the feelings and pain of others. How deeply they affected me. I figured, if I let them take responsibility for themselves and their pain, I was being just as heartless as he was. I am so connected to others. I have an impossibly hard time not being affected by anything and everything other people feel and say and do. I figured that this kind of attachment was love. But this is not love. Love is the unity inherent when seeing them happy, is an integral part of your own happiness. And naturally, all the gestures that we associate with love are nothing more than an extension of that; the inspired actions that are the byproduct of that. It has nothing to do with attachment. We mistake attachment for unity. Really, it is a kind of ball and chain between ourselves and others. It is therefore more like abuse than love. But then again, some of us think abuse is love.
It has always bothered me that people are expected to innately know how to show love to other people. It is understood that our essence is love. But how that essence expresses itself or doesn’t is taught to us by those in our childhood environment. It is no different than learning to ride a bike. When we grow up in abusive situations, we learn that love is to abuse and to be abused. We must be re-educated and to re-educate an already well-ingrained neural pathway, is as difficult as it is easy.