I had a very dark dream last night – the feeling of it lingers with me nearly a day later as I write this. I dreamt that I was dying, but it was weird. For lack of a better way to put it, I had decided to die. It was a kind of quiet resignation, almost like that feeling you have as you realize how tired you are at the end of the day, put all tasks on pause, lay down, and give in to sleep for the night.
My coffin was out, it was in a home of sorts, not quite a funeral home, not quite a regular house. I just had a feeling the end was here, so I walked over, laid down in my coffin, and began to succumb to death. I felt my mom come over, I thought she was going to talk to me or comfort me as I slipped into the darkness, but she instead started smothering me with a pillow. I was wildly confused. I fought it. I didn’t want to die like that, and I realized I actually didn’t want to die at all. Somehow she backed off, the pillow went away, and so did she. I sat up in my coffin and called out to her, saying that I didn’t want to die and that I wanted to talk to her. Despite her attempt to anxious attempt to speed my demise against my will, I still wanted to be comforted by her. In the dream I didn’t necessarily see the irony or conflict there. It’s only now in the writing of it that I begin to see the meaning of it.
I suppose that’s one of the strange things about the parent / child relationship, especially when we are young – we can love the one who also hurts us, and we don’t see the hurt for what It is. Children don’t understand the paradox of that situation, nor paradox at all.
This is problematic when we bring that same kind of child like love to our adult relationships, we become prime to love our abusers and real harm takes place.
What then does it look like to move into an adult version of love? One that can comprehend paradoxes, that can both hold space for the imperfection in another and yet not permit abuse?
Young children do not see their own imperfections. As humans, we can only see in others what we see in ourselves. Therefore, young children cannot see imperfections in others, which is what enables this ability to unconditionally love the abuser.
When an adult cannot really see their own imperfections, this child-style love continues into adulthood.
As an adult, there is a difference between being self critical and being able to have an honest relationship with one’s shortcomings. Self-criticism is a derivative of the value system of our peer group. We become aware that others don’t approve of us because we don’t measure up to standard A, or standard B. Those aren’t OUR standards, they are theirs. This is not being aware of one’s shortcomings. This level of awareness is hardly aware at all, and is still blind to one’s real imperfections.
To be truly in relationship with one’s imperfections, one must disassociate from the opinions of the tribe. This is the only way to have an honest conversation with one’s self about what one truly thinks about one’s self.
Being in true, honest, comfortable relationship with one’s shortcomings is prerequisite to experiencing good love. We must be comfortable with our own paradoxes, our darkness and our light. Once we do that, we are ready for good love – the kind that does not harm, does not oppress, does not manipulate, but rather coexists, co-creates, co-operates, and builds a lifetime of synergies, memories, and legacy.