Love and compassion have not come easily to me over the years. It seems as though I have built up several walls that get in the way of truly embracing another person and opening myself up to emotional vulnerability. This extends beyond mere romantic relationships to my family and friends. It is about time I figure myself out and why I feel so guarded and unable to love totally and unconditionally.
I recently had a break up with a woman I had been dating for a little over a year. I had never met anyone like her. She was sharp and intelligent, wise beyond her years, intensely curious, and open about the world. She was funny and goofy and quirky in all the ways that I am. I felt like I was able to grow with her and she opened up a world of spirituality to me that I had previously not known. It seemed like this was someone made for me, our energies flowed seamlessly together in so many ways. And yet I found myself unable to open up, unable to embody unconditional love and to fully trust.
Over the course of the last few months, the unresolved emotional conflicts we had grew out of control. She was not getting the emotional nourishment and support she needed and I was left feeling suffocated by it all. I couldn’t bring myself to open up and let the channels of love flow through me. I couldn’t get past my own mental barriers in order to fully trust and give myself over to this person. What was it? Why was I still so immature in my capabilities to love? Why did I harbor so many defensive barriers?
After the breakup, I had some space and time to really reevaluate myself, to become introspective, and to meditate. I tried thinking back to my past relationships, my divorce, and my past traumas that perhaps left some unresolved emotional issues and caused me to construct more walls. Then I realized that this goes beyond my romantic history. I have always seemed to have issues with opening myself up completely, of loving and appreciating people on a deep and meaningful level, even with my parents and close family and friends.
I realized that certain beliefs were holding me back from truly giving myself over to someone else and loving them intensely and intimately. One of the beliefs that was revealed to me through careful introspection and meditation was my belief in my own independence. I had a perception of being this stoic, independent person who didn’t need anyone. It’s as if my ego had created this false image of myself as an archetypal lone cowboy, a strong male who was self-sufficient and sovereign. This could also help explain partly why I wanted to travel so much and live in different places. I wanted to solidify this idea that I was out on my own, forging my own path.
I realized that many males try to emulate this archetype, this illusory idea that somehow, they are their own island. I think in many ways this image is engrained in males, at least in many subcultures I was exposed to from an early age. Where did this archetype begin? It has certainly been in hero mythos for millennia right up to the lone cowboy personas of the 1950s to today’s action heroes and superheroes. This idea that as a male, I should shut myself off from certain emotions and a dependence on others and force myself to live as independently as possible is patently absurd.
This idea that I should live separate from the influence of other’s and carve my own path alone is just that, a myth. It belongs in myths because it is completely and entirely unattainable. Not only that but it creates barriers, at least in my own life, to accepting the emotional nourishment of other’s, to allow myself to be vulnerable, and to ultimately return that love back to someone. So, at this stage in my life it is my goal to utterly destroy this illusory image I have build for myself. Everything about who I think I am is wrong.
Let’s just break it down and reveal how profoundly ignorant the archetype of the lone wolf, the lone cowboy, really is. I was born in a completely dependent state. My parents and extended family had to care for me, totally and selflessly. I was raised in a stable environment, received food, shelter, love, and education. Everything I have in my life right now I can trace back to someone else helping me. My parents and family continue to support me, emotionally and in times of trial and turmoil. My friends help encourage me. I have people whom I rely on, especially so in the event that my financial stability is torn down. I have people whom I can rely on and I should recognize that for what it is, a tremendous blessing and a fundamental component for being alive today and being able to do the things that I do.
This dependence on others goes so much deeper. Putting my family and friends aside, I have to step back and ask myself a few questions. Who built my house? Who grew my food? Who purified the surrounding water in order that I can drink it? Who provides the medicine that keeps me alive? Who made my clothes? Who conceived of, constructed, manufactured, and shipped this laptop that I am writing on? Who educated me on the use of language in order to communicate these ideas? You can go down this road of questioning a hundred more times. Everything about my life that props it up so that I can survive and function is due to other people. The collective activities of others create a world where each of us can thrive.
And again, it goes deeper than that, for the greater natural world provides us with the essential nutrients and tools of life that allow us to function and create. Animals can provide food, clothing, companionship. Streams and bodies of water provide liquid nourishment. The trees create an atmosphere rich in oxygen for us to breathe. The sun heats all of this up and distributes energy all across the planet which gets cycles through each of us continuously. We are in the middle of an interdependent web, a fragile ecosystem fundamentally built on symbiosis and the dependence on others. When I reflect on these facts, it reveals how truly ignorant the idea of the lone wolf really is. It’s also a tremendous exercise in generating gratitude.
The lone wolf is a complete fabrication. It is an illusion created by the ego to build itself up and create some form of prideful identity. What the ego does is it takes something you do and erases the entire contextual fabric of interdependence leading up to an endpoint. You look at that endpoint alone and say “Wow, look at what I did, I must be special!”. The ego tricks itself into thinking it has done something all by itself. It almost seems like a defense mechanism to bolster up a particular identity that my ego is based on. Without this illusion, it all comes crashing down like a house of cards. And this is exactly what needs to happen.
The important thing going forward for me is to entertain the notion that everything I think I know about myself is wrong. My goal is to destroy these false points of identity and destroy ignorance wherever I can find it. This false idea of my own independence is what creates barriers to opening myself up completely and loving without condition. It creates barriers to being emotionally vulnerable and learning to be grateful for each moment and the circumstances that led to it. Now that I have the knowledge of this ignorance, it will be my goal to subvert it every day and to make sure it never sees the light of day again. I am no island and understanding how we all hold each other up will begin to open the doors to love and gratitude, and hopefully a more fulfilled, meaningful, and compassionate existence shared with others.