Thursday, January 15, 2015

On writing loves

I have found another writing love! Thomas Moore's Care of the Soul has been on my reading list for a few months now. Yesterday, I finally began the book. I am only a few chapters in, and I already know that this is a book I will love.

I woke up today feeling the kind of expansive, comforting feeling that comes only when you catch a glimpse of the bigger picture and things start to make sense. 

There are so many things that Moore talks about with such great understanding.

One thing that he talks about is our tendency to move between two extremes. He tells the story of a client of his comes to him and tells him that she wants to be more independent. She thinks her dependence is creating problems in her relationships, and becoming independent will solve them.

Moore says that this is not necessarily so. The soul has many aspects, and cutting off one of them in service of the other wouldn't solve the issue. She would only be facing it again from the other side. He says, "The fact that her dependency is making itself felt doesn't mean it should be bludgeoned or surgically removed; it may be asserting itself because it needs attention. Her heroic championing of independence might be a way of avoiding and repressing the strong need of something in her to be dependent."

He tries framing her need differently, in words that don't reek of the wimpiness that seems to bother her. He asks her, "Don't you want to be attached to people, learn from them, get close, rely on friendship, get advice from someone you respect, be part of a community where people need each other, find intimacy with someone that is so delicious you can't live without it?"

Is that dependence, she questions back. Yes, he says, that's what it sounds like to him. And like everything else, there's no way to have the good without also having to deal with its shadows. The good that comes from healthy dependence is accompanied by its shadows - its neediness, inferiority, its loss of control.

Moore says that he had the feeling that his client was avoiding intimacy and friendship by "focusing these qualities into a caricature of excessive dependency." By getting caught in this caricature, she was failing to understand the deeper issues involved. Like her, we might be scared of being deeply involved with the people in our lives and the life being lived around us.

What we need to do, though, is to "go with the symptoms" instead of against them. What this woman needed was to find ways to be dependent that felt fulfilling to her and that were not so extreme that they split off dependence off from independence. She needed to value healthy dependence and not idolize a quality she perceived as being the panacea for what was ailing her.

Our soul is manifested in many aspects. In this client, Moore says, the dependent face of the soul needed to be acknowledged and honored. Cutting off her needs to be dependent was actually a move against her inner life, against her soul.

This is something for all of us to grapple with. When I look inside, I can see how easily polarized I become, how I take up position on one extreme. I love the guidance that Moore offers, as he asks us to listen to the different needs within us and honor all these needs, instead of getting shut off in a corner. This is something I will attempt to do more of this year, to flow more instead of stagnating on one side.   

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