Pretend You're On an Island

When we were kids, my dad tried to teach us independence by telling us to try and figure out solutions ourselves.  This is a great goal to have for children as they grow up and eventually become less and less reliant on you, but if you're teaching it because you're an Enneagram type 5 (the objective, logical, stingy, and intellectual type) and don't really have the inclination to get out of your head-space and physically help your kids, the "lesson" might take a different turn than you were expecting.

Sometimes for dessert, me and my sister would get bananas, and we couldn't figure out how to open them- either we didn't have the hand strength or the manual dexterity, or both, and our emotionally aloof, yet visionary father would tell us to pretend we've been washed up on a desert island and figure it out ourselves, continuing to repeat the exhortation even after we'd broken down into tears.

Again, this kind of encouragement to think creatively is great if a "field" for the frustration is provided, but if even the teacher doesn't have the psychic container for the energy to open the banana, the kids will grow up looking elsewhere for someone who does.

As an adult, I realize that I have inherited this very belief that I have too little energy in my "battery" to help others, and that I have to fend for myself because all the big bad world wants to do is take, take, take from my small energy reserves.   That I held this belief stood out last year in particular when a woman I knew became very sick and I was overwhelmed.  I wanted to help, but I was trying to get my own feet under me, and I wasn't present with her like she needed me to be.  I didn't know how to be there for her.  I started realizing how very much of a "deserted island" mentality I had developped. 

Moreover, I've found myself refusing other peoples' help, having clearly overwhelmed my dad with my needs as a child, and not wanting to repeat that same rejection in my adult life. 

I've recently made a conscious decision to be more available for people and more present when their lives get messy- as they tend to do.  Having especially benefitted from the kindness of friends and veritable strangers in the last month, and knowing that my Enneagram (personality) type is particularly integrated and redeemed by the practice of generosity, I know this is something I need to cultivate.  Paying it forward, they say, is enriching for the soul too.  There are a few psychological "heirlooms" I want to transform before they get passed on to my kids' generation-- my availability to others is one of them.