Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I Love You Because You Are Sooo Selfish

Enemy of the Republic wrote a thought provoking post this past week. (July 3rd) She rained a heavy rain of questions about relationships. When do we know when a relationship is not good for us? How do we know when trust in another is appropriate? What do we do with the disappointment that others can bring to a relationship?

All of us have experienced the relationship gone south. You know that gnawing, twisting sandpaper on our psyche type inflammation that asks “why do I care or put up with these people, when they don’t even care about me?” I know I have been there. In a funny twist of sorts it’s likely the person I was thinking about was thinking the same of me.

So I’ve been thinking about the concept of selfishness. Oh yes, selfishness. But I don’t think about the problem perhaps as you might think I should. The conventional response would be that because we are all selfish, or at least our friends are all selfish, then that is the reason we have these difficulties. Or put in another way, how can they pay attention to me if they are always thinking only of themselves?

I think maybe the clue lies 90 degrees from that conventional thinking. It is important to be selfish.

Yes I think so. But I want to redefine the sort of selfishness I mean. I’m not talking about self absorption or pompous behavior that denies the existence of all others around us. I’m not talking about greed or malice normally wrapped around our definition of selfishness.

I’m talking about a type of selfishness that I want to re-define right now in this little essay just to make myself less confusing. Let’s call my idea of this trait ‘self-awareness.’

In most western spiritual indoctrination we are taught to practice self-denial, abstinence of pleasure and denial of our individual importance. I saw a ground sign at a church this week that read 'Servant's Entrance.' It was pointing to the main entrance of the sanctuary.

Practice of that doctrine sets us up for certain failure in human relationships. Only by understanding self can we hope to bring good relationships and friends to our open doors. Only by using every resource available to create our internal awareness can we summon the love required that will transform our feelings from mere acceptance of others to love of others.

How should we interpret the spiritual teaching that “the kingdom of heaven lies within?” By understanding that we must love ourselves before we can hope to love others we smooth the way for the use of the Creator’s natural law, and bring the powers of the Universe and Creator to our personal relationships.

In my mind we need always understand that we must love those around us in order to receive love in return. No one is more toxic than the individual that does not like herself and leans ceaselessly on others for emotional support and negative absorption.

Within this idea lies the paradox that we must first love ourselves before we can gather love to us. To love ourselves requires a great deal of inner awareness, a glimpsing of the kingdom of heaven within. The paradox is that this selfishness of looking inside for our truth, or our ‘self-awareness’ is exactly what frees us to love in a way that draws love back to us.

There are toxic people among us. Some of our husbands, wives, friends and relatives may well be toxic to us. This becomes the largest challenge we face in relationships, the question of how to separate ourselves from the toxic individual and continue to love self.

Separating yourself from the toxic individual does not necessitate that you feel bad or become sadly grim. We only need continue to love and let that toxic individual learn at their pace; if they will. But they are not meant to be our burden. Instead, our job is to find the selfishness to accept the love at our core and then set it free around us. This includes showing that love to the toxic without accepting their poison.

We should search for a degree of love of self and inner awareness that can withstand the tug and strain of those that do not love themselves and therefore sand away at the relationship you offer them.

We must separate ourselves from the toxic individual, continue to love ourselves and find our own inner-awareness. Without inner-awareness and love to project, nothing will return to us and we become the toxic one.

We cannot love ourselves by depending on others to do the task for us. This is the myopic approach of the toxic. They say to us, “please love and nurture me because I don’t have the strength to do it myself.” There is a key to life and happiness in exercising a degree of selfish behavior. Turning the phrasing of a famous song writer upside down, “Don’t be looking for love in all the wrong places.” It lies within, and when we find it then it becomes a light we can shine for others. Then we become the best friend anyone could have. We become a friend that needs nothing, except another selfish friend.

Embrace the paradox.


fatty ~ said...

it's all true. according to your definitions anyway. Its difficult however, to judge issues of love and hate in the relative sense of human relationships. Do we love others as we love ourselves, or do we accept love in the form offered by others?

