Posted by: innerpilgrimage | December 16, 2010

The Grand Spiritual Question (As Provided by Haddaway)

Holiday Eating Season Countdown: 17 Days
Countdown to Christmas: 9 days

      What is love?

      If one reads the lyrics of Haddaway’s song, it’s pretty clear that what he’s expressing is an addicted form of love. But it doesn’t answer what love is.
      I’ve read as much as I can about love, and I am afraid I’m doing it wrong. Isn’t that funny? To be afraid that I am not expressing love in a healthy way. I am actually googling healthy love to figure it out (trying to divine a spiritual answer from an intellectual pursuit). I hope that what I have found gives me at least a foundation to start from:

      “Healthy love is unconditional in that it is given, as much as it is received, without being forced by those involved. There is no need to expect any payback, because when it is given freely from your heart or soul, in turn it engenders universal gratitude that spreads through you like warm, sweet honey. It has nothing to do with age, gender, hobbies, social status, wealth, religion or occupation. This type of love is not superficial, but comes from deep within your heart and soul. You willingly want to share a deeper, richer part of your being. Healthy love has boundaries that are honoured, respected and adhered to by all concerned. There is no ownership in which one tries to dominate the other. It does not require proving yourself to anybody and it leaves you free to remain your true self. Displays of power or jealousy are non-existent. There is mutual respect for each other in which you have consideration for each other’s differences. You resist trying to change the other person to emulate you or to become a vision of how you may think they should be. It is only natural that you wish the other person to grow and succeed in all areas of their life and in all ways – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, even if it means living apart. Healthy love generates individual space, where each can do what pleases them without harbouring any feelings of guilt, selfishness, remorse, sacrifice or regret.” (from the article “Healthy Love” on
      So, basically, it appears that love is endeavoring to be a safe person toward others (and myself). And to do that, I also have to recognize what is unhealthy love.
      When I use another person’s faults to make myself feel superior? Not love. When I beg for approval by lowering myself before a person? Not love. It cannot be one-sided. Obsession can, sexual desire can. Love is mutual and is respectful of boundaries. Love is acceptance–not changing another person to suit me or not changing myself to suit someone else. Love encompasses the spiritual gratitude of having that person as part of my life without a need to receive recompense for my time and effort. Love is knowing when it’s time to let an unhealthy relationship with a person go, and the gratitude if something changes and I can strike up a healthy relationship with that person.
      In other words, love is a mutual safe relationship with a person. So, I guess if I keep working on the emotions practice and remember that love isn’t a fleeting emotion but a spiritual state of existence, I may be able to learn how I express love in my individual way.
      It would be nice if love were an actual algebra or physics or even chemistry formula. Maybe I could insert my height and weight and age and get answers out of that. But it doesn’t work like that. Love is a spiritual journey, not an intellectual pursuit. I guess I knew this, since everything I quoted above makes all of the sense in the world. It’s not selfish to preserve one’s self in a relationship. And love thrives on growth and evolution. Trusting others will accept it is just part of the process, and accepting that others sometimes will not is also part of the process.
      I hate the idea of losing friends. Of course, I don’t have to “lose” them, but I do owe it to myself not to submit to the chaos. I do tend to go chilly instead of compassionate when a person enters the “danger” zone–definitely something I need to work on. Compassion for unsafe people coupled with the understanding that change has to come from within (Hey, I’m an unsafe person most of the time, still, and I know that if I really want to know love, I need to practice being a safe person toward myself and others). That’s the footwork in the real world I need to do.
      For some reason, practicing being a safe person is just not getting into my head. I forget what I’m supposed to do. It’s not like I don’t nod and think, “Oh, yeah,” when I look at the list of safe person practice. It just doesn’t stick like a lot of my spiritual growth has. I guess I’m not entirely ready for this lesson, and it’s time to send it up to my Higher Power. It’s entirely possible other things must slide into place for me to internalize those positive rules of life.
      One big thing I have to give up to my HP and do footwork on is feeling threatened by or superior to unsafe people. That judgmental attitude actually keeps me unsafe to others! The belief in a pecking order of humanity is seated deep within me. I can turn to my recovery and know that I am no better or worse than any person on the planet. I am equally imperfect, and to judge myself better or worse based on character traits and actions by myself and others is a disservice. I have the potential to grow every day, just like everyone else. I have the capacity to feel emotions, just like everyone else. I choose how I want to live (even if it makes me miserable), just like everyone else. Well, what aligns with me? What were my goals when I started OA?
      I remember saying I wanted to be healthy when I went in. I may have started with the concept that I wanted to be physically healthy, but I also had a deep-down desire to have a sense of completeness and the mental capacity not to give into my compulsive tendencies in order to smooth life over or make it more dramatic. I knew something was wrong with how I thought, and I wanted to discard those old messages I carry around in my head. I admit I wanted the results to be easy and immediate, not simple and over a lifetime of todays.
