Connection

From a talk by Tim Jackins at the European Regional Reference Persons’ Workshop, October 2003

We always need to be doing work on two fronts: one is out there—reaching more people, talking about oppression, spreading our ideas. The other front is back here where we develop the ideas and the capabilities of spreading them. We always need to come back and do this work together.

At this point we know more than we thought we’d ever know. We have better lives than we ever thought we’d have. We’re more aware of our lives than we ever thought we could be. We actually think and notice most of life, most of the time. We’re alive that much; it’s more than we came to expect. We have better relationships outside of RC and also amongst ourselves. Yet it’s clear there’s much more we could have. It isn’t just that there’s more work to be done; it’s that there’s more we could have in our relationships with each other.

This is something we always need to come back to. Two of the biggest limitations we have when we go out and try to communicate with other people are: (1) our picture of ourselves—how confused we get when we start feeling bad about ourselves, and (2) how unsure we are that other people want to have relationships with us.

We get confused badly and early about relationships and about ourselves. During all the time I’ve led in Co-Counseling, I’ve encouraged people on their relationships, on caring about each other. I’ve pushed in the last few years for people to not feel bad about themselves. These are two of our earliest confusions that make everything else more difficult ever after. They happen very early, and because of that we get “used to” them.

We’re used to feeling bad about ourselves. We almost don’t notice it. We’ve learned how to live that way; we can manage it. We’ve also learned to see life from a perspective of being alone. We calculate what to do next from a perspective of having to figure it out in isolation, as if no one else could understand. Those confusions infect everything we try to do and make us less effective and less personally involved. We do things at arm’s length, without allowing ourselves to actually feel alive with people.

So, you have to stop feeling bad about yourself. To feel bad about yourself is not a choice you have left. The things you’ve decided you want to do leave you no choice. You can’t do those things and feel bad about yourself. You made the choice long ago—even if you didn’t realize it. Part of what you have to face is that you should never again feel bad about yourself. A first step is to never believe those feelings. You will have them until that distress is discharged, but you never have to believe them again at all. You can fight against them, or ignore them, or just move your mind away from them, but you don’t have to go through life believing they’re an accurate picture of anything except what happened to you. (They do tell you something about what happened and how it infected you.) 

A year ago I thought of some questions that I’ve been asking people to try. I have them ask someone, not “Am I the most wonderful thing you’ve ever seen?” or “Am I special?” or any of those odd things our distresses want to know for reassurance, but simply, “Do you want me in your life? Am I part of the reality you would construct if it were your choice? Do you know me and value me and understand me enough that you would want me in your reconstruction of reality?” It turns out1 that most of us are not sure if anyone would remake the universe with us in it. Most of us feel like we’re an accident. “Oh, I’m here. But nobody else seems to have noticed; nobody else seems to have tried hard for me to be here.” Which isn’t true, of course. Often people tried very hard to make sure that we would be here, but when we got here, that didn’t show very well. The people who had worked so hard were caught up in their own struggles—in the ways they had been oppressed and hurt, and in their fears and lonelinesses—and they couldn’t show us that they wanted our existence.

So, many of us feel perplexed about being here. It’s nice that we’re here, but . . . I suspect this is one of the reasons people hunt for meaning, and some turn to a religion trying to find someone who attempts to say there is a connection between us.

In July I got a different peek at these issues. I got to spend a week with a new person—her third week—and got to see pictures of her from her first days. It reminded me of a lot of other very young ones I had seen and how different their expressions are from ours. What she seemed to be looking for was different from what we dare look for. What do you look for? Do you look for someone who likes you? “Do you like me?” There’s nothing very strong or positive or reliable in that. It’s really tentative. It’s one of the little pieces we have left from the big original questions.

I think we arrive looking for something very big and strong and clear, and it’s not “Do you like me?” No child arrives asking, “Do you like me?” It’s not the real question. It’s a tiny piece that we have left of it. We get hammered in such a way that we end up with these little splinters of the real question. They are the ways we can sometimes collect enough reassurance to contradict feelings and discharge and start to feel connected again, but they take on an importance that I think is misleading to us.

