My need for people – to receive and give back

ID-10021833.jscreationzsIn the early months after the collapse of my marriage, I felt disconnected from all those people I had previously known.

Then I read about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Some parts of his theory made a lot of sense, that our needs develop one step at a time, beginning with basics (food, warmth, shelter); then stability (safety, routine); before moving to higher needs … connections with people, self-esteem, and self-actualization. I am not an expert in psychology but I do know that after a crisis working ‘up the scale’ had always been a powerful tool of recovery for me, (with an understanding that after divorce the “crisis” may last several years with no end-point to the requirement for stability and a feeling of protection!) …

HOWEVER

What I didn’t and don’t understand about this theory is how “connections” appear in the middle layer, something to move up to. Whenever I have faced a crisis of any kind, I have always felt that I have needed people as much as, if not even more than, when feeling ‘normal’. This has been especially true after a separation such as a death or my divorce because it was the loss of that connection (due to the loss of that person who has died or left, or loss of associations with that person) that was at the very root of the crisis in the first place.

After and during my divorce process, there were losses of many connections or sense of connection for me.

  • My partner, companion and confidante.
  • My nuclear family.
  • My extended husband’s extended family.
  • The circle of friends that had been ‘ours’.
  • The community groups that we had jointly belonged to.
  • The loss of sharing management of the business.
  • In selling the business, the loss of belonging to my work ‘tribe’.
  • In selling the business, there was also a sense of loss of me contributing to society. Many people going through retirement experience this same sense of loss.
  • Feeling disconnected from others, who have not faced the same financial pressures
  • On retirement, feeling disconnected from friends and family of the same age who can now move into their next phase of life together.

Some of these ‘disconnections’ happened immediately, while others dissolved further on in the separation process. In some the connection remained but with a need to redevelop that connection in new ways, such as redefining the concept of ‘family’. So a year ago at the ending of the marital settlement, four years after separation, everyone said ‘now it is all over for you’, whereas in reality the changes to my life had only just begun. For the first time in my life I was truly alone –  practically, financially, legally, emotionally, and socially.

Yet, throughout all this separation process, I have moved up and on. I believe this was what was happening to me. While I did move up a hierarchy of needs after my crisis, concurrently with that, I also moved up a hierarchy of a need for people. This moved from needing comfort from them, to standing alone, meeting them as equals, to giving back.

This is my hierarchy of needs for people –

  1. Protection. In the beginning I needed people to comfort me, protect me, advise me.
  2. Aloneness. I then had to reconnect with myself. This was important, to stand alone.
  3. Partnerships. I formed deep connections with close friends and family, one on one. They were initially replacement confidantes and support – for that lost marital ‘partnership’. In time, those people began to lean on me for my support of them. I became strong for them in their own hours of need.
  4. Herds. I have formed like-minded groups of small numbers of people. I re-formed my connections with my nuclear family, my siblings, work colleagues and small groups of close friends. These groups have become mutually beneficial to us all. I have both received and contributed as friend, sister, mother, daughter, grandmother.
  5. Tribe. I have reconnected with my large extended family of cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews. I have formed connections in my blogging world. I belong.

Three levels of hierarchy that I previously had that are still lost and yet remain as a burning need within me. These are a contribution to –

  1. Community.
  2. Society.
  3. Global needs

This has become my new sense of purpose and goals – to use my voice on speaking out for a world of peace, a safe environment for future generations and universal health for all.

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Reclaiming my SENSE OF BELONGING after divorce, death, trauma, retirement, financial catastrophe and other life changes.

ID-10073599. vladoLast year, in the fourth year after my marriage collapse, there was the business sale, loss of my mother, finalization of the marital settlement and my retirement. I am now in the fifth year and finally facing the full impact of the divorce with its financial ramifications, as well as other life changes. Sometimes I feel I am left with the shadow of the world I had five years ago as many people in that world are now gone from my life.

When my marriage collapsed, I felt my whole social network had collapsed with it losing my partner, family unit, friendships, his extended family and community connections. With the business gone, I have lost contact with work colleagues, contractors and advisers. My mother’s death means less contact with siblings, extended family and Mum’s community. Still to come for me will be moving away from this area and its community.

I have thought about those people in my old life and the differing levels of connection I had with them. I am striving to create or reinvent relationships at the same level I have lost in order to provide for me a sense of belonging. These are my losses and gains –

Level One – one on one.

