One of the most important aspects of successful relationship is to be present. Plainly put, that means "showing up", in the sense of being both physically and emotionally available. It also means being aware of both our partner and ourselves, as well as how we complement, and contend with, one another.
Emotional availability is a most dangerous business, as it means that we are also volunteering to be vulnerable. Our fear of rejection is often more powerful than our need to be loved in the manner in which we deserve. Given this, we are apt to participate in a relationship, while simultaneously remaining aloof. But in protecting ourselves, we deprive ourselves of realizing the full potential of what lies before us.
This posture is typically motivated by a subtle anxiety that we won't get the love we want or, worse yet, that we are unlovable. Rather than recognizing ourselves as the perfect, divine creatures that we are, deserving of all things good, we view ourselves as somehow flawed. And, rather than exposing ourselves as the wretched creatures that we obviously are [sic], we remain removed.
So, we may enter into relationships second guessing ourselves, or willing to distort who we are in order to meet the perceived demands of a relationship. We may feel that if we do something that might be regarded as negative or unwelcome by our partner, it will lead to our rejection. Or, if we are not who they expect us to be, they will cease to love us. In light of that, we may alter or even suppress our authentic selves for fear that we will not be acceptable as we are and, in turn, not get what it is that we want, and don't recognize we deserve.
The odd thing about these obstacles to our presence is that they are, by and large, self-created. More, they are self-inflicted. We become attached to an idea of who we are based on our expectations, assumptions, and ideas about the way the world works. If we believe something to be true, then, in our minds, it is true. Perception becomes reality, and, because we are so close to ourselves, we often cannot see the forest for the trees.
Let me give a personal example to illustrate this idea. I was always told that I was bad at math. I developed, and sometimes continue to perpetuate, my personal expectation that I will struggle with numbers. When confronted with a restaurant check or the need to balance a checkbook, my anxiety about numbers kicks in, based on my expectation of failure. I fail to "show up" (by making a careless mistake), and the prophesy (read: expectation) becomes self-fulfilling. I get to be right! I evidence that I am, indeed, bad at math. Yet, I have a degree in Quantitative Analysis, and have taught the subject at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. The real evidence does not match the false expectation. By deconstructing the expectation with the gathered evidence, the authenticity bubbles to the surface, and I can figure out the tip.
These self-imposed obstacles also present us with an opportunity. And that is the opportunity to realize our own authenticity, to stop portraying ourselves and start being ourselves. We do this by challenging our belief systems, by "gathering evidence" to support or refute who we believe ourselves to be. By establishing our personal sense of authenticity, we become more present in the world and in our relationships.
So, in challenging our expectations of ourselves, we can become more present. In the case of relationships, by challenging the expectation that we are not lovable or will be denied the love we deserve, and breaking free of the shackles that keep us where we do not belong, we can realize the full potential of both ourselves and our relationships. By breaking down the barriers that lead to our more authentic selves, we can heal that relationship and then feed the relationships that define our lives, and our loves.
© 2008 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved
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