If I am Not Close to Someone Anymore, Who Moved?
My daughters have recently introduced me to a book called “Holding On To Your Kids” which is about how to maintain a close relationship with your children as they make their way through life. The author, Dr. Gordon Neufeld, has described the process as attachment parenting. So as I am thinking about the process of attachment parenting and attachment thinking, the question that comes into my mind about being close to someone is this. If I am no longer close to a colleague or a family member or neighbor, then who moved? Did they move away from me or did I move away from them? Well I notice that when I ask the question, I can’t help but feeling the emotion of hurt at some place in the relationship. So I think, well at some point in the that relationship, the other person hurt me and then I moved away.
What seems to be even worse for me is that when I feel hurt from one person like a colleague, then I have this huge tendency to not only move away from that person, but also to generalize the behavior so that I start moving away from everyone I have moved away and now I can blame someone else so that I am protected. In the old days before email, cell phones, and instant worldwide communication, it could take several weeks for a letter to reach someone else around the world which insured that we could hold onto our hurts forever. Nowadays a person in Mumbai knows what their friends in Paris have for breakfast while they are eating it so it seems to me that if I want to keep being close to someone, what I need to do is get out of the blame frame, decide that I am the one who has moved, get over the hurt, and into closeness.
I start moving away from others when I expect them to act in a certain way and then they do the opposite. When I expect someone to be supportive and gentle and helpful, they might be critical, harsh, and self-serving. So in my mind I have an imaginary picture of them being supportive, but when I interact with them in reality I get judgment or criticism or something else and then I feel hurt, and then I move away and start generalizing the protection to others. The movement away begins with the imaginary expectation and then I feel hurt.
In Dr. Neufeld’s book, he describes how hurt parents feel when their children feel embarrassed about being around them in front of their peers. So I thought that if a child feels embarrassed and I feel hurt because of it, then it is just going to compound the situation. I am the one moving away by being hurt. So how do I get over the hurt and start moving toward others instead of away from them? This is the big question.
All of my hurt seems to be centered around expectation of someone acting in a certain way toward me. When I have no expectation because I don’t need them to act in a certain way toward me, then I am free to be close to them. How much I would love to keep them responsible for my pain so I can stay distant? Closeness for me is really about removing expectation and being in relationship with where the person really is rather than in my imagined expectations of something they will give me. Yikes!!!!!!!!
I think I need their support. As Byron Katie would ask in The Work, “Is this true? ” Do I need their support or even my own support? Well I realize that with my students what I do best is to understand who they are at a particular age, what are their current issues and challenges, and then just plan for them and act on the plans. When I do those simple steps of analyzing who they are and where they are currently in their lives, the classes are like magic. It is only when I get needy for some support, that things go haywire.