Monday, October 14, 2013

Having and Being


I’m happy to say that the Focus Group I mentioned in the earlier post did meet again, and again after that. In fact, they’ve decided to continue meeting at 6 week intervals. The deepening energy of a group is a fascinating and beautiful thing to experience.
            In our second meeting, in contrast to the first, (when I asked them to bring something they were ready to give away) I asked them to bring something that they would not part with. We heard wonderful stories, and learned a bit more about each participant. Then, in the next meeting, I prepared them for the group with a quote from Erich Fromm’s book, To Have or To Be, and pointed out that on reflection, we can see that the biggest difference between the object they brought to give away, and the object that is a keepsake is the difference between having and being. The first object had no meaning, it was simply possessed. The second object had meaning which connected it to the quality of being. This is why even the most humble and meaningless things can become valuable in our lives.
            The line demarcating the territories of having and being can become blurred in the fog bank of relationship. Social norms lead us to say, “my husband” or “my wife”, for example. “My children”. These are terms of ownership. Even though we know that our loved ones are not our property, there is a sense of territory, at least. And that territory can easily become the geography of jealousy, assumptions, and misunderstandings.
            To review these territories for yourself, reflect on your relationships. Friendships, marriages, and significant relationships contribute to the quality of our being. Think of how you are with your friends, workmates, or your lover. How do you speak? How do you speak to each other? What do you expect from him or her? What do they expect from you? Try to name the qualities others bring into your being, and what qualities do you give, or hope to give to others?
Each of us begins life mirroring the habits we learn in our home of origin. If our parents quarreled, it seems natural to be quarrelsome with our spouse. Someone who grew up in a quiet household might find the quarrelsome environment to be painfully war-like. 
We all know, that it can be a shocking awakening when in adulthood, someone meets our parents and says, off handedly, “Oh, you’re so much like your mother.” What? No! Yikes! That can set us into a fit of rebellion against every aspect of our learned or inherited behavior.

Being without having in relationships is not an easy way to live. Especially in intimate relationships where the partners become a part of each other and a lot of behavior becomes unconscious. Having an open dialog and constant awareness can allow the relationship to be a big enough container for the individual life of each person, and the life of the two as one joint entity.
An easy place to start cultivating your awareness about having and being is to look at the objects you own, and decide which ones add to the quality of your being, and which ones you can/could get rid of (or gift to someone else).

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The illustration above is a work on paper titled, “Reflection” ©Adriana Díaz 2009.