Is there a universal principle defining love? "love one another as I have loved you" possibly?

Seven said...

Your last sentence solves the questions posed by your earlier sentences.

patti_cake said...

I think you really do have to love yourself before you can expect anyone else to love you.
I'm all for cutting out the toxic people in your life but alot of times it's easier said than done. Great food for thought oh, wise one, Seven!

Seven said...

Thanks for reading. It was kinda long and dry I guess? When I talk about removing toxic people, it can take many forms. It may be cutting them loose entirely. Or in the case of a parent or spouse, perhaps not allowing the poison in, but concentrating instead on what we find inside to give back while using a toxin shield to guard ourselves.

patti_cake said...

My MIL & favorite SIL (Buffy) have a horrible relationship. My MIL treats her like dirt and a month ago she said "enough". Now I have assumed the position as the MILs whipping girl and it's tough. She criticizes me on EVERYTHING(looks,weight,parenting abilities) but she's Stacy's Mom and I am a big girl and can take it. It's tough though. Real tough.

Grant said...

Since I love me so much, I just skipped reading the post and decided it was all about how Fatty obviously loves Americans, especially me. The world is a wonderful place when you can disregard other people, like your neighbors and employers and Europe. This post was obviously inspired by me, even though you mistakenly gave credit to some other person, I forget who but it doesn't matter because she's not me. Me me me.

In closing - booger.

Okay, this actually reminds me of the joke about Christian values - if it feels good, don't do it. Suffer in this world in the hopes you'll get a better part in the sequel.

Seven said...

Toxin shields up!

And I didn't even show you the pic of the Servant's Entrance. I'll put it up now.

Angie said...

Once again you have outdone yourself. Loving ourselves is something most of us know we should do but it's probably the one thing we have the most trouble doing.

Reach said...

Seven, you have hit your mark and you are dead on target.
I have continued with two problems, until my recent changes, which you have addressed on this post.
First, as I have previously stated, "I am not a Storm-Rider", and "I would retreat to the Beaches I know".
Second, I had assumed both roles as my inner capacity was full and ready to give, and the one who was only a void.


Seven said...

That is the truth...well said.

Thank you Reach. Healing thoughts to you.

Rob said...

7, et al. This gets to the heart of the meaning of life. Great post!There seems to be two approaches; the selfish gene approach which simply put is a "me first" attitude. The second is an altruistic appraoach, you first. If everyone, and that means EVERYONE, served others first, no one would be left out experiencing the joy of life. If you love you so much, that means you can overlook all those little, or big, faults you have. Imagine how much easier it would be to overlook other's faults. Imagine... as John Lennon would say.

Jenn said...

Right on. I totally agree with what you wrote. My 'tipping point' in the marriage was when I began not liking myself due to the poisons I was absorbing. I thought for so long that if I could just love him and show him unconditional love - he'd get it. But he doesn't love himself so all he has to offer is poison. So I selfishly left the relationship. Truly.

Seven said...

Thank you for the kind words and your own analytical input. I agree. And yes that John Lennon song can be used in so many ways indeed....thanks for reminding us all.

Knowing this is true for you (from reading your posts) I sat here with a smile reading your comment. I am so glad you got your hands on the key to the cell door. Run away with love, the little hand inside your own.

Leesa said...

I learned a long time ago to get rid of the toxic people in my life. It was such a relief. I may have gotten grief for it at the time, but in the long run life is so much easier.
Life's too short.
Great post :)

Seven said...

Just remember to keep lovin while you're moving....but then again, I can look at your photos and know you don't need the reminder...have a great photo day 69...

poet said...

lurker poet here. this one struck such a chord with me and my life. you would not have recognized me 6 years ago. i was a door mat type. terribly slim (almost ill looking), vacant in thought and action. i was not in a loving place in my life and i knew that love waited for me eventually. i took the steps to rid my inner and outer self of toxic content (i got grief, and it was very, very was a long journey through self discovery and self love and now i look in the mirror and recognize the eyes looking back to me. i am ever so greatful for k, her kids, and my parents. they have been with me through it all and i'm much stronger for it. this is such an important post. thank you for putting it perfectly.

