Reflections in time of lockdown
Article by Mike George
There are probably four kinds of people. Which one describes you the best?
1 There is the MC’s – Monkish Characters. They have chosen to live alone or just be on their own. They have a deep resistance to other people. They are not comfortable in company. They suffer from frequent Jean Paul Sartre moments, namely “Hell is other people”!
2 Then there is the CCs – Cool and Self Contained. They are OK being on their own.They don’t seek it and they don’t resist it. They are also OK with relating to others. They are ‘cool’ with both dimensions and simply accept where they are i.e. alone or with others, at any given moment.
3 Then there is the YoYo. They are frequently stressed by others to such an extent they will even say “I need some alone time”. But as soon as they are on their own they start craving the stimulation of company. One minute being alone. The next minute seeking company.
4 The fourth and last type are the ADs – Addicted and Dependent. They are the needy people. They need the stimulation of others to feel OK in themselves. They hate being alone for any reason. They immediately crave others or some kind of stimulation where others are involved.
As we are asked to live more isolated lives there is no shortage of advice on what ‘to do’ during our lockdown. Dr Google will provide us with hundreds of ideas. But there is much less advice on how ‘to be’ alone during these challenging times. Certainly, self-isolation is a bit scary for some as they are not accustomed to being on their own. Being only with ‘myself’, being isolated, is not an easy reality for many people.
So perhaps these few insights may help. Perhaps not.
There is an old saying that is found on many wisdom paths. We come alone and we go alone. Most people nod their head in recognition of this simple insight. It reminds us that, at the deepest level, we are always alone. Even in a crowd. Even when we are with our family!
But that is not the same as lonely. Feeing lonely is what happens when we are uncomfortable being alone and we long for the company and the stimulation of another.Sometimes our TV or laptop or smartphone is the source of ‘the other’ as they relieve our ‘I’m feeling lonely’ emotions!
So it’s necessary to understand why. Why are more people more lonely than ever before? Especially in a world that is busier with more ‘other people’, more stimulation than ever. Why are we so uncomfortable in our self when we are left alone? Why do we fear aloneness? And how do we overcome both our fear of aloneness and the loneliness itself when we are asked self-isolate?
Social Beings or Social Dependency
It’s often said that we are social beings by nature. And it’s often believed to be unnatural to be on your own. Sometimes it’s perceived to be unsocial. But we also recognise that dependency, in any relationship, is unhealthy. Yes of course we are all dependent on the farmer, the supermarket and even social care if you can no longer care for our self. But not that kind of dependency.
The ‘dependency’ we explore here is the kind where we have become dependent on another or others for what we feel – not physically but emotionally. It’s where the presence of another is essential to relieving our anxiety, perhaps restore our sense of who and what we believe our self to be. Many people who watch sports each weekend are dependent on others for their sense of ‘who I am’ and to stimulate the emotional state they feel. Not to mention the trip to the pub with mates afterwards. Yes, as social beings they are ‘being social’ but perhaps it’s gone a bit too far as they become ‘dependent beings’. If they don’t get their sports fix with ‘my crowd’ they often become irritated and grumpy, even depressed.
The same applies to many couples. One becomes dependent on another and may eventually suffer from an anxiety that the other will cease to be present in the relationship. It’s the fear of being left alone and the imagined feeling of loneliness that would follow. Or there is the fear they may ‘love me less’ or ‘give me less attention’. Yes they are socialised as a couple but perhaps a dependency has developed on one side. Maybe it’s been there right from the start of the relationship. Perhaps there is even a form of co-dependency where one is dependent on the other being dependent!
These are not new ideas or insights. They simply set the scene where we understand an attachment has formed in peoples minds. Attachment to the team, to ones fellow supporters, to the game, to the other person in the relationship, to the objects in ones life, to the position at work etc. Attachment and dependency come together. And where there is any attachment there must be the presence of fear. Fear of loss or fear of damage. Fear that we will be separated from our attachment/dependency and ‘isolated’.
So far so obvious!