      I know that if I really, really choose to surrender, I can have that immediately and it can be easy. I am so afraid to lose myself that I am reluctant to give up what I identify as my Self. I know following the path of that false self I built up over time has made me miserable. Eating compulsively may feel like control (eating what I want when I want it), but when I want to stop, I cannot. Presenting myself as inferior to others may feel like the only way to get people’s love, but it is manipulation which opens me up to manipulation. I resent when normal people don’t appear to appreciate what I think I am doing for them–building them up by knocking myself down. Taking a superior stance is just as bad, because I take on the attitude that I know better than they do about their lives. What do I know? I can’t climb inside their heads and experience their memories of their lives. And, reasonably, if I could get into someone’s head, that would be using their knowledge of what they know is best for them to advise them.
      I think I fear that if I lose judgmentalism, I will lose myself to manipulations of others. After all, if I can’t discern right versus wrong action, how am I supposed to do it for myself? That is such a glaring fallacy, however, that I cannot ignore it.
      Just because I stop judging people (and, of course, advising them because I am sure I know how they should live their lives better than they do) does not mean I have to live like they do. This involves trusting I know what’s best for my life. My life choices may not align with theirs, to the point that I get frustrated and annoyed at the person for not being precisely what I want right then (ie., demanding they be perfect), but why does that have to stop me from being empathetic, kind, and polite? Why must there be a black-and-white ruling on something that is not black-and-white at all? Why must there be condemnation in order to turn a person away from what I consider “bad”? I mean, the inherent dysfunctional thinking that I can use the character defective trait of condemnation to decide if a person is “good” or “bad” is glaring and obvious.
      I get angry at myself for condemning people. I hate that it is a fault I cannot seem to shake, that frustration with people triggers it so easily. I hate conflict, and I would rather walk away callously than get hurt yet again by someone. But how can I condemn people when I am imperfect, also?
      I feel taken advantage of by someone I call (well, called) a friend. This person really isn’t a friend because my boundaries and my growth aren’t respected. My knee-jerk reaction is to turn my back on this person, because interaction with this person agitates me regularly. I avoid until I cannot, which makes it worse. I long for this person to see the benefits of taking on the challenge of spiritual growth so I can celebrate this person’s change. Instead, I am left angry and feeling violated. And I am worried about hurting this person’s feelings–something the serenity prayer clearly tells me is not my fault if I do what I can to be respectful. The problem is that I question whether or not I was respectful because I am generally frustrated in my dealing with this person. I want to rant about how this person will commit to something then flake completely. Yet isn’t this how I deal with my OA sponsor? I am at a loss.
      Perhaps this person’s weaknesses are unforgivable to me because these weaknesses are unforgivable in myself. I resent myself when I forget or just don’t want to do something. This is so agitating! I hate having this in my own personality! And I am trying to change it, though recently I am flaking because I am ill.
      I’m getting up to take care of my responsibilities, sick or not. I have obligations I need to complete, and if I do them, maybe I can feel better about relaxing after getting them done.
      I am so tired. HP help me, this is a bad day and I need spiritual guidance (and some “spiritual hugs”) right now because I am feeling really weak. Which, of course, is the best time to go to my HP and my sponsors and my co-addicts. Weakness is what binds us together, as we read in OA. And from reaching my hand out to others instead of trying to do this all myself, I will find the strength of two, then many, along with the spiritual strength provided to me when I believe that my presence on this planet has some value–otherwise I wouldn’t be here in recovery trying to become a decent human being.
      And no, I don’t expect I will ever entirely kill that judgmental, condemning part of me. It’s part of my history, part of the foundation of me, even if it’s part of that “false self” built to protect me from once-real and now perceived hurts. I am not the special exception to the rule; I am going to be hurt and disappointed, bruised and banged around, in life. I will also know contentment and joy, love and happiness, in the small miracles that reality seems to sprinkle all around. But I will learn an alternative to it, so when I am tempted to get my righteous ire up and condemn people for being as imperfect as I am, I can step back and find the recovered and kind way to approach the situation.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict and approval addict. Today, I am ill and I am angry at a person. Both will pass if I let them. The illness is telling me, “Slow down,” and the anger is telling me that something deep inside me has triggered a deeply held anger relating to betrayal of trust and the reliance on people so I can keep my word. No wonder I gravitate toward trying to control everything myself; the people I have historically chosen to associate with and call friends have those habits I loathe in myself.
      Not any more. The people who I deal with these days rise to the commitments and make sure that if they cannot be somewhere or do something, they let someone know ahead of time. That is what I want to strive for in my own life. I cannot be perfect in keeping all of my commitments (no one can), but I can do my best to make sure that I am aware of them and will either fulfill them as soon as possible or will apologize and consider whether or not I overextended myself yet again.
      The spiritual walk seems almost just to have begun, and I have no idea where I am going. But I know the path is where I need to travel in order to live the life I am supposed to be living. It may never be “normal”, but it will be recovered–a mindful state of kindness and commitment to myself and others after living for so long in the self-imposed oubliette of addiction.


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