“She didn’t even bother to call me on my special day! It was the first day of my new job and my friend just didn’t remember!” said Angie, my thirty-four year old client. “I cannot believe how forgetful she is. I thought by now she would learn that these things hurt me so much!” Angie fretted and fumed for most of the session, venting about how her best friend constantly disappointed her.
I could see how painful this was for Angie; how troubled and hurt she was by what she perceived were her friend’s neglectful ways.
After much empathizing and commiserating, I said to her, “What if, instead of reacting to your friend as if she were the “bad” one, we turned our eyes inward and asked ourselves if we were actually the ones who were creating our own grief.”
Angie immediately pounced on me (as I knew she would), “How am I the “bad” one? How am I creating my own grief?”
I said to her, “You are first creating your own suffering because you are expecting something of her that she is unable to give. You are placing on her a burden that she is ill-prepared to fulfill. Did you ever think of it in these terms?”
Angie took a long time to grasp what I was saying.
When she finally understood, she said, “You are right. She has always been this way. And I have always resented her for it. It is like a habit that we have both fallen into. I prefer to whine and complain because it is so familiar to me. It is far more enjoyable to believe that I am the victim of my friend than taking the time to understand her. But once I do, I see how freeing it is. It feels weird but definitely free.”
Many of my clients are like Angie. They take a long time to understand what I am saying. Let’s take it a bit more slowly…
We all grow up in an imperfect world. There is no such thing as a perfect parent or a perfect child. Even the most conscious of parents is going to miss meeting their children’s needs some of the time – let’s not even begin talking about the unconscious ones!
Safe to say, that each one of us grows up with some of our core needs missing – some more extremely than others. As our imperfect parents were unable to meet these needs, we were not only left with an empty void in its place but also, without the tools to meet them for ourselves.
Quite naturally, we look to others – people or substances – to fill this need. The degree to which we turn to external objects and people depends on how great our inner schism is…how big the inner emotional void.
As we unconsciously scavenge the earth for the salve to soothe our wounds, we almost feel entitled to demand that the object of our obsessions meet our needs. When they don’t – as they inevitably cannot heal these primitive wounds – we enter into great resentment and even rage when the fantasy of rescue fails to come true.
It is this inner neediness that creates dysfunction in most relationships. It causes us to see others as a fantasy-salve – instead of limited mortals – and then, when the salve back-fires, we enter great turmoil and anger.
When relationships are predicated on the expectation that a need should be met by the other person, it will always go awry.
Unmet inner need = unrealistic fantasy of object or person = unmet expectations = resentment and rage = conflict and despair = dysfunction and self-sabotage.
Not only do we project unrealistic expectations on others, we also do the reverse: we allow ourselves to be the vessel of someone else’s unrealistic expectations. This is often called co-dependency or enabling. It occurs when we – because we are empty from within and out of touch with our authentic selves – mistakenly believe we are responsible for another person’s pain and should be part of their growth. This lack of self-worth causes us to have extremely poor boundaries.
Contrary to how it appears on the surface, when we enable another – out of a false fantasy that we can “fix” them – we are not actually “giving” them anything. We are feeding our own false fantasy that we are rescuers and magical healers. In this way, our giving is really all about our own self-absorbtion. In our own perverted way, we believe that if we “give” we will finally be seen, heard and validated. Just like one who gives the unrealistic expectation onto the other, the one who receives it is equally at “fault.” Both cripple the other under the weight of their need. Although the enabler appears more “noble” they are actually equally responsible for the dysfunction. By letting the one who dumps the expectations on them believe that they can, they allow them to depend on the enabler to “fix” them. As no one can ever “fix” another human being, both get caught up in an endless cycle of enmeshment and dependency.
It is only when we are aligned with our own authentic self and power that we will end this unhealthy dynamic of searching for emotional security from a source external to ourselves.
It is only when we are aware of our own inner needs and seek to meet these needs on our own that we will be able to engage in healthy relationships with other whole and healthy individuals.
When we are clear that we are own resource for healing and that no-one and I mean no-one can heal us from our past except ourselves – we will free others of the burden of fixing and filling us up.
When we are filled up from within we will not allow another human being to be dependent on us and will not desire to be needed beyond what is healthy. We will allow our loved ones to love us yes, and even need us when there is a true need, but we will resist the desire to be seen as a savior, a martyr, or a rescuer.
Many women especially need to un-learn many of their conditioned patterns which have made them addicted to being seen as “the saviors” – because when they do, they actually cripple both the one they are claiming to save and at the same time, decimating their own authentic self.
People will constantly disappoint us if we are not aware of our own misplaced expectations. 99% of our disappointments stem from the fact that we had an unrealistic expectation that we unconsciously burdened the other individual with in the hopes that they would do the “work” for us – the hard work of transformation that we were not courageous enough to do for ourselves.
The only one who we can ever – and I mean ever – have expectations of is ourselves. Period. Not our parents after a certain point, not our children, and certainly not our spouses or friends. None of them came on earth to rescue us beyond a point. Sure, it is our job to take care of our loved ones, but not in a manner that creates dependency or enmeshment. Then love turns to a deadly mix of passive reliance and toxic control.
Each one of us are precisely designed to engineer our own healing. We just need to believe it and activate this healing element within us all. We are innately and enormously powerful beings – we just don’t believe we are.
It is time for us to take our own healing into our own hands. It is our responsibility to shine with the highest light force and to access our limitless capacity for courage and authenticity. When we do, we cast away toxic ties to other people or substances and begin to fly free – singular but deeply connected to our purpose here on Earth.