Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Loving: It's complicated

Can doing good things for others actually have a negative side?

Yesterday I read this in one of my daily readings: "... the life of a caretaker is as addictive as the life of an alcoholic. Here the intoxication is the emotional relief that temporarily comes when answering a loved one's need." It's not the first time I've heard that. But I had to stop and think about that a while. The words definitely caught my attention. I'm still thinking!

And then Mark Nepo in his The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have said, "Though it never lasts, in the moment of answering someone's need, we feel loved. While much good can come from this, especially for those the caretaker attends, the care itself becomes a drink by which we briefly numb a worthlessness that won't go away unless constantly doused by another shot of self-sacrifice."

Then Nepo asks us to reflect on people whom we meet more than halfway. He asks us to imagine them loving us if we did nothing—and imagine loving ourselves if we did nothing.

I am sure he's not saying that doing good for others is always similar to the drink for an alcoholic—but more that he's wanting us to think about what we need (and get) from our caretaking. Often our giving to others is a mixed bag: a gift of love to them as well as a fulfillment of some need for us. It's often both/and. Nothing wrong with that. It's just important to be aware of it.

Hmmm, lots for me to think about here. Since so much of our living and loving is complicated, this can get pretty tangled. But it's worth some reflection, especially for high achievers and doers like me! How about you? Does it contain any wisdom for you?

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