No longer partnered, I have strengthened my relationship with work colleagues, friends, children and siblings on a one-on-one basis. I periodically still see work colleagues. Since the death of my mother, I have connected with extended family members individually. My siblings and I stay in touch. I do not need a ‘partner’ to provide me with deep connections.

Level Two – being in a herd, a close-knit group of three to eight people.

I have had several herds in each phase of my life providing me with strength, a sense of belonging and intellectual stimulation. My herds have been my two nuclear family units (children and siblings), foursome couple friendships, friends to share coffee or a movie, interacting with parents of my children’s friends, and mingling with work colleagues in small discussion groups or meetings.

My herds have either changed or disappeared and it is this loss I am feeling the most. I have adjusted to my changed family unit of me and the children, and I am adapting to having sibling interactions without our mother there. Happy times are still shared.

However –

I am no longer half a couple, working or financially secure. Being retired and alone, my situation is different from friends still working, retirees in a couple relationship or in an easier financial position. My regular contact with accountant, banking adviser, book-keeper and IT expert is gone. I have lost that ‘connection’ with those previous herds that I had.

I am endeavouring to seek out and interact with people in similar situations as myself, for example retired singles. I am developing some hobbies and seeking out people or groups with those same interests. It is early days and changes have been small, yet positive.

Level Three belonging to a tribe, a larger group with a common connection.

My past tribes have been classes at school or university, work-place, extended family, sporting teams, choirs and community groups. Not as intimate as herds, there is nevertheless a sense of belonging to people with a common interest. I am feeling the loss of my work environment, and my mother being the matriarch and ‘glue’ of my extended family. Whilst I am focussing on strengthening my Level One and Two connections, I look forward to seeking out community groups when I move. In the meantime, my blogging world has provided for me a sense of belonging to like-minded people.

Level Four – being part of society at large.

In the early weeks of a crisis we lean on community services – police, hospitals, medical and counselling services. I have also given back at the society level providing a health service business for 35 years. Whilst there is a feeling that I am not currently contributing at the society level, I am at least engaging by using library services, browsing shopping precincts, and chatting with people in that environment daily. I am grateful our society is a free one and I feel safe.

Level Five – belonging to a cause of national or global significance.

I was involved in an environmental cause with my family and that interaction was lost when my marriage ended (although my beliefs still stand). Over the past two years I have found a new ’cause’ and have been directing my energies into research on this. My aim is to eventually contribute to this cause in some way.

It is difficult facing several life changes at once. One step at a time for me is the best solution, becoming stronger as my own self, then gradually branching out at the higher levels of connections.

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The Art Of Belonging. Hugh McKay

 

 

 

 

Feelings

It has been a roller-coaster of emotions for me these past eight weeks. On many days I have coped by blocking my emotions out. I have either acted by automatic pilot, and / or kept myself very busy, doing anything except taking the time to stop and simply feel my emotions. At other times, my emotions have poured out of me like a torrent of water from a broken tap that would not stop, and I felt things deeply.

My writing stopped for several weeks.

Then when I started writing my journal again, I wrote in a staccato, factual fashion, with no depth of feeling. That was because I was finding it very difficult to process five or six different emotions all at once. It became easier to describe what was happening, rather than how I was feeling. How could I describe all that I have been feeling? All the time my mind has been blank, yet racing at a thousand miles a second. How could I describe that?

Earlier this year I had been working through my transformation to the new me; beginning with my foundations of comfort, then moving on to my foundations of freedom, and the freedom to discover myself. As part of that process I had reached a point where I began to feel my own feelings. Like a light coming on, I realized that I had a right to those feelings, and a right to express those feelings. To some people, that may seem like a strange discovery. Not for me. To me, this was a revolution happening. It was a huge change.

For many years I had been suppressing how I really felt, I had been suppressing the true me inside myself. I was the product of growing up as the introverted sister with two extroverted siblings. I became the product of the introverted wife married to the ultra-extroverted husband. I learned to play the part of second fiddle. I learned to fix and support but never shine. I learned to think that I did not matter, that my feelings did not count, that my opinions were not that important, that what I did was not significant.

Earlier this year I found my own significance and my own feelings began to surface. When I began to feel my feelings and recognize them as my own feelings, I wrote down as the first part of my life purpose “to find my voice and speak my truth“. In other words, I had resolved, to not only act true to myself, but to also begin to speak out about being true to myself. I resolved to begin telling my whole story, to voice out loud how I really felt inside my heart and to express what I really thought, rather than what I thought other people would expect of me.

Then life got in the way.

