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Being in Relationship

It may not always seem like it, but we are all seeking a way to be in relationship – in our body and in the world. We rely on these experiences for definition and understanding of self. Nonetheless, there is a separateness that is inherent in the word. To relate means ‘to make a connection between’ or ‘to identify with’, implying a containment between two or more independent entities that seek to come together. Because we are separate in our packaging, we have no way of trusting that there are others ‘like us’, especially when the seeds of safety and trust were not sown at a young age. Sharing experiences is one way of reminding ourselves of our common ground; it is a way of being unified.

Biologically speaking, the longing to connect starts with the egg and sperm colliding, dependent upon one another to fulfill their purpose in the creation continuum. Integrating as one fertile egg, it burrows into the uterine lining, then latching on to mother through the umbilical cord. Eventually when the foetus outgrows the womb, the struggle for independence is won with an ability to push and reach – with the ability to expand outward.

Even when all that effort of the birth process has paid off with a new found freedom, babies rely on the nourishment and safety of the parental relationship for many years to come, and thus the bonding cycle continues. When the needs of an infant are met with support and compassion, further down the road they are empowered to reach out and find connection with others. After all, it is human nature to be interested and curious, to want to exchange information and stories. Beyond the desire, there is also also need for relationship intrinsic to survival.

All too often, however, there are conditions in the formative years that prevent us from knowing how to connect in a meaningful and supportive exchange as adults. Perhaps there was a premature separation from one or both parents, emotional or physical rejection, control or even abuse. More often than not, even well-intentioned parents carry their own insecurities and confusion that get in the way of in the ability to nurture wholly and unconditionally. Life is not perfect, nor is any one individual; that is what makes us unique, and it is what it means to be human.

Beyond shared experiences and beliefs, the underlying bond we all seek is the desire to be seen; to be recognized and understood. When one has received unconditional love and wholehearted acceptance in childhood, exposing one’s vulnerabilities can result in trusted, heartfelt connections and a deep sense of belonging.

If, on the other hand, those same vulnerabilities were criticized by our parents, they may have led to a sense of rejection, or even shame. This imprint can be so strong that it can impair our ability to reach out later on in life. It might manifest as fear of asking for help, an inability to share openly one’s true feelings, or to accept love. Instead, it is replaced with a pattern of flexing inward, a gesture of protection.

Fear of attachment comes from the fear of rejection. When there is doubt that others will be there for us, self-sufficiency is paramount. While a healthy dose of independence is important in navigating the world, we are not designed to to operate in isolation. We are designed to inter-be.

Exposing one’s vulnerabilities implies great risk and takes great courage, but it is also what leads to great love. Love doesn’t come in halves. Love comes with surrender and with a daring spirit to trust another fully.

It is only when we can let our guard down and share where we are, the joys and sorrows, that we are truly able to be met by another in fluid dialogue. This dialogue can lead to a healthy union, a union of two independent beings inter-being. This is true relationship.

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