The subject of giving self-away could, and may eventually be, a book in and of itself; it is such a profound and meaningful subject. Giving self-away is a process that we do in our culture, with families and friends, and even with material things such as cars and money, and even concepts. It is a coping mechanism, and it is also a form of an attempt to materialize the self, to extend myself beyond myself into things and concepts around me.
Giving self-away is when I take part of my source or spirit, and invest it in something outside of myself. Meaning that I tie my well-being, happiness, or self-worth to something that is outside of my control or present experience.
When I give myself away, and tie myself to something outside myself, I may identify it as love, dependence, responsibility for, or accountability. It is often done out of extreme goodwill, the desire to help somebody else, a function of neediness or a lack of self-worth; but it is not the positive thing we make it out to be.
Imagine if you could take a part of your soul or spirit, and attach it to another person. Imagine a part of your spirit connecting to them, perhaps you can imagine with a thread or a string attached from your heart to the other person. In this arrangement, everything that happens to them, everything they do, say and experience feels like you are experiencing it with them. Even if you are not there, you may imagine what they are going through, and in this case, there is a hyper awareness and dependency on their experience for your well-being. At times, when things are going well for them, this may feel great. Other times, if they are suffering or challenged, it will likely feel terrible.
Now imagine they reciprocate, where they do the same and give themselves to you. When this happens, I call it entanglement. Entanglement is when I have given myself to someone, and they have done the same for me, meaning our well beings are now tied to the well-being of the other.
In our culture, we often view this as care or love; when my loved one suffers, I suffer. In fact, I have found in my work that the more compassion, or understanding that I can be towards someone, that can be more helpful. However, if it is given in the form of empathy, and the person is going through the emotional ride with them, it tends to diminish the help or support that is given. Because both people are now feeling the struggle and both need help in processing dealing with the struggle. Studies have demonstrated the dramatic difference on the brain between compassionate understanding and empathetic distress.
When I draw this diagram of entanglement during The Mountain Experience, it is clear that these entangled nets of giving self away and interdependence creates substances. When you have this web, you can see that if anyone is in an emotional reaction, it tugs at everyone in the web and makes everyone less present. Again, you often see this in families that when one person is struggling, everyone is in the struggle. In every example, it is clear that it is better to be empathetic than to actually be entangled with someone else’s pain. It is wonderful to be empathetic to understand someone else’s experience but it is not helpful if we are immersed in someone else’s experience.
While it is still viewed as a positive and loving thing, this act can have detrimental effects on both parties. When you give yourself away to another person, you tend to want to control that person. Because your spirit is attached, you have an emotional involvement in what happens with them. When they are not behaving as I wanted, I then tend to resent them or want to manipulate them. When I have given myself away and the person is succeeding, I either feel jealous, or feel that I am succeeding and start to take some of their energy or success from them. When someone else has given themselves away to me, I can often feel fearful or dependent on them. If they leave me, I am at risk, I may lose some of my own strength or capacity, or can become dependent, weak or needy.
Next week we will continue this blog and explore the effects of giving self away on relationships.