The next question is why do we become attached to, and dependent on, anything or anyone or anywhere in the first place? We live in a world that celebrates attachment. We talk of family as our ‘dependents’. Many even believe that attachment is necessary in children’s early years. The exploration of this question requires a subtler awareness, but once we understand it fully it may be possible to liberate our self from our anxieties around being alone.
It all begins as soon as we are born. That’s when the conditioning starts. We learn to value more what is outside in the world than to know and value what is within us. We are taught to believe the world around us, the material world, is the only reality.
There are probably three stages we all go through.
Arrival and the Early Years
Stage one is the moment we arrive we are surrounded and bombarded by energies which do not affirm our wellbeing. We are born into an environment that is filled with various forms of fear, sadness and anger. As these unnatural energies come at us, usually in the form of other peoples emotions, we have to create strategies to deal with them and even to protect our self. We don’t ‘think about it’ as we have not yet learned to think things through, we are just in ‘reaction mode’. A mode that is, by necessity, more often defensive. In short, we arrive feeling secure but it’s not long before we start to feel threatened. Surrounded by others emotional energies we start to feel ‘insecure’, to some degree or other. Birth tends to be a launchpad into learning how to ‘cope’ with the world.
Perhaps in the ‘reactive strategies’ that we learn to develop we are able to create successful ‘moments of protection’ and we do feel occasionally secure. Perhaps those around us, namely parents or parental figures, do have moments where they are in a state of unconditional love which allows us to feel safe and secure. But by and large we are surrounded by anxiety, worry, sadness, irritation, frustration, perhaps full blown moments of anger and many other emotional disturbances. Basically it’s people projecting their stress either directly at us or into the environment we share with them.All contribute to a sense of insecurity that we then learn to habitually create within our self. Feeling insecure becomes a habit that is then woven through our personality.
Some say this is how our personalities are shaped as we deal, in our individual ways, with the surrounding ‘energies’ in our earliest years. But that’s another seminar. It also explains why most of us will likely spend the rest of our life consciously and unconsciously searching for that lost sense of security with which we arrived.
Our Blanket for Life
Stage two is the comfort blanket stage where we find something in the world which we use to give our self a sense of stability, a sense of security. If it’s not another person (parent) it’s usually with an inanimate object as the relationship with that object is stable and consistent. It gives us the opportunity to create feelings of security, occasionally at least.
Growing into the World
Stage three is when we are actually taught to believe our sense of security is to be found in the material world ‘out there’. Whether we seek money or position or achievement or fame or a romantic relationship, we are all essentially seeking to restore that original sense of security. The most popular source seems to be in a relationship with either one other or a group of others. We are socialised and part of that socialisation is the belief that our sense of security will only arrive when we find our place in relationship to someone or something or somewhere ‘out there’ in the material world around us.
It’s during this process that we absorb the fatal idea that other people and circumstances are responsible for our feelings. And it’s this combination of seeking security in other people or the world, plus the belief that ‘they’ are going to ‘make me feel’ OK, that sets us up for the continuous creation of feelings of insecurity. Why?Simply because every ‘thing’ around us at the material level is changing and we have no control over anything ‘out there’. Even other people’s moods, desires, feelings and behaviours are also continuously changing. Stability is impossible to find externally and therefore a sustainable sense of security is impossible to find and feel in relationship to anything or anyone in the world.
Walk any wisdom path and they have one thing in common. The insight that a stable sense of personal security can only come from within one’s self. In one sense, some would say paradoxically, it’s only when there is no attachment to anything or anyone in particular, but a non-attached relationship with everyone and everything in general, that we can create a feeling of security. Definitely not an easy challenge. And to most of us, schooled to ‘believe’ dependency is natural and attachment is good, it may even appear to be plain wrong!
