Reaching Out, Letting In
In a dating situation, or even in our committed relationships, many of us fear reaching out and we fear letting the other person in. These fears are self-protective. Many of us have been deeply hurt as children and as adults, and we would like to avoid further hurts. Unfortunately, without reaching out, without letting in, there is no life. There may be a sense of safety, an illusion of control, but there is no vitality, no joy.
In order to risk reaching out and letting in, we need to learn about opening our hearts while holding on to ourselves. Reaching out and letting in involves revealing ourselves as we are rather than as we think we should be. It involves giving up trying to impress the other person by trying to give them what we think they want. And, it involves holding on to ourselves if the other person is rejecting, judgmental or hurtful.
To reach out and let in, we need a solid sense of ourselves. We need to value, know and express ourselves. We need to know deeply that we are good, worthwhile and loveable. We need to know that the other person doesn’t get to vote on us. Remember, you are a beloved child of the universe—you are good, you are loved, you are worthwhile.
It may be helpful to take a developmental perspective to understand why we tend to be so deeply wounded by someone’s judgment of us. When we are infants and young children, we learn about ourselves from the responses of those closest to us. If we see joy in our mother’s face, we believe that we are a delight, a source of joy, deserving of love. If we see anger or rejection, we assume we are the source and begin a lifelong journey of figuring out what is wrong with us that this person who is supposed to love us doesn’t.
Our task as adults is to realize that the look on our mother’s face was about her experience of life. We were not the cause. In adulthood, with work, we can learn that other people’s reactions to us tell us more about them than about us. In adulthood, we can learn to validate ourselves instead of being dependent on others to validate us.
On the other side of reaching out and letting in is an openness to seeing the other person as s/he is, not as we wish s/he was or fear s/he is. We need a willingness to see what is. Don’t get into a relationship thinking that the other person will change. If you are already in a relationship, give up trying to change or control the other person, even if that means you have to leave.
Dating is a time of learning, about the other person and about yourself. A committed relationship grows and remains vital as we hold the belief that we are continuing to learn about our partner and ourselves. To live a vital life, to have a vital relationship, we must experience the mystery. We must remain aware that we never truly, completely know another person or ourselves.