Before I had a chance to write my story (the story that had been), more of life began happening. Life unfolded in an expected and sudden way and I was swept along by a stream of emotions: joy and sadness, hope and desperation, elation and disappointment, aloneness and togetherness, comfort and distress, brokenness and harmony, confusion and clarity, quandary and resolution, closed and open, indecisiveness and decisiveness, anger and calmness.

At first I could not process them, to feel them. Then I did. I began to feel them. Some of them hurt, yet I allowed myself to feel their intensity.  The numbness that had been blocking out my emotions lifted. It had been so foreign to me to allow myself to feel any emotions. It was even more foreign to express those emotions.

Yet, to feel them is to live more fully, to express them is to become true to myself.

To write about them is now, for me, a necessity.

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Foundations of freedom – freedom to do

“And the moment came, when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. “ Anais Nin

ID-10043380.digitalartWe are the lucky generation. Our forefathers handed us freedom from: freedom from slavery, tyranny and oppression. The next generations gave us our freedom to: freedom to vote, choose, express opinion, work, associate with those of our choosing, become educated, or be elected into positions of power. That has been followed by social, cultural and sexual revolutions since the 1960s. We are now free to pursue whatever we desire in terms of our dress, our leisure activities and our relationships with each other – in both the coming together or the breaking apart.

It seems to me each generation has wanted more freedom than the previous and, whereas in previous generations ‘freedom’ did mean the true sense of the word in freedom from oppression, our modern generation has put the emphasis on having freedom to do whatever we want. We want it all and we want it now. This is supposed to be something that we all desire. When my husband first left, people would say to me ‘now you are free to do whatever you want‘. When repeated back, that advice would catch me in the throat. Taking ‘freedom’ was foreign to me as I was craving stability and structure. I also saw it as being selfish. I thought I still had responsibilities and obligations to fulfill.

It has taken me nearly three years to understand that I don’t.

While it appeared I did, it really was an obligation to my own inner code of responsibility. I really did not have obligations to fulfill, except to myself. I am truly free to do whatever I want. Looking at it another way, I had to a degree been putting perceived responsibilities and obligations in my own path because of not knowing what to do with my freedom if I had it. It was easier to keep doing what I had been doing, even though painful, rather than taking my own freedom and basking in its sunshine. I could now undo my own imposed restraints of responsibility.

The big question now is not whether I have the freedom to what I want but rather, now that I know I do (nearly) have that freedom, what do I want to do with it?

That’s scary.

As I sat with a blank page on that question, a few overarching ideas of what ‘freedom to do’ means to me came to mind.

I have the freedom to live my own way.

I am free of external restrictions.

I have the freedom to impose my own moral code such as ‘first, do no harm’. As long as I impose it myself it is not a restraint, it is free-will. I cannot enslave myself. With no external restrictions, only internal ones, I have the freedom to think, speak and act the way I want.

I have the freedom to choose to be responsible for my family and friends. When I act out of devotion, there are no constraints – no matter what the responsibilities require of me.

I have the freedom to be part of my family, children and grand-children’s lives.

I have the freedom to be by myself whenever I want.

I have the freedom to choose my own direction in life and to fit that in with my own life’s purpose which I alone shall choose and I may take as long as I want to make that choice.

I have the freedom to choose my own goals by my own free-will and to work towards those goals unimpeded.

I have the freedom to choose my own attitude to develop a capacity by education, training or resolve to overcome any obstacle or impediment in my way.

I have the freedom to impose limitations, moral codes or constraints (by whatever definition) if that makes my new direction more comfortable. If my constraints are based upon my own goals or values – knowing where I stand will give me the liberty to act in complete freedom.

That is not so scary. That is all exciting …

Now to begin.

 

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Image courtesy:[digitalart]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

Foundations of freedom – freedom to celebrate even when there seems little to celebrate

ID-100128321.africa

As indicated in my last post, I decided to stop for a while. The problem is when you are trudging through mud and you decide to stop for a while, because you are in mud, you start sinking again. So while the concept of allowing myself time to have a rest seemed to be a good idea at the time, the reality was doomed to failure.

Doomed to failure because it gave me time to think and face some realities which distressed me.

Doomed to failure because of how I was defining success and failure.

I read a post this morning from Val with a quote that is self-explanatory and which opened my eyes.

