Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Which comes first, sex or marriage? And musings about pain and connection ...
Before getting in to this question, I want to take a moment to talk about pain. What is pain? Most people don't think of it this way, but it's almost always an inner conflict. We feel pain because the self is divided. This is why dualistic thinking such as judgment is so painful for both the person judging and the person being judged. By dividing the world into "good" and "bad," we create duality and therefore pain.
Now, before anyone reading this has a knee-jerk defensive reaction to say "I don't have pain. I am able to judge people without feeling pain." ... I'm going to ask you to set aside all of your preconceived notions about pain for a moment and ask you to consider how you live your life:
* Do you stay chronically busy?
* Do you drink a lot of alcohol, participate in extreme sports, or use drugs or sex or porn to feel better (temporarily)?
* Do you distract yourself with various goals?
* Do you numb yourself by watching television?
* Do you unfriend people on Facebook or cut off relationships when other people do something you don't like?
* Do you deliberately do things you know will trigger pain in someone else because deep down you believe they deserve to feel pain for what they did?
* Are you criticizing, judging, or punishing anyone or anything?
* When someone else expresses pain, do you disconnect by giving advice, avoiding the person, or attempting to "fix" their problem so you won't have to deal with it?
These and a zillion other things people do ... I've done many of them myself and am not judging anyone ... but they are all ways of avoiding pain. Most people don't realize how much pain they are carrying around because they have various ways of anesthetizing themselves. The only problem is that numbing the pain doesn't work in the long run.
The only way to erase pain long term so that all those avoidance strategies are no longer necessary is to go straight into the pain, find the source of it, and become present with it until it dissolves. Then it's gone forever.
This is one reason why doing nothing can be so transformative. This is also why participating in silent meditation retreats is very powerful. When doing nothing, there is no way for me to avoid whatever pain I might be feeling. It may take a while because even in the midst of silence and meditation, the egoic mind has many strategies for avoiding pain, but ultimately sheer boredom and inactivity means I'm going to become present with whatever is going on.
Which may get very intense for a while, indeed it may get unbearably intense, but ...
If we can find the hidden inner conflict giving rise to the pain, we can resolve things at the root. Even awareness of the inner conflict will be helpful, because an inner conflict is less painful when we can see it. It's an "a-ha" moment of saying, wow, now I see how I was in a no-win situation with this. No wonder I haven't been feeling good or getting the results I want.
In the midst of this doing nothing, I found one of these inner conflicts and wanted to share:
Entropy may have been right about something he said a while back, much as I didn't want to admit it at the time. (It's always something to be aware of, when we have a knee-jerk reaction of disagreeing with someone else -- what aspect of our own Shadow do we not want to acknowledge that we feel the need to disagree so vehemently?)
Anyway, he said something about not really being able to achieve a high enough level of intimacy with someone until after having sex. Wow, did I resist that idea.
But lately people have been asking why I haven't said yes to any of the marriage proposals I've received recently -- some from guys I respect a lot and even feel a lot of attraction for -- and part of the answer to that question is that I haven't felt a high enough level of intimacy. I'm pretty sure now that part of why I haven't felt it is that I haven't had sex with them.
Now, the flip side of the inner conflict is that I'm not sure I feel safe having sex with someone unless I already have received a permanent commitment from them. Why? Because sex and the level of intimacy I'm talking about stirs up a lot of feelings for people (note discussion of pain above). Without the container of a permanent commitment, what assurance do I have that both I and the guy are going to stay connected when the going gets rough? I'm weary of disconnection, and I know I've been as prone to disconnecting when I feel scared or pain as the men I date. I've abruptly ended relationships, unfriended people on Facebook, and done other silly things as a reaction to my own pain. Those strategies do not work long term, and I'd like to wean myself off of them entirely.
The biggest thing I would like to convey on this blog is how huge the rewards are if we all stop disconnecting from pain and learn to become present with it instead. As Marshall Rosenberg once said, "if you want to enjoy intimacy, you must learn to enjoy pain." Yet, in our culture, there is almost a stigma about feeling pain. "Oh, you feel pain, there must be something wrong with you."
Hogwash. I don't know anyone who has resolved all of their pain yet. Not one single person. And yes, that goes for you too, readers. Deep down everyone knows this. In fact, if anything, it's the people who are most critical of other people's pain who are in the most pain themselves and don't know how to deal with it. They criticize other people for what they don't like in themselves.
Anyway ... that's my question for today ... how to resolve the inner conflict noted above?
In the meantime, I'd be so thrilled to see all of us learn to become more compassionate and stay connected when faced with our own and other people's pain. It's when we stay connected and present that miracles happen.
And you see, here's a little secret: by doing nothing and staying connected with my own pain until it dissolves, I am increasing my capacity for true intimacy. The more I can do this for myself, the more I am able to do it with others.
Postscript on Today's Blog
I feel soooo much better. Presence has returned. I feel happy again. I feel light. Hooray!
Quite humorously, one of my friends was triggered by this post and unfriended me on Facebook. We talked it out, and he re-friended me. No worries. We all feel reactive sometimes. I would hope my friends would be equally understanding with me.
I'm also setting an intention to be much more aware of all the different ways in which I disconnect. If I want others to stay connected more, I need to be the change I want to see in the world.
Finally, I would like to thank a few people for their support during this time:
* Terrance Thames for his precious support yesterday. His inquiry-style approach helped me get a lot of clarity on my inner conflict.
* Hypnotica for checking in on me during the darkest moments.
* Kate Winch for her encouragement and for appreciating the contribution that my compassion has made in her life. It feels really nice to know that I matter. Thank you, Kate. :-)
* Entropy for his sense of humor and patience.
In the midst of all this, I stopped nearly all of my activities, but my coaching of clients went on as normal. In fact, in the midst of all this, one of my clients has been manifesting large amounts of cash left and right. :-) Something about coaching always gives me calm in the midst of even the heaviest storm.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!