Isolation is dangerous. The recent shootings in Las Vegas are a testament to that. When one person shuts off from others, and spirals into his own tortured mind, developing ideas of revenge and hostility, the result can be devastating. The white supremacist groups in the US are a testament to that. When individuals or groups of people stay isolated in their own perspective, we see the incredible harm that comes from their commitment to distorted belief systems that seem preposterously untrue and limited from a broader perspective.
On the personal path of healing, isolation is dangerous in similar ways. When we withdraw and start to perceive ourselves as separate or alone, this viewpoint starts to crystallize a feeling of frozenness…no warmth, no forgiveness, no humanity towards ourselves. Typically we tend to isolate around shame: the areas where we think we should know more than we do, where we’ve made a mistake, or where we judge ourselves.
In this article I’d like to introduce a different option for those whose tendency is to turn away from contact in times of stress. I’d like to introduce the concept that as we mature in our spiritual awareness, our need for support remains constant, both in the places where we feel most afraid and in the places where we feel most self-assured.
Learned Independence vs. Essential Independence
When in life did you start to think that you had to figure everything out on your own? For many of us, that was a very early experience. Perhaps our parent was absorbed in their own drama, unable to really see us, unable to meet our needs. So we said, “great, I’ll just do it alone.” This starts of pattern of learned independence…independence born of necessity and of emotional abandonment. It is an independence that turns away from others and assumes its own superiority or distance in order to feel safe.
Adults with learned independence like this can often look very put together and may even walk around with a strong display of strength. When you approach them, you may feel their field pushing you back, as if to say “look at how put together I am! I for sure don’t need you!” Yet if you look a bit deeper you’ll see tension and emotional collapse underneath, and a deep fear of vulnerability. I find with these types that the more bravado they show up with, the more they are actually feeling lost and in need of support.
If this character type describes you, and you’d like to learn something different in life, consider speaking directly to the part of you beneath the outer show. Start to question the voice that says “I know best,” “I’m on my own,” “I have to figure this out.” That voice is the voice of pain and aloneness in you, it is not your higher self or wisdom.
What I like to call essential independence is another story completely. It is the type of independence that develops when we have healthy bonds (or chakra cords) with our loved ones. It is a type of independence in which we branch out on our own and try new things from the perspective of feeling loved, supported, and believed in. It is an independence that has nothing to prove, no one to impress but ourselves, and a healthy agenda of wanting the best for ourselves without needing to compete with others. It will not hesitate to say “help!” when it feels lost or confused, knowing that the support of loved ones, mentors, and friends, actually builds its power.
Learning to ask for Support
To develop more essential independence, we need to face our fears of vulnerability and accept our need for support. I was talking with a client about this issue recently and at the prospect of asking for support she said “but it’s no one’s obligation to support me!” And while that is very astute, consider the possibility that your loved ones would actually really enjoy supporting you. Chances are, they have been waiting to feel included in your one man show! Asking for their support, love, and attention in the areas where you struggle can actually be received as a gift by those who have been trying to show up for you all along.
When a highly independent type asks for support, it dispels one of their major myths: that others enjoy and depend on their strength and capacity to be self-sufficient. In reality, usually the ones around them are suffering from the isolation that it creates in relationship.
What Kind of Support are We Talking Here?
When I first really learned to ask for support, I was amazed that the people around me had all kinds of ideas about ways in which they could help me come out of my then depression. I ended up spending an evening every week at the home of one of my favorite mentors, and we would just sit on her back patio and talk and laugh and she would share stories of her life and tease me, mostly. It was refreshingly real and cathartic and helped me imprint to the feeling of what real love is. My boyfriend at the time sent me quotes and articles about overcoming mood issues through exercise, diet, etc. Even though it was basic stuff that I perhaps could have found on my own, having him generate it for me gave me the feeling that other people really did care about my well-being. And all of this grace came because I admitted my struggle to people I loved and asked them for help.
For people wanting to attract or improve relationship, developing a support network is one of my most prevalent suggestions. I find that often what prevents deep relationship is our inability to truly participate in a relationship of higher vulnerability. When we consciously up-level our existing friendships, it opens the energy field to deeper possibility in love. By up-leveling I mean taking them out of passive relationship and into intentional relationship. Passive relationship is the type of friendship where you just “show up and see what happens.” Sometimes the results are very real, and very wonderful, and other times it keeps things somewhat superficial. Intentional relationship is one in which we ask for something from the person (without demanding it!), or we talk about our intention for what we want to experience together. Intentional relationship is riskier because we expose ourselves more, but it also gives back much more.
My closest friend reminded me recently (and I paraphrase), “When we first started spending time together you said, ‘it’s important for me to have relationships of full honesty and intentionality.” She mentioned that that set the tone for our whole friendship, which has been very real – truly loving and also truly transformational because when emotional stuff surfaces either between us or in our personal lives, we support each other in facing it head-on.
Here are some examples of ways to up-level an existing friendship or relationship:
- Ask your friend if they can help you in a specific area of life. Tell them how you’d like to be supported or ask if they have a suggestion for you. This can be as simple as “I really want to get in shape and you’re so good at keeping to a workout schedule. Do you have any tips for me as to how to keep to my goals?” to more significant/vulnerable areas of life.
- Bring to light a dynamic in the friendship that you’d like to change, ie, “I notice we both drop the friendship when we start dating a new person. I’d love to feel more continuity despite new love interests. Would you like that too?” This opens the possibility of transformational dialogue in the relationship. Try to stay with “I” statements to keep the dialogue out of blame or victimhood.
- Start a conversation about something that is meaningful to you, rather than just staying on the surface.
- Ask them about an area where they have more understanding than you do, rather than being ashamed that you know less or feel confused in that area.
- Believe that you deserve something real with the person!
If you try these techniques you’ll see fairly quickly whether the person is interested in a deeper bond with you, or not. And if not, you can adjust to that reality and keep believing in your need for deeper bonds. Yes, you can have them! And they will show up for you as you keep opening to life/love/spirit. It doesn’t necessarily make sense that all friendships will be deeply intentional, and it is totally ok to have many friendships that don’t plunge to the depths. What is worthwhile, though, is taking risks in friendships and love relationships to find the potential, to have clarity and relaxation around what you have together. It’ll give back to you and the other person in wonderful ways.
One of the biggest dangers to relationship is getting stuck in your own perspective, so intentionally developing a support network for when times get tough can help you see beyond your biases and fears, and move through difficulties with much more grace on your side.
I love this quote from Osho about the isolation of staying caught in our own perspective. “Either you can be in existence or you can be in the self – both are not possible together. To be in the self means to be apart, to be separate. To be in the self means to become an island. To be in the self means to draw a boundary line around you…the self isolates. And it makes you frozen – you are no longer flowing.”
Coming out of isolation does not mean you have to give up your positive habits of independence, of going within for guidance, or with recharging on your own when you need to. Instead, adding more love and support can contribute to a fuller self. You can still be a light unto yourself, and the support of deep bonding will help that light emerge with more fullness, balance, and radiance.
For more information on how I help people come out of isolation and develop deeper connection in love, friendship, and community, please contact me for a free consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org