Insecurity, God, and disappointing relationships
I have a dear friend with whom I was speaking today about neediness. She is facing divorce and being independent, not having a man around to take care of security, household maintenance, etc. In addition, she was feeling very needy for someone she loves very much as an emptiness inside her chest, a kind of sucking void that left her feeling weak, AND fearful of losing him given the intensity of her neediness state which triggered fears of loss and abandonment. To prevent feelings of impending annihilation, she conjured up feelings of guardedness, to attenuate the needy feelings.
However, she did not run from those neediness feelings, which I told her were the key to remaining emotionally open, and accepting of those feelings as necessary for her full integration as a complete human being. Stay with the neediness I told her. Just do nothing and hang around in that feeling until it is just another feeling, not something to guard against or run.
Personally, I love the neediness feeling, the feeling of a sucking void in the chest, feeling small, vulnerable, and also needing protection from the world’s threats, real but especially imagined.
Then she said something very profound. She said:
“I really understand the dynamic of running from that feeling of neediness, and interpreting it as a neediness for God, because God is a feeling, an idea we create in ourselves as something huge that can protect us from any danger, like in the 23rd psalm. “I walk through the Valley of Death and I fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff protect me.” This God story is our feeling, interpreting a presence I feel within me as ‘Him’ who protects me. This God feeling and story is my creation, therefore totally under my control. I wear this story as a protection from feeling the vulnerability of merely loving and depending on another human. I need an omnipotent lover and protector.
“Needing a real human person is not a situation I can control. That person may go away. That person may die. That person may be driven away purely by my neediness of him, and I cannot risk that. It is easier and safer to imagine an all-powerful God who I need, to protect myself."
I told her this neediness scenario is something she really needs to feel completely and let the full panoply of associated feelings and stories wash through her over a few hours. Just relax, lie on your back and feel everything, for feeling the entirety of neediness will allow for a permanence of humility, an understanding you are never in control, that each moment is instantaneous and then lost, and each moment then becomes a movement of grace.
Of course there is an obvious corollary to this insight.
What happens when an idealized other, a guru, an omnipotent mother or father figure, a husband or wife who always has supported us, suddenly “falters,” and says, “Honey, I need you! I feel so small and vulnerable and I need you.”
What happens then? The father figure, the God figure, the omnipotent mother says to you, “I need you!”
You see, that idealization, that idea you had of the all supplying, omnipotent protector is shattered, he or she is seen to be just like me, small, vulnerable, and needy.
“Whoa is me, my father has betrayed me. What am I to do? I cannot take care of both my father and me.”
What happens? Either you withdraw from that disappointing object, or you go into the feelings of extreme danger, vulnerability, with no protection, no security anywhere.
The other thing that might happen is that when he or she whom you depend on, expresses very deep neediness; it brings out your own neediness in glaring visibility. It ignites your buried neediness, and the deeper the neediness expressed by the other, the deeper your own neediness is felt evoking a fear that you will feel needier, and thus less secure, than you have ever before felt in your life, except maybe as an infant, and that is too frightening a situation to contemplate.
There is the fear you might be stuck in that neediness forever, forever bound to another needy child, forever insecure, lost, unprotected.
But you see, that is a story you have created based on past abandonment experiences as an infant and child, and everyone has had dozens if not hundreds of abandonment experiences as a child. It is part of growing up and growing separate. Yet so few want to relive this dependency, even though it is key to leveling the grandiosity and narcissism of one’s own need to feel self-contained and self-healing, grown up.
The real “healing” that most all of us need, is to feel the neediness, the smallness, the impotence thoroughly and completely for a long, long time, and to come away from it, to grow out of it naturally, organically, within the confines of real, human relationships, and not the artificial therapist/guru or patient/chela relationships.
But how many are willing to do this, to chance a mere human relationship? How many are willing to rely on themselves to feel these feelings deeply and grow up with them as opposed to fleeing from the fear and insecurity into an artificial adult image of ourselves?
An email to me:
I wonder if we can embrace fully our humanity as you speak of while we are clinging to God as an idea.
The idea of God that we have is of our own making, our own creation; it makes for the perfect scapegoat.
This desperate sense of neediness I feel is so much more tolerable if I can convince myself that it is really a neediness for God.
This intellectual wrapping makes neediness glamorous, respectable - few would dare demean another's neediness for God; but neediness for another human being is often seen as a sign of weakness and is shunned by us.
I often make these feelings more tolerable by coating them with sayings such as; "It is really my need for God?" And guess what? I do not even know that for myself. I have been told this, I have read this...I do not know it for myself. But, in this way I 'fill' that hole of neediness rather than 'feel' that neediness.
But, in clinging to this belief, this idea of projected neediness onto God; it causes me to shun, to run away from the neediness that I feel between you and I. And when I run away from that 'neediness' I withdraw emotionally.
You see, I can control my image of God, but I cannot control what happens between you and I; so to admit and feel deep need here brings up a lot of other feelings: namely fear and anxiety due to the uncertainty.
Thank You for helping me see through this; and even this can be a subtle escape from 'feeling'. I am working on that!
TO ME, EMAIL #2:
As a result of sitting with the deep feelings of neediness today I noticed that what I found most difficult is not the 'neediness' per se, but the fear that arises around allowing myself to need someone, a human so deeply. Fear that says, don't get too needy with that person, what if they reject you...Ah, fear and rejection.
I also noticed something sort of twisted about myself. When I was feeling really needy for someone this morning, along with the fear of being rejected by this person I also wanted others that I was close to feel this same way.
So, as they reached out to me like they normally do, I purposely ignored their attempts to contact me. I wanted them to feel their (my) neediness, I wanted them to suffer the way I was suffering. I wanted them to fear being rejected by me. Basically, I had identified with certain feelings within myself and I projected these feelings onto two of my closest friends and behaved in such a way that they would almost be forced to feel what I as feeling.
It was almost sadistic the way I felt. I really wanted them to suffer, to totally identify with me in my suffering and I didn't care how much it hurt them.
I was shocked at how twisted all of this felt and even more shocked that I liked how powerful, how omnipotent it made me feel.
It felt good to confess it; to be open about it; this helped me to just accept it as another feeling, another movement within my sense of presence.
This is called projective identification. We hurt in some way and the only way we feel free to open to another in communication, is if we are sure they share our own pain. We create that pain in them, so that we feel close to them. Our hurt is conveyed to them by our behaviors. When we see they share our pain, we feel close and there is a shared love.
This is an extremely primitive and basic form of nonverbal communication and love. But there is also the sense of omnipotence that we can make the other hurt.
As the person matures, this type of "communication" and primitive pre-psychotic processes fall away.