There is a tricky thing that sometimes happens to us, especially if we are sensitive people, tuned into the needs of others, which I'm sure all of my readers are. Each of us is involved in various groups - society at large, family, friends, the people we work or play with, the people of our neighborhood, and so on. We may not think of ourselves as active participants in a group (i.e. we may not even know the names of our neighbors), but even so we are members of these loose, but still cohesive societies.
Each of these groups has a group consciousness, and that consciousness has needs and intentions. There may be a semi-awareness of this among the people involved, but much of this will be unconscious. For example, neighborhoods attract certain kinds of people and discourage others. If we move into an area that doesn't feel right (even though there may be good practical reasons for doing so or we may think the house is terrific), we will find that it doesn't fit us and we don't fit it. It will be uncomfortable for us to be there.
On the other hand, we may be attracted to a group because it needs us, not because it fits our needs. Or we may be attracted to a group because it does fit our needs, but it also may ask things of us that are inappropriate for us to give. What if the group's unconscious desire is for a scapegoat, a clown, a bully, a victim, or some other archetype we might not consciously be willing to fulfill? What if it is for a healer, but you really need to be doing something else at this time? You could, if you are not careful, get 'sucked in' to fill the hole.
Please note: you are not forced into these things, you unconsciously volunteer because you unconsciously feel a need, and something in you wants to answer that need.
Well, ok, you might say, 'Healing is important, and perhaps I would even consciously choose to do it.'
Yes, and perhaps you wouldn't.
The important thing is to make a conscious choice for conscious reasons, rather than an unconscious one for unconscious reasons.
There are several things at issue here.
First, do we want to make our important choices consciously or unconsciously? Is it actually a good idea to be sleepwalking through life?
Second, do we want to be the voluntary victims of other people's needs? As an example of how unsavory these needs can be, think of the alcoholic's husband who leaves his wife when she stops drinking, or the abusive husband who seeks therapy for himself, stops beating his wife, and she leaves him for someone else (usually someone who beats her). People's needs (even a society's needs) are not always healthy. Sometimes they are very twisted, especially when we need someone other than ourselves to blame for the mess in our lives.
There is a thing here about martyrdom, and about the need to be needed. You may have noticed that martyrs usually expect a lot from others because they have 'given everything' for those people - or so they believe. In addition to these expectations, they may have subtle (or even not so subtle) ways of sabotaging the lives of the very people they are 'giving everything' for.
People who need to be needed also need other people to be dependent and to stay that way so that they will continue to be needed.
Not a very nice picture, is it?
Third, we need to be doing what we do to 'help' others because it is what we consciously choose to do as an appropriate part of our lives at the present time. It must be helping us to grow. To do this, we must root out our own stuff - like needing to be needed or doing things that we resent doing because of what we believe to be other people's expectations or martyring ourselves. Instead of all that rubbish, we could be consciously choosing to develop a capacity for unconditional giving - giving that does not give away anything (time, money, whatever) that we actually need for ourselves, but gives with integrity, honesty, balance and love. We need to find ways to give that are good both for us and the recipient.
I'm not saying here that we should hold on to everything in case we might need it. That certainly wouldn't work either. Giving is a reality therapy exercise in growing. But there needs to be balance, and there needs to be conscious choice.
I think most of us do these things to some extent (or we live our lives in rebellion against them and that rules us.. We try to be who our parents, siblings, teachers, friends, and even strangers want us to be, and we lose sight of the essence of ourselves. And then, if we are very lucky, we realize that has happened and begin trying to discover who we really are.
The answer to the question of "Who am I?" is almost unbelievably simple, but the twin question of "What do I want to do?" that gives us the route to expression of that inner who-is-ness is astonishingly complex. It is like a diamond when you consider the core and then consider the ever-changing, many-faceted multiplicity of reflections and angles of the surface. Chances are that the personas we have invented is at least a part of that multi-faceted truth, a part of what you have the potential of being
. Exploring the unknown facets seems, to me, to be fascinating, fraught with peril, and a great joy, especially when we are on the track of satisfying our creative potential for living.
The moral is, just because you can doesn't mean you should, even if someone wants you to - or even if many people want you to. And just because someone wants you to doesn't mean you shouldn't.
The second moral is, discovering ourselves is a life-long job. It is much too easy to fall into the lazy habit of letting others do our thinking for us.
This is why it is so important to be centered, earthed, connected, and awake.
This was first published in Otherworld Arts, 1995.
Revised and expanded 2001.