There was no other way I could title this. I know it sounds harsh, but we’ll get to that in a second. And before I start this, I want to say it does not apply to those in abusive situations, or those whose feelings are not being honored in a blatant way by the other party. If someone is harming you emotionally or physically, do what you need to do to get yourself out of that situation. This post is for those in otherwise healthy relationships that are not doing mental or physical harm. Yes, these relationships may bring up discomfort, but I think the spiritual community as a whole needs to get better at dealing with discomfort. Not everyone who brings up discomfort within you is “toxic.” Not everyone you disagree with is “toxic.” Not everyone who hurts your feelings is “toxic.” Not everyone who is hurt by your actions needs to “just learn to love themselves” and “be detached.”
This is about taking accountability for what we do and not hiding behind spiritual platitudes to justify it.
These days, it seems like one disagreement or kind of gross feeling seemingly brought on by another person would have us all screaming “toxic!” and cutting everyone off until we all turn into islands living on islands to get away from other people entirely.
This year, I’ve lost a lot of people. A family member, a friend I admired very much, a man I had amazing chemistry with. The family member at least had the decency to write a letter to let me know why she was cutting me off. I’m not saying I agree with her reasoning, the timing, or the way she delivered the information to me, but at least she ended it in a way that didn’t leave me wondering. I didn’t have to go through the agony of unanswered calls and texts, wondering if I had upset her, if somehow she didn’t receive my messages or didn’t have phone reception, or worst case scenario, if she was sick/in trouble and unable to answer me. She let me know, very clearly, what was up.
Imagine wondering if someone suddenly stopped talking to you because you did something wrong. You text them only to be blown off, but you care so much and you’re so haunted by their abandonment that you painstakingly select a sweet card at a store and write a heartfelt message inside it. You mail it to them, but you never receive an answer. You have to resign yourself to the fact that sometimes, no answer is an answer. But that feels indescribably shitty.
Imagine you meet someone by chance and feel an amazing chemistry with that person. They wish to spend more time with you, and you gift them with your time. You get out of your comfort zone and go meet that person. Things seem to have gone well. Later, you send them a text and don’t get an answer. You decide to let that slide. Maybe they’re busy. A few days later, you text and it also goes unanswered. You get nothing in the way of a response except a few likes on your Instagram posts before the person disappears entirely.
You cannot think of any times you were argumentative or downright unpleasant with any of these people, but yet, the dreaded question rings in your mind when all is quiet.
Did I do something wrong?
What is it about me that is so bad that they felt like they needed to ghost?
Are they just that busy? But how long does it take to send a text message? Am I not even worth that?
You can practice self-love and detachment all day long, but this shit hurts.
There is no way to get around being human. Of course, we can be in the world and not of the world, and all that, but we still bleed if we’re cut. We still cry if we’re hurt. Maybe hearts can’t literally break, but grief can cause the rest of the body to. A lot of holistic practitioners would argue that this is how cancer starts: Grief. Unresolved trauma. Rage.
Many of these things could be avoided if humans could just stop being shitty to one another.
I know that world peace is a lofty goal, but how about if we just start where we are? With our friendships. With the people in our lives that love us. With the people we meet that strike up that familiar spark of recognition, of knowing them from another lifetime. Maybe they piss us off sometimes, but if we take the time to truly talk to them and at least try to understand their feelings, I think we could be a lot less pissed off. If people were more willing to approach uncomfortable topics and ask questions rather than brush them under the rug or become accusatory and aggressive, a lot of us would be a lot better off.
Instead, when we are brushed off without a reason, we are left to wonder why and the most likely conclusion that springs to mind is that we did something unspeakably offensive. And then we are led further to believe we are the problem when someone spouts self-love and detachment at us.
No, I’m not upset because I don’t love myself. I’m not upset because I’m not detached enough. I love myself, and I know everyone has free will and must be allowed to exercise it. Some detachment is necessary, but when someone is so detached that they cease to take any responsibility when they treat someone unfairly or cut them off unnecessarily, then there’s a real problem. That’s not detachment; it is complete lack of sensibility.
I know we all have our internal battles that we fight daily. There is no need for comparison or figuring out who fights the biggest battle. We all are. And it would certainly be easier if we could treat each other like humans, rather than enlightened Buddhas who are supposed to be able to divine others’ feelings without even speaking to them.
So if someone brings up discomfort and you need some time away from them, say that. If someone brings up a point you disagree with, respectfully tell them so and see if you can either find middle ground or agree to disagree. If someone has feelings for you but you don’t feel the same, tell them. If you want to be friends, tell them.
Don’t be mean about it, but at least say something. Imagine how you would feel if the situation were reversed. This does require incredible empathy, but we are all empathic beings. Some of us just don’t exercise that ability enough, which is part of why we have this problem.
A friend asked me a question this week, when I was lamenting the people who left. He asked me, “Are you sure it’s love that you feel, or is it need?”
I am sure that the feelings are based in love. At first, I got really upset that he suggested they’re based in need. But then I thought, what would be so wrong with that?
We’re human. We need each other. We’re wired to need people; for babies, being ignored equals death. As we grow older and become self-sufficient, the need for bonding in love still exists, although we can become jaded or so afraid of love and intimacy that we avoid it at all costs. Or we can become convinced that we don’t deserve it. The need still exists, though, no matter how much we may try to cover it up and seem like everything is fine, even when we are broken.
Love isn’t black or white. If need is in there somewhere, it does not mean that I’m not loving.
Those who are so insensitive may not ever stumble upon this post, but I certainly hope I’ve helped those of you that have been left behind in their dust. I feel you. I know how it feels. What they did is not okay, and there is nothing wrong with you.