One of life’s many paradoxes is that we are each sovereign, unique beings while also being community-oriented animals. This paradox causes us to get twisted up in what we can only generate for ourselves and what we can only receive from others.
People more individualistically wired tend to play the part of the “lone wolf” or the “solitary woman/man”. Their ability to be alone with themselves can create a false sense of not needing anything from anyone. This can lead to isolation and walling off of the heart.
People more wired to be pleasers tend to play the part of the “helper” or “martyr”. Their ability to serve others can create a false sense that their identity and value are external of themselves. This can lead to codependency or being taken advantage of.
The metaphor of a community garden fits here. Each participant is expected to grow and care for their own crops while at the same time giving and receiving with each other the fruits and vegetables of their respective and collective labor.
In the spirit of “I might be wrong”, here are two sets of 5 traits or elements — one set of things we can only generate for ourselves and another set of things we can only receive from others.
- Worthiness — Others can remind you of your worth but you won’t really comprehend it until you see it for yourself. This is the first work of a spiritual practice. This is the pearl of great price and the treasure hid in the field that Jesus spoke of.
- Courage — This is a non-transferable trait. No one can give you courage. At best, they can give you encouragement. Courage is not a feeling. It is an action. It is not thinking. It is doing.
- Confidence — Similar to courage, confidence can’t be instilled in you by someone else. At best they can hold up a mirror and tell you the truth. Ultimately, you have to do the inner work of finding and accepting your gifts and the outer work of building skills and competencies.
- Creativity — This one requires a bit of nuance. Creating something often comes from being in union with someone else (creating a relationship, creating humans, creating art are all joint-ventures between yourself and another being. But the energy of creating something is self-generated. That is creativity. While you certainly can and should be inspired by someone else’s creativity you must generate creativity for yourself.
- Wisdom — Wisdom is received through revelation, not installation. At best, someone wise can point you in the right direction but they can’t give you wisdom. Further, there are depths of wisdom that can only be reached through time and struggle — both of which require us to be alone at points in the journey.
Receiving from Others
- Affirmation — This is to be seen and appreciated by others. It is a gift that one human can give another. Neurologically, affirmation triggers oxytocin production. Which helps solidify the bonds made in the other areas below.
- Intimacy — Certainly, self-intimacy with our own bodies, emotions, minds is important. But connecting with someone who is connected to themselves is an essential part of the human experience. Intimacy is experienced in many forms: platonic friendships, familial relationships, romantic partners, soul mates.
- Perspective — No one can see the back of their own head. This is why we need people in our lives to offer different perspectives. And this is why it is important to seek relationships with people who’ve had different experiences and have different views than you.
- Trust — Trust is the currency of conscious relationships. Without the giving and receiving of trust, we become either paranoid or fragile or hardened and nihilistic. Trust makes room for grace, forgiveness, repentance as well as risk, adventure and experiences.
- Learning — Being “self-taught” is mostly an inaccurate phrase. While we all have the ability to be autodidactic, the transfer of knowledge still comes from an outside source. Whether it’s formal education, reading books, watching how-to videos, receiving mentoring, someone else generated that knowledge so that you can consume it.
Interestingly, the things that we can only generate for ourselves become sources of suffering when we seek them from others. And the reverse is true as well. When we try to generate what we can only receive from someone else, it can create mental anguish and a sense of disconnectedness.
Let’s look at these traits when framed through the spectrum of healthy to unhealthy:
- Lack of worthiness leads to the hero/victim/villain cycle.
- Lack of courage leads to being manipulated, used and a collapsing of boundaries and identity.
- Lack of confidence leads to living life in a perpetually defensive posture (which is brutally hard on the nervous system).
- Lack of creativity leads to the dullness of the senses; the numbing of life through external stimuli and distraction.
- Lack of wisdom leads to low consciousness which leads to stunted emotional and spiritual growth.
- Lack of affirmation leads to chronic insecurity which becomes self-absorption and narcissism.
- Lack of intimacy leads to physical, emotional and spiritual atrophy.
- Lack of perspective leads to dogma, narrowness, tribalism.
- Lack of trust leads to paranoia and risk-aversion.
- Lack of learning leads to ignorance which invites tyranny.
I want to wrap this essay with a spirit of possibility and optimism …
I fully believe that every human is capable of self-generating these traits and many other positive ones. And I fully believe that every human is capable of giving and receiving that which we need from each other. All of this is fullness of being — the union between the divine and primal within ourselves and with each other. The result of which is a life of joy, meaning and abundance.