The challenge for me is when my liking to help loved ones crosses over into needing to help them.
“It’s a problem that you’re not different. You need to change.” Even if I don’t say this aloud, the sentiment in my heart speaks for itself.
This can frighten loved ones to the point they withdraw and view my influence and even presence as something to avoid. This can in turn add to my frustration and thus zeal to influence change. And the cycle goes on.
I have fallen into this many, many times. I assume I will in the future. I am seeing more clearly that there is a logic behind this judgment and I am seeing more clearly that it’s false.
The logic is that my experience somehow derives from others. My wife’s happiness holds the key to my wellbeing. My child’s well-adjusted ways directly influence my equilibrium. Inside that logic, every person with a self-preservation instinct will feel compelled to change their spouse or kid. This is understandable, it’s human, and in addition to being false, will generally lead to struggle and upset.
The alternative to that logic goes something like this: each of us lives our lives in the state of mind, the emotional experience, and the understanding we are gifted with in this moment. We do our best with the understanding we have.
Seeing this, I have less concern that my experience is at the mercy of those around me. I become untangled from loved ones. They’re free to do their best (or struggle) and so am I. With less concern for or need to manage my experience, I see the illogic of changing theirs. I can just be with them. Changes and results in general start to fall away as the focus of my goals and my true job comes sharply into view.
My job starts with the simple task of seeing what's true - that the source of my emotional experience arises from one place and one place only - the gift of thought that the Al-mighty makes available to me now. This is clarity.
This is also emunah (“belief” in Hebrew). It's not for naught that our Sages say that one who lives with this understanding "resides in the City of Refuge," free from the confusion and inner chaos that accompanies the falseness of an ego-guided perspective.
Emunah clarity is not defined by an emotional state per se - not calm, nor loving warmth, nor any other positive emotion. It's knowing that whatever emotional experience I find myself in comes from within me through the gift of Divine thought in this moment. Aside from this being a mitzvah and a wonderful accomplishment, I find this allows me greater choice.
Choice to remember what is true about my and others’ psychological experience and avoid codependence.
Choice to ask God for a heart and mind that are clear, for help to see that I am free of dependency on loved ones’ actions or feelings, that I can be a safe space and resource for them on their journey unconditionally.
Choice to say thank you to God and stand in mind-boggling gratitude when I experience that help.
Choice to see when my vision is impaired, when my mind feels flooded with anger and blame and other trappings of the logic of ego-based thought (which, by the way, also comes from God in this moment) and thereby step away.
Or perhaps choice after failing to step away – to appreciate how human it is to become confused, to accept responsibility and express regret for hurtful words or actions, and to affirm my commitment to be helpful and loving.
As best as I can tell in this moment, this is the journey God has placed us on. It’s a journey of standing in His presence – loving, all-encompassing, always, at all times, no matter what unfolds around or within us.
How fortunate are we to know even a little bit about it. I have no words to adequately convey my gratitude for the gift of this opportunity.