Seven said...

You are welcome. Yours was a journey of discovery and knowledge it sounds like to me. Gods Peace.

Cathy said...

"But they are not meant to be our burden."

Wow, I've prayed for two days for some kind of understanding of the situation between my boys and there father. After reading this post I think I can say the prayer has been answered.

My boys are 15 and 21. There father is an "all about me," type. They are very low on his list of priorities. He calls twice a year if he isn't angry at them about something. Every other year or so he will email demanding that they visit.

They have no interest in being a part of his life. They love him but distance themselves from him. I could never understand that. In my co-dependent mind if you love someone you work at a relationship no matter what the problems. Probably why I have ulcers!!

If your thoughts on the subject are correct then maybe what I have managed to do is raise two young men who know how to love themselves and others and, at the same time protect themselves. Maybe it's time for me to stop worrying about them and start admiring them.

Seven said...

Thank you for reading and commenting. Warm thoughts to you.

Jack Nasty said...

Seven, sorry can't do it...Rick, just wanted you to know I really enjoyed your post. Beautifully writen and very wise.

Just Grant mentally challenged???

Ilias- said...

What a heart post. This hits home in a big way for me. I am learning to find and keep that love in myself. Loving myself is a continuing challenge when I give my power away to others. When I keep it to myself, it inspires me and keeps me safe and cozy. Though I do continually find toxic people around me, I've actually adapted an interesting defense... to heal them. I've adopted satsang as a form of defense for toxic invaders. This is a recent discovery and not at all what I'd prefer to do with my energy. I would like to hear more about the toxic shield as I feel that I have none or don't know how to put it up. Do you think other factors can influence our self-love or esteem? I feel that parts of life being unfulfilling can produce lowered esteem. How do you spot the toxics? How do you know if you are being one or being affected by one?
That's a lot of questions but this is a great post and has peaked my interest.

Seven said...

Jack Nasty,
For some reason I'm thinking that's not really your name? Both comments you have left here were not at all on the nasty side, but rather wise and clear in their articulation. Anyway, thank you and I'm glad you read it all the way through, cuz I thnk its a bit dry, philosophical and not at all funny, so thank you. Grant? I think Grant offers a different perspective on how he sees life is all. Like the rest of us he is searching and assembling what he believes and what he wants to hold as truth. He is a creative writer/artist and well you know how they are!

Well..that was a lot of searching....I don't have a clue about satsang, but I will google and try to learn. I better address those other questions in a post or something cuz now you are making me go think more...;p

Rob said...

7..what can I say? You found a wellhead in this one, and you've made so many people really happy. Quite a gift. I hope this keeps going for awhile.

Silent One said...

I have tried 3 (different) times to read this. For some reason I just can't grasp my mind around it. I only get to the second or third paragraph, and my mind shuts down. For what ever reason , I am not meant to read this yet.

From the comments, it sounds very interesting... and worthy of a read... just not by me yet.

One day....
it will be the right time.

Enemy of the Republic said...

Thank you for remarking on my post. As I wrote to Fatty on our group blog Live Love and Ponder, I am reading a book about the effects of emotional abuse. We who have suffered from it may try to make things right with an emotionally unavailable person who will correct what was done to us in the past. Unfortunately, that person is as ill equipped to do so as the original perpetrator. It also explains addiction: we seek for that thing to fill the void left by the abuse, but what we really need is the healing and genuine feeling of love, not the pale substitute.

Silent One: I understand your point. I wasn't ready a year ago to write the post that Seven referred to, much less respond to what he is saying here. So you are farther than me. I applaud you.

Seven said...