“If you build a house it takes a few days, a few weeks or a few years. And everyone can see the result. But when we create something in the spiritual realm neither you nor anyone else can see anything. So nothing is certain. Nothing is clear. And you become unsettled, uncertain and assailed by doubts. And that is why after a while you want to abandon everything and do what everyone else does: Throw yourself into an activity where everyone can see a result.” Omraan Mikhael Aivanhov

The quote got me thinking. This ‘trudging through mud’ (AKA ‘dealing with the divorce settlement’) appeared to be getting me nowhere and was taking a lot of effort for no reward.

That is because I was looking at ‘reward’ as how our modern society judges rewards – in terms of success, fame, fortune, or glorious materialistic or creative achievement.

So today I have taken my thinking right back to very early after separation when I made a resolution to myself. I resolved that I would not let this transition period of my life destroy who I was inside of me or crush the values that I wanted to live by. I made an aim that day to reaffirm those values and strive to live by them. That was my goal.

My reward today, still within this ‘transition period’, is to know that I am still on that path and still successfully striving towards that goal. At the end of the day, if that is my greatest achievement, that is a worthwhile one to have.

“The goal we seek, and the good we hope for, comes not as some final reward but as the hidden companion to our quest. It is not what we find, but the reason we cannot stop looking and striving, that tells us why we are here.”
Madeleine Albright, Prague Winter

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Foundations of freedom – freedom to stop

 

ID-100179203.Stuart MilesYou may have thought from my last post that I was ready to move on to bigger and better things such as solving world poverty or finding world peace. However, I have decided this week it was just time to stop for a while. I have taken some time out to bring a little normality into my life by doing such things as having my hair cut, reading, spending some time sitting in the sunshine (even though it is winter here, it is sunny today) and generally doing nothing.

I have the freedom to do that.

Having said that, I do bear in mind the thoughts of a great mind:

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.” Nelson Mandela.

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Foundations of freedom – freedom from constraints

 

ID-100150920.Toa55 I embarked on a series of posts on foundations of comfort and in my last post ended up with freedom. The change was more than a subtle change in my thought process. It was profound. In thinking through what I require for security, I realized how much security constrains my freedom. Then I learned that freedom is not a thought process. It is a feeling. I know because that wondrous feeling swept over me when I was not expecting it and yet I recognized it as my long-lost friend and welcomed it in as part of my being.

There are three aspects to my freedom: freedom from constraints; freedom to act; and freedom of capacity. Think of me as a bird in a cage. In order to fly I need to be let out of the cage, I need to want to fly and I need to have the capacity or ability to fly. Without those three things, I cannot fly. I cannot be completely free. Today I will discuss the first aspect.

Freedom from constraints

To be free to fulfill my purposeful life I need the absence of constraints imposed upon me. Those of captivity; coercion; obligations; moral codes; guilt; mental turmoil; fear of danger, harm or pain; financial impediments; influence of other people; rules; restricted access; and attachments.

Some things on this list are not imposed upon me, they are imposed by me. I impose some of my own restraints. As long as I impose them myself, I can also remove them. I cannot enslave myself. The issue comes down to my ability to remove them. That ties in with the freedom of capacity which I will deal with in another post. For now, I will put aside impediments to my freedom imposed by guilt, mental turmoil, financial capacity and some of my own moral codes, and look only at restraints imposed by others or by my situation.

To be free, I need the absence from

I need to be free from fear of danger or harm. I am fortunate to live in Australia, a nation free from slavery, tyranny and oppression. Putting aside the political argument that for some that may not be completely true, I myself feel relatively safe.

I need to be free from pain. In order to be truly free I need the absence of this divorce process (my captivity), the business (my obligation) and the moral code of doing the right thing by others ahead of myself. These are factors blocking my total freedom at the moment. I am working on them.

I need to be free from the restriction of my own requirement for certainty. Only then will I be free to find my new creative self.

On the other hand, now being single, I am enjoying freedoms that I never had before, because –

I am now free from

I am free from the coercion to do things I do not really want to do. Previously I would not have called it coercion, I would have called it compromise. Whatever it is called, that obligation to fit in with another person all the time is now gone.

I am free from the influence of others blocking my ideas, opinions and beliefs.

I am as free as I can be from the control by others.

I am free from restrictions in the use of my space. I have free access to the whole house whereas previously other members of the family claimed that space as their own.

I am free from imposed limits on my free time. (Except when I impose them myself, which does not count because I can lift those limits if I want to. Note to self: stop restricting your own free time by finding more ‘must do’ duties.)

I am free from attachments. Now here is the turnaround. The first twelve months after separation I was grieving the loss of my relationship, my most precious attachment. Now I can see that the absence from that attachment will allow me the freedom to become my authentic me.

That is truly liberating.

 

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