Not Giving Yourself Away – Paul Ferrini

There is a tendency when people go into relationship to “go limp,” the way an animal goes limp when caught by a predator. There is a kind of “false surrender,” a giving away of one’s power to the other person. This sets the stage for later violation.

I urge you to go slowly and consciously into relationships so that you do not give yourself away. The desire to please the other, to be liked and accepted, to be loved and adored easily and quickly crosses the line and becomes self-betrayal. You must realize that relationships can be addictive. They can offer you the opportunity to escape from self, to avoid feeling your feelings.

If you are unhappy with your life, a relationship may provide a temporary escape from your troubles, but sooner or later your problems will return. And they will be exacerbated by the demands and expectations of your partner. When your ego agendas emerge, both of you will feel disappointed, if not betrayed. The emotional high of a new relationship promises more than it can ever deliver. If you experience “falling in love,” you can be sure that you will experience “falling out of love.”

The very expression “falling in love” should tell you that this experience is about self-betrayal. In what other area of life would you allow yourself “to fall” and be whimsical about it? The whole romantic tradition suggests a socially acceptable, nearly institutionalized, form of self-betrayal.

Just as the child creates a false self to cope with the unreasonable demands and expectations placed on him early in life, so does the adult create a “false surrender” to a lover to ease the pain of personal and social isolation. The reason the surrender is false is that it does not withstand the eruption of the dark side. As soon as the unintegrated, unconscious fears arise in the relationship, the feeling of “in loveness” quickly disappears. Were this a true surrender — a sacred union of two people committed to their own and each other’s spiritual growth — the dark side would be welcomed into the light of the mutual commitment to truth, authenticity and awareness.

In true surrender, one does not choose the partner just because he or she makes one “feel good.” One chooses the partner because, in addition to feeling good together, there is a shared vision and a mutual commitment to growth. There is a context, a healing environment, in which the self is both nurtured and challenged to evolve. This is a conscious partnership. It tends to be at odds with “falling in love,” because it is not a giving away of oneself. It is rather a commitment to be present with oneself and the other person through the ups and downs of experience.

Most relationships fall apart as soon as trouble comes along. The promise “to have and to hold, in sickness and in health” is for most people an exercise in absurdity, for many people go to the altar without having taken the time to get to know each other. For this reason, formal marriage should be discouraged until couples have lived together for at least three years. During this time they can discover if they have a mutual commitment to be present for each other.

Most relationships will not survive this three year period of mutual exploration. Indeed, many relationships do not survive the “falling in love” stage. That is because, for most people, relationships are a form of addiction. They are a form of substance abuse, initiated by a mutual desire to “feel good” and avoid the pain, fragmentation and isolation of the self.

Try as they might, no couple can avoid the dark side of experience. Couplehood is never a panacea for-the wounds and traumas of the individual psyche. At best, it is an incubation chamber. At worst, it is succession of eruptions, as all our subterranean “faults” are triggered by mutual trespass and violation.

Hard as it is to believe, emotional safety is not to be found in most relationships. That is because most relationships are addictive and temporary. They end in mutual distrust and/or abandonment. Yet when we “fall in love,” we have the expectation that they are offering us not only safety, but perpetual bliss. If there ever were a set-up in life, this would have to be it! What better way to punish yourself than to enter into one destructive relationship after another?

The question, of course, is how do we avoid this scenario of “falling in love” and betraying ourselves? The answer is not to refuse to fall in love or to isolate ourselves, but to “fall in love” consciously, or to simply “be” in love.

To be in love is to be present with the other person through all of the ups and downs of experience. To notice the attraction. To notice the judgments that come up. To notice the desire to please or to be taken care of. To see when one feels accepted unconditionally and when one feels conditions have been placed on the gift of acceptance and love.

It means to go into relationship with open eyes, seeing all that unfolds. It means not seeing selectively. Not seeing just what you want to believe.

It means telling the other person the truth about what you feel from the beginning. Not just sharing the mutual admiration and approval, but the fears and the judgments too. It means not hiding the truth from each other.

If you can keep your eyes open as you explore an attraction with someone, you avoid the “false surrender” syndrome. By staying awake through the process, you can avoid the pain and disappointment of waking up a month or a year later and finding out it was just a dream.

It all comes down to one question. “How honest are you willing to be?”

Are you willing to be with your feelings and tell the truth to yourself? Are you willing to be with your feelings and tell the truth to your partner? Do you want to inhabit your life fully or do you want to give yourself away? If you answer honestly, you will know clearly where you stand in your relationships.

As long as you have something to hide, there will be deceit operating in your psyche. Whether it is the deceit of the false self or the deceit of the false surrender matters very little. There is a part of you that is missing in action. Where did it go? And who are you without it?

All masks must be peeled away if we are to stand face to face with ourselves or each other. Until then, this is just a carnival, a public dance ritual the meaning of which has been forgotten.

Remember, brother and sister. I see who you are. I see the face behind the mask. Stop hiding from me. Stop giving yourself away.

Stop chasing pleasure and avoiding pain.

Stand up inside yourself. Be visible. Be vulnerable. Tell the truth. That is what I ask.

(The Silence of the Heart, Heartway Press)

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