Thank you...very kind words.
I tend to sit down and start writing with a central idea in mind, yet without a 'thought-through' structure and it just goes from that so much else in life there may be an audience ready to read and hear and others that wonder if I am we all just go on doing our thing....and hope some one hears us, whether we are 2 or 92, eh? See ya in Charlotte my friend.

Silent One,
I think it just means 'as you say yourself' it may be meant for others. Glad you visited here to check ...... :-)

I think we all suffer abuses of some type or another as we go along in life. I have. I understand from your writing that you have as well, and I couldn't agree more with what you said in your comment. Usually the one most ready to really love us lives inside us.

Shorty said...

I think you've got a really good point here...
I guess it's like a balance of not being too outward or inward focussed, but I don't actually think the Christian "love and serve others" approach is supposed to be in any way saying people can't love themselves.

And with "toxic" people it comes down to a balance again... But it's still quite hard to know who to do that.

nice points though
=D Shorty

Seven said...

Thank you for visiting and reading. I am surprised someone had not commented sooner on the portion of the post dealing with the 'servants entrance'. My idea there is not specifically an attack on the service of Christianity. In fact I believe in the concept.
In my personal background of quite rigid protesant upbringing it was taught above all else. However, I have also come to understand that many well meaning (or otherwise)praticioners and religious leaders attempt to create control of those being led by diminishing their sense of 'self' or self importance. The idea that we are all ants on the hill working for the church and the religion with no need to distinguish ourselves as individuals is in my mind defeating and even an anti-christ message.
I beleive Jesus never intended for this to be the interpretation of his message. Because it has evolved in that fashion however it becomes a diminishing philosophy or practice to our search for the inner Christ or inner Creator in us each.
Hence I disagree that 'servants' enter the church, but rather would have a sign that reads "Entrance - God's Children."
This was my point.
Always glad to have input from others and share thoughts.
Thank you Shorty, and great peace..

fatty ~ said...

seven. thats was my point. the idea that there was something i didn't have the answers to everything dare crossed your mind?

you inspired a post on LLP. Maybe not along the same lines you were thinking though.

Lynilu said...

seven, I was a bit like silent one. I tried reading this and just kept drifting off, not because of your content but because I was wrestling with my own personal issue for a couple days. Rereading it tonight, I'd like to offer a thought. I believe that until I love myself, until I can experience the inner peace of self-love, I can't be loved by another. If I haven't loved myself, how would I recognize love from another? And love might be given, offered, but if it is not accepted or absorbed, I think it is not love. Love is not a singular directional force; it must be continually offered and received over and over or it dies.

Let's say I become enamored with you. You have not learned to love yourself. Unless there is some miracle (oh, here we go!) you don't recognize what I offer; you interpret it as "cute" or "convenient" or "a damned nuisance." But you don't internalize it. I might continue to attempt to stuff you with it, you might continue to toss it around for whatever purpose, but over time, it will cease to be love. It will mutate into possessiveness, obsession, etc. We can discuss forever the many possibilities of how that could play out, but love is not self-sustaining; it needs to be absorbed and returned to the flow.

Another analogy - I could speak to you in French all day long, but if you don't know the language, neither of us will benefit. It is not reciprocal.

Gee, I could have just said that last example, huh? Nah, I love to turn the words almost as well as you do!

Reach said...

I think I am back.....
I hope that I captured the passion.


Seven said...

Are you implying that it is possible that 7 does not know all? That is very presumptious of you! Seriously, I went over and visited LLP. Its a great site! I'll be back there to visit and share.

I agree that the application of my theory offers no guarantee that our love transmission will be perfectly received. My point is that it is our challenge to offer it consistently through thte process of knowing internal peace after internalizing out respect for our individuality and acceptance of our individuality and personal divinity. Just as the Creator can love us, and have us reject that love, it follows that we can offer love to others and have it rejected. Very good point; I accept that logic willingly.

Great. I know its been a struggle for you lately, but we're all hoping for your health and the medals history is worth a read for sure.

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