Who were you before you learned who you had to be to receive love?
I hate that so many innocent children feel like they have to trade in their authenticity for connection. Sometimes I think conditional love is almost worse than no love at all.
Sure, not being loved for who you are is tough, but knowing who you are is the single most important thing you could ever know.
Conditional love, on the other hand, requires self-abandonment, which feels like being buried alive inside your own life. Trapped. Powerless. Somehow your fault, but also not your fault at the same time.
It’s fucking brutal.
Something I still struggle with.
It often seems like being honest about what I feel, think, want, and need will hurt people’s feelings, create conflict, or be super inconvenient for everyone. Especially for people close to me, so I often decide on “Don’t shit where you eat at.”
But over time — in the absence of raw, uncomfortable, authentic, human sloppiness — those connections turn into cordial pleasantries and games of patty-cake that are ultimately unfulfilling.
No one wants to be in a relationship where being yourself and speaking your truth doesn’t feel safe.
Unfortunately, this often has nothing to do with the other person.
Ok, some people are abusive, shitty, and unsafe. But more often than not, the problem is unresolved developmental trauma that lingers in the nervous system as a chronic and indiscriminate feeling of not being safe.
You see, trauma is a feeling, not a memory. Memories have a time-stamp; they’re obviously in the past. But feelings only exist in the present moment. This is why trauma always feels like clear and present danger. And that shit can follow you around forever.
Meet My Trauma
I think the basic layers of my trauma lasagna that compels me to shrink in relationships are as follows:
- I don’t wanna jeopardize my connection with people.
- I don’t wanna cause any harm.
- I wanna be liked/loved.
- I felt like a burden growing up and I never wanna feel that way again.
The top three layers are pretty easy to sink your fork into. But that last layer is deep, ya’ll. A lot of it is charred and stuck to the pan, too.
The uncomfortable truth here is that being human is often supremely inconvenient. It’s messy, upsetting, and unpredictable. No connection is guaranteed. I’m definitely gonna harm others, no matter how good my intentions. Not everyone will like me. And yes, sometimes I’m gonna feel like a burden.
I don’t have many options besides running away or embracing it. And life just won’t stop showing me that self-abandonment is no longer a possibility.
Try, Try Again
The First Noble Truth of Buddhism states, “Life is fucking rugged and tippy-toeing doesn’t help.” I may or may not have indulged my creative license in translating that from Sanskrit, but I’m pretty sure that’s the gist.
And since I’m no Buddha, I’m gonna go ahead and cut myself a little slack for not having this shit all figured out by now. But it seems to me that I still need to build my tolerance for being human — having feelings, not knowing what I’m doing sometimes, disagreeing, saying uncomfortable things, letting people down. The whole sloppy ass enchilada.
I’m recommitting myself today to the practice of leaning into wildly unpleasant conversations with the people in my life.
You may be thinking, “Doesn’t Adam preach about the importance of vulnerability and authenticity all the time?” Yes. And, as it turns out, writing articles about this stuff doesn’t make it any fucking easier.
I don’t know if that’s inspirational or the most discouraging thing you’ve read all day.
But it’s authentic… and I think that’s the best I can do.