This one is for my person, who sees and does with entirety.
“Love” and “Happiness” are both backbones of our human experience and, as such, are both things that some people work at throughout their lives. They’re tough to nail, but here are some thoughts on working towards getting them right.
“To be loved means to be recognized as existing.” And to love is to validate the very existence of the other person. It is to “see” them and reassure them that they are – and their reality is – real. And matters.
In entirety. And as they define it, not you. (If you think you see them but have an incomplete understanding, especially if they sense it, then you are not seeing them and cannot claim to be.)
It is understanding your person, seeing their idea of their whole being, and saying to them: “I know you are there.”
This is the “second” of four love mantras that buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh shares, but I would argue that it should come first. Before doing anything at all for someone you love, the most meaningful thing you can do is first feel and make them believe that you feel: “yes, you matter. You exist. Your experience is valid.”
This idea is either immediately, almost heart-wrenchingly obvious to us… or may seem a little crazy. If the latter, just dig a little deeper.
There is very little as demoralizing as not being “seen,” as being made to feel that your perception or experience isn’t happening – isn’t real.
Studies on management and motivation have proven – and Dan Ariely has given a TED talk on the fact – that failing to acknowledge someone is almost as demoralizing as actively, deliberately sabotaging or undercutting them. “Ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of their eyes.”
And so, it should make sense that the opposite is true: that by simply looking at a person and agreeing “yes, you are here” and “yes, your reality is real” – “yes, I. See. You.” – is absolutely invaluable to them.
When you experience this recognition on the receiving end, especially if it comes after you didn’t realize you didn’t have it, it’s like nothing else.
Loving is about a.) making rich connections with other people and then b.) doing things for them.
The first step to this is building and investing in strong, authentic networks (and seeing them) and the second step is responding when your network needs you; being generous and accommodating in your response.
It is saying: “I am here for you.”
Which is the first of four mantras shared by Thích Nhất Hạnh. “I am here for you” not just figuratively, but physically, because “when you love someone, the best thing you can offer them is your presence.”
The idea of holding space – of simply being with someone, physically, and letting them be. Protecting them from further onslaught, even internal, without adding noise.
But there’s this other angle, though, which is an unspoken, critical element of Love, if not also Happiness. This flip side, which is: calling upon that network or that person, once established, when you need them.
It’s not about neediness. It’s about being honest about when you need to play a card – about asking someone for something to be done for you – and feeling safe enough to do so. It’s about vulnerability.
It is the fourth of Thích Nhất Hạnh’s four mantras: “I am suffering. I am trying my best. Please help me.”
This isn’t immediately obvious to everyone – especially emotionally independent people. It’s so easy to go at it alone.
But even those of us who are pretty self-sufficient have moments where we may feel like we’re drifting when we don’t want to be. When we want to feel anchored. And even though normally we can anchor ourselves, maybe right now we aren’t.
Sometimes things are shifting and you just want to call on someone to hold space – to bring things to solidity for a bit. When we have someone – one trusted person – that we can reach out to and say “it normally is but it isn’t right now; I normally am but I’m not. I need you,” it is utterly and absolutely invaluable.
But you have to feel okay to ask. And even that vulnerability – sensing you have that safe space to do so – means a lot.
For the emotionally guarded, even that space is sacred and dear.
Also, here’s Part I. You didn’t need to read them in order. So whatev.