This Week's Questions
[posed by Jen F.]
Do you know?
Well, Aidan is asleep and Jack is at a play date with his cousin. So I have high hopes I will get this done. To bring you up to speed, Aidan came a week and a half early at 7 lb. and 3 oz. He was just under 20 inches long. He has lots of black hair and a dimple in his left cheek, just like Jack and Daddy. Jack adores him and wants to hold him and look at his poopy diapers.
Expected: Aidan looks just like I pictured him. I could picture him at various points throughout my short and relatively painless labor. Before the bliss of my epidural, I experienced some contractions which were actually good. I watched them go up and down, on the monitor, like a sine wave. Like a P-Curve even. I also watched the clock and sat / squatted and this helped immeasurably! When I had to lay down on my side or back, the pain was much worse. After the epidural, I was able to picture the cervix opening up like a flower in bloom and could talk to Aidan. I told him to come out now. Daddy and I have been waiting for you. Aidan came out and began to nurse as soon as they handed him to me!
Unexpected: Aidan is different from Jack in that he just is. I can't explain it. I did not expect my reaction regarding the newborn experience between my two sons to be so different. I think that I am so much more conscious of Aiden and of his needs than I was with Jack. Moreover, his needs don't upset me as often. Not that they don't distress me. They do. However I am better able to still see my own needs in the face of his. Of course, at times, they do conflict. But I am not reacting out of shock. More like I am making a conscious choice to take care of my crucial needs (eat, use the bathroom) in the space of a few minutes, then attending to him much calmer.
So what is my problem? I cannot picture my own needs getting met and still taking care of everyone else's needs (e.g. finding time to do things without my children; yoga, work, continuing ed classes). I am aware of how sleep deprivation is playing havoc with my mood, and I still feel the disconnect of the birth moment when Aidan left my body and became his own person, but I still hurt. My questions are:
[Question 1] Are all "separations," painful? Is the actual experience of separating, the source of the pain?
Moreover, the aloneness we feel in Layer 8 is not merely the discomfort of being by oneself. It is the deep emptiness of the Zen meditator but without the discipline of a group to ground the experience. Which makes it feel to us more like being "expelled from a space capsule without a suit" than like a spiritual welling up of joy.
Of course, we do feel joy, probably more from what just emerged than from anything else. A new being exists on the planet. Officially, he is here (smile)!
Also, it seems the work you and I did on your fear of giving birth has paid dividends galore. You report the experience as being so much less painful, and that the things we explored really did help.
As for the pain you did feel, a second thing to consider here is that, by giving birth, you just had a counter birth-separation moment experience. What I'm saying is, giving birth means you get to be the "where someone just left from" person. This then adds to that you were once the "someone who left a person" person.
Said in other words, you have been on both sides of the separation; the leaving and the being left. This is one of the main experiences which separate the sexes. Men have no counter experience. Nor do they have an experience wherein they both relive their own birth and give birth. Women do.
For you then, all this makes your question even more timely. So yes, Jen, all separations are painful. Including the one you just went through. The painful mother-baby, birth-separation moment. As well as the one your new son just went through; the baby-mother, birth-separation moment.
[Question 2] Is the actual experience of separating, the source of the pain?
Unfortunately, because we cannot remember our own births, we have no real way to know for sure we ever experienced this pain, let alone they we ever lived in a prior state in which we knew no needs. This, in fact, is why we have legends about "soul mates" and the Garden of Eden but don't believe them. Prior to our births, we did live in a Garden of Eden, complete with an ever present, true blue, honest to goodness soul mate; our mom.
So yes, the experience of separating is the true source of our pain. However, because we are unable to visually recall this event, we mistake what we can recall; our "neediness," as the source of our pain.
No coincidence, then, that the Buddhist say the root of our suffering is our desire. Which they personify and call, the "ghosts of wanting." In this, they are not far wrong either. It is simply that we have, in addition to the neediness we can see, an equal but deeper and non visible "need"; the need to escape the pain of our aloneness and return to our pre birth state.
My point is, since humans cannot visually access Layer 8, the only way we can know it even exists is to experience separations as consciously as we can. Giving birth as consciously as you can is probably the closest a person can come.
