April 16, 2020

Beneath every Neurosis is a Sweet, Human, Holy Need.


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“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” ~ Brené Brown


“You’re being needy,” that nasty internal voice jabs.

No. I have needs. There’s a difference.

Anxiety stirs in my breast. It is my go-to neurosis. Is it mine? Is it the fear wafting from the collective body? I can’t always tell.

In an attempt to curb a global pandemic, life grinds to a near halt. Trauma echoes through the silence. Feelings, like divers desperate for air, surface in the quiet confusion. This is our chance to stop, breathe, and listen.

My mission is to communicate with compassion, and clarity, about the hard, holy humanness of our nature.

I write to expose this.

I hold space, as a healer, with people, for a living. I listen to their stories; teach them to separate their worth from their pain; and, breath by breath, rebuild their resilience. I have to stop and also do this for myself.

Now is not a time for neglecting our needs. And I yearn for connection. 

Connection is a primal need, for me, for us, as humans. I worry about doing it wrong, about dropping people, and about giving them too much, too fast, especially men.

The other night, I was texting with a guy I like. Our banter is on point, there’s give in the tension, with a sweet undertone that makes me want to open. We’d spoken the day before, on the phone, for the first time. I live by vibration, and the timbre of his voice is like a maple-bourbon-filled bathtub that I want to melt into—comforting yet messy. 

Amidst our innocent exchange, disappointment reared its misshapen head as our plans fell through—and in that moment, a 6.5 earthquake rumbled a few hundred miles away. Insecurity poured through the tectonic plates of my skull, as my old anthem warbled ungracefully in the background: “You’re too much.” Translate also to: “Not enough.”

My body is not wholly my own. It belongs to the earth. The moon tugs at my womb, and stirs my blood. My lungs inhale her air. I drink from her reservoirs, and walk on her soil. My soles touch her soul every day, even with shelter in place, while taking refuge in my cozy cottage, and puttering about in my pajamas. I waver, sometimes daily, between states of dedication, flirtation, frustration, arousal, apathy, and of course—anxiety. 

Anxiety keeps me company when all other humans are gone, and sometimes in the midst of them. Loneliness lurks. Yet, even in my wildest longing, I will not negotiate my belonging.

Up until now, attraction has fallen on men who did not value me. I can, at least in part, thank the behaviors modeled by narcissistic, unstable caretakers. It was confusing and painful, watching my parents feed off of each other, instead of feeding me. A person cannot give what they have not found in themselves.

A woman cannot model integrity for her daughter when she sacrifices her own well-being to her man—and he, in turn, essentially devours her. I’ve watched men chew through every woman they’ve ever related with, including me. They can be like little boys, with an insatiable appetite that drains the body of the feminine to make up for what he will not meet in himself—his fear, confusion, and pain.

Psychic or emotional vampirism is a term used to describe the dynamic between prey and predator. It paints a picture, to some degree, of what occurs in a toxic relationship.

Usually the blame falls on the vampire. Not that anyone should ever feed off or victimize another person—there are patterns in both that set them up for this dance with each other. Just like in the legends, the victim must let the vampire in; it needs an invitation.

This is not about to turn into some pseudo-spiritual, victim-blaming diatribe. That’s not my style.

But as someone who has, myself, recovered from the glamour of a narcissist, who once thought of herself, more so than now, anyway, as an empath—I know what it takes for us to tear through the trance webs we weave around our wounds. More importantly, I know that neither in this dynamic are evil. Both have been hurt; both want human connection. Both have developed immature strategies for getting their needs met. Both actually embody qualities that the other needs—a dislocation of sensitivity and the appropriate application of boundaries. Whether over-bound or under, vulnerability begs for space and recognition.

We toss around terms like codependency, call others narcissists, call ourselves empaths—using these terms as shields and weapons—while we cling to the underlying neuroses that in our minds prove we are dirty and unlovable. There is nothing more human than the need to be seen, touched, loved, and cared for, and to care for others in return. When we deny that need, we become neurotic.

If we think of narcissism on a scale of weak to strong, and exemplifying traits that are both healthy and toxic, it will help us to relinquish the label—narcissist—and empower us to address the behaviors and patterns in both ourselves and others that perpetuate this neurotic cycle. Having a sense of self is healthy; having no sense of anyone else as a self is toxic. 

Both parties engaged in unhealthy, relational patterns are getting something out of the dynamic. We, who have been hurt, often fail to acknowledge our part in the exchange. Though it may not feel good, it may also feel familiar. Emotionally unavailable parents often morph into emotionally unavailable lovers. It’s easier to point the finger at the other. It’s easier to move on, and find another, to keep draining and sacrificing ourselves to keep the supply chain going.

The word supply indicates need. Underneath the machinations and manipulations of the narcissist, as well as the hypersensitivity of the empath, is a genuine need, and attached to that need is a wound. It hurts when our needs aren’t met, and we all have them.

To protect our pain, to survive, we weave complex strategies when we discover that being vulnerable won’t cut it. We form masks and armor—habits that help us cope with the pain of not being seen. It is the pain of needs unknown that lies under every neurosis. This does not make us ill, or evil. It makes us humans who are hurting.

The quickest route to healing is to feel, hear, and speak our pain, and to name our holy, human needs.

When we enter our wounds willingly, reverently, trembling with vulnerability, we can claim the raw, red truth in our hearts. In mourning, in honoring, in defiance of death, and in celebration of our own—and shared—intrinsic goodness, we can rise in care together.

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