People are funny…
“I love humanity. It’s people I can’t stand.” ~ Linus (Charles Shultz)
Clinging to people. Talk about a favourite thing to cling to! And it’s odd, because often the “clingee” is an imaginary person. Or, the clinging is to a relationship that is decades old.
To begin in reverse order: you could say that the older the relationship, the more impact it has. To a point.
From birth to age six or so, parents and tribes have the greatest impact, and what happens back then sort of settles in and becomes the basis for our belief system. As I said last week, this information is about ‘who I am,’ and we are force fed all of it.
I have no clue about anything, being freshly born. I am in possession of a mind that is like a sponge.
As a matter of fact, we learn more in the first six years of our lives than we learn for the rest of our lives, such is the nature of the absorption of data.
This data is accepted uncritically, and can only be dislodged with much effort ( in therapy and with Bodywork.)
The foundation for how we relate to both sexes starts with our relationship to our parents, and to a lesser extent, our relationship to other adults in our tribe. We see our parents, and from them learn:
- how to deal with the same sex,
- how to deal with the opposite sex,
- how ‘married’ people treat each other, and
- how parents ‘parent.’
This is not theoretical knowledge—it is rather ‘hands-on,’ experiential learning.
Mom and Dad did the best they could
Now, let me say something radical—almost all parenting (with the exception of abuse) is the best the parent can do. They learned how to be, to relate, and to parent from their parents, and most have not explored any of this strange knowledge with a competent professional.
Most parents, then, are parenting by the seat of their pants, and are screwing up at least part of the time.
Most of us begin to be aware that our parents aren’t perfect around 6–8.
However, an odd thing happens. The more mature part of our brain says, “Something’s not quite right here.” This mature part says, “Wow. Mom and dad are a bit nuts there.”
And almost immediately, the old part of the brain, (which has been swallowing mom and dad’s act, hook, line, and sinker, for 6–8 years) screams, “But mom and dad are perfect! There must be something wrong with you!”
Thus begins a cycle that plays out with all significant others with whom you come in contact. You detect something, and immediately begin questioning yourself!
Many of our attractions/repulsions come from what mom and dad taught us. Many find themselves getting into relationships with people who are disconcertingly like one or the other of their parents. Or the direct opposite. In a sense, people do this to work through unresolved issues with their parents.
That second part, the part about seeing a problem and going “It must be me!” leads to the other kind of dysfunctional relationship. This is the one where you go find someone who will fix you. You’re dumb, you’re broken, you need rescue, and the world, being kind, has plenty of “knights (of both sexes) on white horses, who love riding to the rescue.
One more weird pattern.
Many, many people are addicted to the image of who people “ought to be.” These people are not offering the white knight rescue. They are offering repair. They know how others ought to be, and spend their lives trying to force their nearest and dearest into the mold of their fantasy person. In other words, they much more interested in the guy or are gal in their heads than they are ever interested in the real thing.
So, here are the common varieties of clinging:
- clinging to the beliefs of infancy regarding ‘how people are’—and how they should both be and act like mom and dad said,
- clinging to the belief that all relationships should be ‘easy,’ and if it is not, it is my fault, (or my partner’s if I am into blaming)
- clinging to the belief that someone is coming to make life all better (or believing that you are the white knight—this one takes two to tango)
- clinging to the belief that the imaginary people in your head are ‘real’—that, in other words, the people you relate with ought to willingly shift their way of being to match who you think they ought to be.
The Alternative to Clinging
The alternative to this is the recognition that none of us instinctively or through tribal training knows much of anything about relating. Left to our own devices, we flounder through, making all kinds of dumb choices, most of which have nothing to do with the present moment and the person we are actually with.
I notice, for example, when Darbella disagrees with me, I go almost immediately to, “How dare she! Doesn’t she know how wise and all knowing I am?” This goes back to being treated like the Second Coming by my mother—who moved heaven and earth to keep me happy. This reaction, for me, is instantaneous. It is also seldom if ever expressed.
I have learned that this is what I tend to do, I watch myself, and I stop myself. In other words, I work at letting go of clinging to a person (my mother) from my past, and remember that Darbella is ‘right there,’ in front of me. I have a breath, and return to her.
The other piece to remember is that hooking up with someone:
- does not complete you (you’re already complete the way you are—whether you are aware of that or not)
- cannot rescue you (you’re not lost, helpless, or pitiful—whether you are aware of that or not) and
- does not mean that they will love you so much that you never stub your precious little toe.
Clinging to a romantic notion of what a loving relationship looks like eventually leads to great disappointment and often to a date with “Divorce Court.”
So, if you can’t cling to people, what do you do with them?
You hang out. You talk openly, honestly, and vulnerably. You share insights about yourself. You make physical contact, for hugs, for support, to have a shoulder to cry on, and someone to laugh with.
With people who turn you on, you enjoy the pleasure of erotic touch or the horizontal mambo. You create a space where you feel safe, and secure and clear, and in that port in the storm of life, you ‘be.’
And you offer the same to your partner(s.)
This week, notice how much time you give over to judging others, judging yourself, and clinging to ‘how people ought to be.’
Breathe, get some Bodywork, and work on letting go of the need to cling—either to a person, or to your fantasies.
Let it all go.
Let mom and dad go (finally!) and get on with living your life.
Question your beliefs about how relationships ‘should be,’ and especially question what’s up when you make yourself uncomfortable.
Move toward chargy, energetic things that formerly you might have turned away from.
Expose yourself. Let your intimate friends see more of who you really are.
Accept your close friends, completely and just as they are.
See how that sits with you.