Finding People to Join With: Re-evaluating Old Relationships, Seeking New Ones
All of us have been injured by the powerful cultural beliefs of contemporary society, as illustrated in Part II. In an ideal world, we would all be raised with our needs being met and plenty of nurturing support and challenge. Everyone around us would be engaged in personal growth and conscientious about improving the lives of the people around them. In our current culture, however, that is not the case. We cannot expect the people we come into contact with regularly to be the kind of kin we are looking for. For most of us, the friends and family relationships we develop by happenstance need to be re-evaluated if a genuine shift is going to occur in our lives and in our culture. Furthermore, a major part of manifesting a values shift is looking for people to live with. This is a big, important job, and will become a major priority in your life if you are looking to really live in interdependence and create time in your life for growth and co-creation.
It is important that we be honest with ourselves, especially regarding relationships. Try to examine truthfully the ways your relationships are serving you well or not. Is the energy exchange equivalent or is there an imbalance one way or the other? If you feel like you are receiving too much energy and not giving enough, ask yourself why both of you are maintaining the imbalance. Likewise for the opposite dynamic: if you find yourself frustrated with a companion who regularly needs time and energy (favors, attention) or money and rarely reciprocates, this interaction isn’t beneficial for either party. These relationship imbalances set habits of need and dependence which don’t serve anyone’s growth nor the well-being of a kin group, community, or culture. If you compensate for someone’s lack of self-care, for example, by diving in to rescue them every time they hurt themselves, you are enabling them to continue their self-abuse. As the enabler, you get a boost of self-righteous energy from knowing you are better or more capable than the person you rescue. This puts you in a position of strength which you gain only relative to the other person’s lack. It is unhealthy for both of you.
What can you do if you feel, upon careful examination, that a relationship isn’t working for you? Many people in our culture are so afraid of conflict that they would rather go on feeding imbalances than address them and risk releasing scary pent-up emotions. Yet it is vital for each person’s own growth and learning as well as for cultural change that we be brave enough to get comfortable with conflict and emotional expression. If you feel a relationship is not working for you, talk with an outside friend or family member and ask them to mirror what they see happening in it. Maybe the other person has been giving in ways you haven’t noticed, or maybe they have been hoping you would return their favors eventually. You might decide to change your behaviors and continue the relationship. Or you might decide that changing the dynamic is too difficult right now and it would be best to simply back off and see less of that person. That’s ok. We grow together, and we grow apart. Focus on what best serves your highest potential, trusting that emotions will always come and go and that change is a natural part of life.
When it comes to cooperative living, who we choose to interact with is essential to our survival. A haphazard approach to building cooperative living situations can quickly lead to prodigious drama and financial ruin. So consider people-hunting an important (and fun) part of your daily life. Everywhere you go, be looking for bright-eyed, healthy, and inspired people who you feel you could live with. This requires a whole values shift – you attend events or parties for the purpose of seeing who is there rather than to buy something or show off your skills.
When approaching people, test them and allow them to test you in return before making any long-term commitments. Ask simple questions, such as: What has your experience been with community in the past? How do you feel about your exes or your parents? A lot of damaged people are looking to find situations where they can be taken care of and nurtured by others, perhaps given some time to heal, but don’t have the energy to give back when it comes to cooking, cleaning, paying rent, or helping others with emotional stability and mirroring. It is very valuable work to support a person in need, but it is wise to save that energy for apprentices or interns and choose to live with people who do have energy to give and who can take care of you in return. It is also very honorable and courageous to see the truth of where you are at energetically – if you are at a place where you need a lot of support and healing, perhaps you would benefit more from seeking out an apprentice or intern role for a while. Finding people to live with is like finding life partners – there is no need to rush and there are plenty of ways to get a feel for each other before jumping into any commitments.
What follows in this chapter are a few ideas to assist you to discern who you want to live within tribe. Remember, trust is gained over time. Friendships start out shallow and grow deeper and deeper as we work at them.