Out of a system of separation there is a miasmic notion that “all fall short” or as one myth declares “all fall short of the glory of god.” This idea, stripped of its religious history, has so saturated modern culture that it has become an indelible aspect of a self-image. No where is this pernicious idea more prevalent than in the idea of any single person being “broken” or “incomplete.”
Even the most innocuous of comments or ridiculous of social models proffer this mentality. Describing someone as “fragile” invokes a porcelain vase or priceless artifact, to be handled with care. Portraying women as lost without a man in their life is reminiscent of the 1980’s notion of a “completed Jew,” as if the inclusion of a male deity or male anyone is needed for wholeness. In every declaration that someone “can’t handle the truth” we posit a notion that not only does the person lack some needed quality, but that we see that absence and then treat them as somehow less, to be coddled rather than accepted.
I have, as I believe so many males do in stereotypic fashion, a predilection towards fixing things, whether that be a mechanism or a relationship or a perceived problem. Rushing in with ready-made answers, poorly informed opinions or just the righteous indignation of declaring myself having been wronged, the notion of offering a “fix” blazes across my consciousness like Hermes delivering a message.
Whether I in fact have an answer that could be conceived as legitimate or even helpful is beside the point, this notion still erupts out of viewing the other as in need of patching up, of replacement parts or a new mind that I bring to them. If I but step back a bit I will notice though that not only is any potential “solution” not merely arising from singular me but by acting as such I have forgotten to see the person or situation as is, set as I am on projecting myself.
Nothing here is to be construed as declaring struggle doesn’t exist in life or that any of us are not at times buffeted by events for which we seek a haven. Rather than viewing such as a result of our fragility or incomplete nature however, I want to change the metaphor to holding our partner(s) or our friend(s) in all their parts-as-whole. As Daniel Siegel notes, integration is the construction of disparate parts into a new coherent narrative. Knowing such a space for another, without offering a solution, indicates the lie of a “fallen nature” and rests instead within a me-and-us creative enterprise.
When I, or any of us, approach someone who is suffering, seeing them as whole and complete, strong and resilient, but at the moment blind to this, a person can be seen devoid of our own hopeful projections. Viewing each other as wholes, as complete entities, encourages thoughtful contemplation rather than emotive melodrama. We do not get stuck attempting to fill the gaps or lack, instead noting how much more we are together. Any solutions then arise through the communal-creation (communication) of an expansive interpersonal connection.
© David Teachout