I love it when you come across a simple idea communicated effectively in a short piece of writing, an idea that makes a set of complex feelings instantly explicable. Here Meg John Barker writes about how an experience of unrequited love can be a valuable source of insight into the self and the deeply hidden needs we have.
I recently developed a crush on someone I had not met – a friend of friends. I had heard marvellous things about how intelligent, interesting and engaging they were and got all excited. I did what everyone does and checked said person out online and thought, Oooh, they look hot, they seem kinda cool… There was a slightly troubling ageist-sounding phrase and tone on a site they run but I dismissed that twinge of concern, too caught up in the fantasy that this person might be a new and amazing connection for me.
Having spent a few weeks building this person up in my mind as, essentially, the answer to all my (not terribly real but imagined) problems you will not be surprised to hear me say that said person did not meet my exalted expectations. Obviously I blamed them for my disappointment. Clearly it was their fault that they were not the ‘one ring’ – I ruined most of my evening feeling let down and annoyed, and also confused about how disappointed I was.
It was on reading the article mentioned above that I began to understand how my looking for some ‘answer’ was actually telling me that I was needing something for and within myself.
Looking at the ‘crush’ and my feelings through the lens of the self and what it might be telling me, I suddenly saw how easy it had been for my mind to weave an elaborate fantasy, and that what that fantasy represented was the idea of there being ‘one’, an ‘other’ who held within them the solutions to all my stuff. As a polyamorous person, I was both horrified and fascinated by how very Disney-princess my thinking was… Did I really think that that person would make me live happily every after? Clearly part of me still did.
This showed me just how deep the conditioning was – how powerful the need to think that there is some way of being in the world, some way of managing one’s life, or, usually, some ONE who will make all the pain and sadness go away and make everything amazing (for ever after). It also highlighted something else that I had not realised I was looking for: someone to lead the way for me, someone to do the hard work of hacking down the emotional forest in front of me when I get tired of doing so, who will read the map when I get lost, who will take over when I have had enough.
Maybe this is what the mind does, sometimes: it uses the mechanism of feelings to tell us something. Like dreams, feelings should be examined for what they are telling us rather than taken at face value: they are signposts to further understanding if we take the trouble to go down the path and explore.
The article by Meg John made me think about what those feelings of a crush were really telling me about what I need. The thinking and processing I did showed me that this excitement was really part of a quest, a search for a relationship that would make me FEEL good (most of the time). As soon as I became aware of this thinking, I realised how right it was and yet how wrong… yes, there might be an inspired and inspiring person I have yet to meet but, equally, I am also already surrounded by many who inspire and energise me. I also know that feelings of joy are not permanent, that there is no ‘happy ever after’, there’s just how you feel right now, a flawed and perfect set of feelings in a flawed yet also perfect world. I saw how my brain was doing what brains all too often do: it was looking for an all-in-one-package solution… an easy option.
I also saw that what I needed most was not another person in my life, but actually to take more time to look after the one person who was already doing so much heavy emotional work, so much leading and doing: me.
As soon as all these thoughts became clear, I was able to give myself a hug and remind myself that I already have all I need. That it is in the missing pieces and the dark spaces, in the conscious exploration of paths of thought down which our feelings are trying to send us, that the understanding and magic is able to happen.