Positive identity and tenderness

We need to get to know ourselves and have some concern for our own plight. Then we can begin to have some sense as to what’s going on for others.

We all have some kind of ‘knot’ we are working on. Something about ourselves we would prefer to keep hidden from others and often from ourselves. Usually it comes down to a form of greed, hatred or delusion. These may sound a bit strong, but it’s likely we are on the spectrum somewhere, however watered down it may be.

We can come into this cycle at any point and for any reason. There is no end to it and if we look carefully enough, no beginning. This needn’t be seen in a negative light and I will explain why.

During the cycle of greed, hatred and delusion we become attached (or push away): attached to the object of hatred, attached to the object of desire, or attached to the delusion that we need more. By extension we then illicit greed: “I must have the latest model” of a brand: we then have the deluded sense that we belong, or become angry because we can’t have what they have or have just dropped that thing which gives us our sense of belonging and then beat ourselves up for being stupid enough to drop it and then feel angry when someone tells us to stop behaving like a child and then have a deluded sense that the person who told us off doesn’t like us and then… you get the picture. It goes on…

How do we get out of the cycle? And what do I mean by the idea that there never was any greed, hatred and delusion, if only we look carefully enough? And do we have to ‘get out of’ anything?

I will come back to this, but first I’d just like to write about ‘useful identity.’ What does that mean?

I once read that, “disappointed love creates sadness.” And that the cycle of our greed, hatred and delusion is created out of nothing because we thought we lacked something. I didn’t really know what this meant until I started to work on myself. Each of us will process things differently. We will all use different language, different metaphors and devices to help us understand ourselves, but for me I remember when I was walking on English moorland with my parents. I was about 4 years old and decided to take a stroll into the woods! I say woods, because that’s what it seemed like to me. In fact the woods were just tall ferns. I was very little and I became lost. I started to panic and cry. My father found me.

Often there is a connection between our sadness, our tears and our panic. Often underneath our manifest difficulties of hatred, frustration, greed, disappointed expectations, a craving for more or the sense that there is never enough love to fill us up, is sadness. A very deep well of sadness, and sadness becomes panic as we realise we are alone. I remember that from childhood and know how similar feelings can affect us in adulthood

When I work as a therapist with someone who experiences panic, at a certain point I try to encourage clients to gradually find some stillness with what is disturbing them. Not infrequently their panic has hardened into frustration and anger. Or they may relay how being panicked they became defensive. This is symptomatic of a panic attack, when feeling like there is no way out and socially isolated the client may report they have become abusive to others. Whilst over simplifying the process, the idea is to work backwards, so as we try to sit still with our emotions we find that there is something else pushing up from underneath and more often than not we find sadness and tears.

But it is from this place that we can find a tenderness that we didn’t know we had.

There needn’t be on going morose sadness, or depression, but a simple expression of where we are: an identification with what has been pushing us around and a simple honest acceptance of what was causing it; an acceptance of our panic and as such the unfolding of the sadness underneath it. It is the identity and acceptance which is important, because here our mind and body can become aligned and not in conflict. As such our mind can help us take the next wise steps of what to do. The alternative is confused denial. The mind will reciprocate and will tend to give us confused messages back, which again leads to panic. So, trying to sit still with the panic and returning to what motivated it is a pretty good, though of course not always easy, option.

In fact if we realise that panic is a form of greed then we may even feel more motivated to want to deal with it. I am not moralising here nor am I trying to force something on anyone, but perhaps when we have had enough bites of the cherry of life we may come to see that there are some guiding principles that are on offer if and when we need them.

The surprising thing is that in this process, we find something we didn’t know we had. If we find sadness at the end of the storm, then this sadness can be a place of great tenderness and love: a place where we feel compassion not only for ourselves, but for others too.

Tenderness is a very big deal.

It takes courage to find it and courage to show it when we have perhaps been caught up in the cycle of greed, hatred and delusion.

When we come closer to this place we begin to know a little of what I mentioned at the beginning: there never was anything from the start: no greed, hatred and delusion. When we accept ourselves, in whatever place we find ourselves a small miracle awaits us. Within harsh reality there is surprising tenderness, which we never knew we had because it does not belong to us and was never separate from us from the beginning. When we accept ourselves, we fall away into an openness and acceptance, which gives back what we always craved for. Love. This is a start of a journey, of always returning and always beginning. Of gratitude for who we are, of identity and change.

There is nothing to run away from. You are safe.