To get there it’s necessary to discern the two energies at play in life – the material/physical and the spiritual/consciousness. We have material bodies which we need to look after and care for. So in one sense we are dependent on food, air, shelter and light, which are aspects of the material world. But the invisible world of our own consciousness is non-material. It is completely under our control. But only if we have a level of awareness that allows us to be the master creator of our thoughts, feelings, perceptions, decisions and actions. Yet that is not easy as the very fact we do not feel secure and we are searching for security is a sign we do not have the level of self-awareness that is the foundation for such mastery.
So what to do? Here is one way forward.
Notice feelings of self security are strongest when you are either openly loved by someone OR you are loving towards someone. It’s unfortunate that being loved by someone tends to lead to a form of dependency and the emotion of anxiety. And it’s unfortunate that when we give our love to someone that tends to lead to expectation of a return and a sadness that turns to resentment if there is no reciprocation.
But love is the key. However, not romantic love, Hollywood love, sexual love! That’s the baggage that comes automatically in most peoples minds with the word ‘love’. But if we can become a little more aware we will notice that when we ‘give’ anything – from time, attention, help, guidance etc, – without wanting anything in return, we are being naturally loving. We don’t think, “Aha, now I am being loving”, we just are. A little more awareness and we may notice what we feel in such moments. We feel not only good in our self, as all our anxieties and insecurities disappear, we feel we are being of value to another. It feels natural. At an even deeper level we may become aware there is a feeling of freedom of spirit and our heart may even soar. Most parents, in their relationship with their children when they are in their ‘innocent years’, will know such moments. It’s unfortunate that as the child grows such moments tend to become less and shorter!
So when we are being loving our anxieties disappear and we feel we are secure within our self. We no longer seek, need or are dependent on someone else saying ‘I love you’ or indeed doing loving things for us or even being with us. If they do, that’s great, but we are not dependent on it. Why? Because we have found a state of being within our self that is loving in itself. And when we express that state of being we feel ‘at our best’. And in such moments we realise we are reminding our self that ‘love is what I am’.
So the connection is made. When you are being your natural loving self without needing to think it, you feel secure within your self. Which is why it’s also not a new insight that the ultimate security for every human being is love. Not the love of another but the realisation that ‘love is what I am’ followed by the active expression of that state.
Which leaves us with one question. If love is what I am, what is love? It is simply a word that describes a state of consciousness. It is a word that points towards the highest state of being that is possible for any and every human being. It is a word that describes our natural state. However we cannot know it, feel it, be it, unless we express it in action. Unless we give it away, so to speak. You could say we have been cleverly designed! Then you know who you are and what you are. A being of consciousness whose highest state is described by one word. It’s unfortunate that it gets mixed up with concepts of attachment, dependency, desire, passion and even possession. But that is also ‘another seminar’!
And when we are in a loving state and allowing that state to shape our intentions, thoughts and actions, we feel naturally secure in our self. The search for security in what we are not i.e. in the world out there, comes to an end…naturally! Our anxieties disappear …naturally. Emotional dependencies come to an end …naturally. Loneliness comes to an end …naturally. Being alone or being with others are both equally OK. But only when we start acting from our highest state of being. As you do there is an awareness that your sense of inner security is stable. It now arises from inside out. Your neediness for the stimulation of another or many others is gone. You realise they were simply ways of escaping responsibility for the creation of ones own intentions, feelings and actions.
Now you also know your value. You know you are a source of the most valuable energy in the world. And you also know no one can ever take that away. As your sense of security is now arising from inside out so your fear of being alone is no more.
Yes, your right, easy theory, but not so easy to practice. How do you begin? Just start.Just do something for someone without wanting anything in return. For example, do something that says ‘thank you’ to those amazing, wonderful people on the front lines of our health services. Then watch what you feel. Perhaps a little emotional at first. But gradually you will come to see love is not just another emotion. It is the natural state of being of every human being. It’s a personal reality that has just been temporarily lost.
Question: What does love mean to you – take a few moments and write it down.
Reflection: Recall three past encounters with other people where you acted with love and not because you were attached or dependent in any way.
Action: Start acting with love – in other words ‘doing’ things without wanting anything in return. Sounds easy but it’s not, until it becomes second nature, which is really our original nature!