I think the real question is, “How am I connected? Who am I connected to? Where do I belong? Where do I plug in? Where’s my place with you?” This little one’s face was not happy. Birth isn’t easy most of the time for little ones, nor for mothers. There are often things babies need to discharge from the beginning. But also, unless the distress is heavy, there is clearly a looking for connection. “Where do I plug in? Where is my place with you? Are you mine? Are you the one I get to be close to, connected to, forever?” I think that’s close to the question we arrive with. “Okay, where’s my place? Who do I attach to? Where’s the mind I can see that’s like mine? Where are my people? Who is out there?” And usually nobody is in good enough shape to consistently respond. You see babies try for hours, days, weeks—months maybe, but then you see them not look anymore.

At some point we all got too disappointed. It got too hard to look expecting a response, too hard to look open-heartedly, and we stopped trying. And now we can’t look, we don’t dare look. It feels like if we looked that open-heartedly, if we really tried to find someone and didn’t, we’d be crushed.

We gave up. It got too hard. One more failure seemed more than we could bear, and the distress recordings took over. I think this happens to everybody in varying degrees. Some people keep a different tone than others, but I don’t think any of us got the opportunity, the right situation, for that struggle and hurt not to happen.

I think we get to go back and try to open it up. There has to be a possibility of finding out what that connection would be. We will do that. It will be possible—in what, three generations? There will be a generation that arrives for whom the odds are different. A significant number of people will have thought and worked enough that sufficient resource will be there. Somebody will be there to greet the new one—and will stay there for hours, and make that connection.

As for us, we are doing the work that will change this for all humans. But we have to do the work. We have to undo what happened to us. And every step we take in allowing ourselves to move in that direction will make a big difference.

Just the thought that “maybe we could” is where a lot of us have to start. “Maybe we could.” Maybe we could dare to look again and keep our eyes there and not go away, not fade back in, not get prim or proper or careful or playful, or whatever we do to hedge our bets,2 but just stay there—fight to stay there in that place where we had to give up. Anything we can do to remind ourselves that this is possible, that maybe we can do it, will make a significant difference in our perspective about each other, which will make all sorts of things more possible.

This is one of those distresses we carry privately. We lose the awareness of everyone carrying it. It seems personal and unique. We do have different versions of it, but I think we all carry it. And it’s chronic for all of us, so it’s hard to remember to question it. That means it’s one of those distresses that we have to help each other with. We need to not leave anyone to remember this battle by himself or herself. We have to remind and encourage our Co-Counselors to spend a little time on it, no matter what they want to work on. It’s like our feeling bad about ourselves: it confuses and weakens us in every other struggle. If we don’t do something against it repeatedly, if we lose track, then all of the other struggles are more difficult. We actually need to spend forty hours working on it this week, but (laughs) a few other things may intrude. Still, we have to not let our minds forget or we lose perspective. So, remind each other.

I have a picture I’ll pass around that should help set it in our minds. It’s a picture of a little one looking out. This is her second day after birth, and she’s looking out at life. We need reminders like this.

We get to figure out this struggle here, in the safety of our agreements as Co-Counselors. We get to be as fully human in our Co-Counseling relationships as we can. If we can do that here in these relationships, it should work in every other relationship, whatever the basis of it is. We should be looking for this much connection, no matter what it is we do together, no matter what arena we operate in with each other. We should be able to be that connected.

I don’t think we’ve thought we could be. Here in RC we’ve kept alive a hope that we could build something, and we have hopes and sometimes fantasies in some other places, but we need to be able to have fully human relationships everywhere—in all the places we interact, and do battle, and struggle for things to be right. If we actually achieve that connection and understanding among ourselves and others, it should be much less confusing to work out any other difficulty or disagreement, whether it’s due to distress, lack of information, or lack of resource. Imagine how much simpler and clearer everything we have to figure out will be.


1 It turns out means it becomes clear.
2 Hedge our bets means minimize or protect against the loss of a bet.

 


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00