Human beings are social creatures, and we all want to feel a sense of connection. We come into this world needing someone to hold us, to feed us, to wrap us in something warm, to talk to us, nurture us and let us know we are not alone. (Not everyone gets those things, but we all arrive needing them.) The other night as I was tucking my six-year old into bed he said, “Is this a dream?” And I said, “Is what a dream, buddy?” He said, “This life, this whole thing, is it a dream?” And I thought about it for a second, because, really, what a question and I said, “If it is, it’s a great dream, because I get to be your mom,” and he laughed.
Sometimes we’re so hungry for connection, we accept just about anything. A warm body, someone to share some space with. This is especially true for people who were not received with love when they came into this world. Years ago I used to volunteer at a hospital where they needed people to come in and hold babies who were born to mothers addicted to crack and other narcotics. Most of them were very tiny, and extremely uncomfortable. They’d just writhe and cry, and it was enough to break your heart if you let it, but every so often they’d settle and sigh, and fall asleep for a bit and I’d always whisper stories of all the things they were going to do, all the beautiful places they’d see one day, all the adventures they’d have because we all need hope. Without hope, I think life gets pretty dark.
If you were born to people who didn’t know how to love you well, or couldn’t for whatever reason, if you grew up in an abusive household, or were told you were unwanted, if you somehow received the message that you didn’t matter and no one cared if you were here or you weren’t, you have your work cut out for you because you’re going to have to unlearn those lies, and eventually you’re going to have to understand that it had, and has, nothing to do with you. Not everyone understands how to love well. Some people have very little frame of reference for that. It doesn’t reflect on you, but it will affect you, and you will have to seek out the tools to heal yourself.
The world is not a cold place. There are so many people who care and who do know how to love, but if you believe you’re worthless, you’re probably not going to seek those people out until you get right with yourself. It’s much more likely you’ll go after more people who can’t love you well, or won’t love you, so you can set up the dynamic that’s familiar to you, and try to wrangle yourself a different outcome. You are better off alone, taking stock of where you are, and where you want to be, learning how to feed a loving voice and choose one thought over another, than you are giving yourself to people who will continue to make you feel you are somehow easy to reject or discard. And by the way, if you enter a relationship trying to get something (your happy ending, validation from the other person, loyalty, love, stability), you set yourself up and you set them up, too. If you’re coming from a place of neediness, you’re likely to sell yourself, to bend over backwards showing the person how awesome you are, how much they need you. That’s not the same as giving with a free heart.
It’s a cycle and it’s a dangerous one because if you repeat it enough it will start to drain you of hope. Hurt people hurt people as the saying goes. Your parents may not have been able to love you, and the people you’ve been picking to get close to might not, either. Some people are terrified of real intimacy. They may have grown up with the lie that if you get close to people they’ll hurt you. They may be playing out their own past as well. It’s a big mess when two people come together who have no idea what’s motivating them, what they want, what they need, what lights them up, or what they need to do to heal individually. Everybody’s dragons come out to play, and everyone gets burned.
Solitude and the deep work of healing are where you want to head if you have lies to unlearn. Remember that what you know, and what you’ve known, is not all there is. I learned that the first time I went scuba diving. I was astonished to discover there was a whole, unbelievably gorgeous world right underneath the world I’d been living in. Our emotional life is like that, too. There are whole worlds that can open up to you and blow you away. It may, indeed, be lonely for awhile, but if you want connection in this world, you have to be willing to move through the fire of your pain to get there. If it’s all a dream, it isn’t the kind you want to sleep through.
Sending you love and a hug,