Even then, because we, by nature, cannot visually access things beyond the Layer of our own neediness, we are left with only our faith with which to believe there is something beyond our needs.
What I'm saying is, because we can see our needs, and because we cannot see our aloneness, we believe (and fear) our needs more than anything else in life. Underneath it all though, what we fear most is reliving our birth; Connection, to Aloneness, to Need.
Moreover, while many people may hear my use of the word, "aloneness," as me referring to the discomfort of being by oneself, in Emergence Personality Theory, "aloneness" is the experience of being in the void between the worlds, the feeling that no one and nothing else has, does, or ever will exist.
In other words, Layer 8 is the hell of the abyss without the comfort of seeing what this hell is. We then are mere humans trying to see past this hell. Because, by nature, we can't see past this hell, we believe nothing exists past this hell. Something does. A real paradise, in fact. But our inability to visual access this paradise (of connection) makes our experience of aloneness become the source of our suffering.
Which is probably what makes our countrymen say, "It is better to be in the hell you know than the hell you don't." The heel we know is Layer 7 "neediness." The hell we don't know is Layer 8 "aloneness."
[Question 3] How can we become more aware of our unmet needs while in the company of others? Why do we experience these needs so intensely? Are they really all that important? If so, why?
Yes, our needs really are that important. However, meeting our needs is always easier if we make connecting more important than meeting our needs. Confused? Well here's where the rest of your questions come in. You see, whenever we feel needy, we actually have two kinds of "needs" in play, although technically, the second one; reconnecting, is not really a need. More a desire to resolve a wound.
We, however, are incapable of experiencing these two things separately. Thus, whenever we feel needy, we simultaneously feel a Layer 7 neediness and a "resolving Layer 8 by returning to 9 / 10" need. A "ghosts of wanting" neediness and a "going from aloneness to connectedness" neediness.
Now imagine what this would feel like were you able to remain fully conscious while in this state. To get an idea, try imagining you feel very hungry and that you haven't eaten for at least six hours. What would this need feel like if you could remain fully aware of it? Powerful, to say the least.
Now add to this imaginary scene that your newborn son is howling for food himself. Along with your three year old who is doing the more advanced form of howling; torturing you with whiney nagging punctuated with full body floor rolling threats and tiny fists flailing the air. Can you imagine consciously witnessing all this too?
What I've just done is model for you a way in which you might become more aware of your needs while in the company of others. In this case, your two sons. Howling and hungry. Moreover, if you can push yourself to visualize this as conscious as you possibly can, you'll also find at least part of the answer to your third question; Why do we experience these needs so intensely?
Why? Because we cannot experience these two "needs" separately, one at a time. And because we humans, by nature, put the need we can see (in this case, the hunger), ahead of the need we cannot see. Our need to reconnect.
Are these two needs always present simultaneously? Yes. This infers then why we experience neediness so intensely. Why? Because we cannot simultaneously meet the visible need (in this case, feed three people) and meet the invisible need, the need to reconnect. To see this as true, simply notice how these two needs contradict each other.
What I'm asking is, can you consciously learn to connect to your hunger and eat at the same time? Of course not. Eating answers the hunger need but in doing so, destroys our chance to consciously witness our hunger. In other words, you can't be hungry and satisfy the hunger at the same time. Either you consciously witness this hunger while not eating, or you eat and lose the hunger.
Applying this contradiction to the scene in which you and your two sons are simultaneously hungry, you can either  feed everyone then go for the connection, or  try to be super mom and connect you three while overriding the hunger. Of course, with children (and with most adults as well), this second option is not a real option.
So now, to answer your initial question; How can we become more aware of our unmet needs while in the company of others? You can't. However, you can choose to feed your sons while feeding your soul by connecting to them as little beings. You then must reverse this need meeting process by feeding your stomach while getting them to connect to you. Perhaps through reading them a story while you eat.
Jen, in the end, resolving this duality is one of the hardest tasks we humans have. We can do it. Sometimes. And we mostly cannot, but can learn to accept this inability as no failure on our parts but rather as something built into our nature.
[Question 4] How does consciously having our needs met make us less needy? How does something become a need, and where does the energy go when it is satisfied?
On the other hand, constantly denying oneself is no solution either. Why not? Because we all have legitimate needs which, if unmet, result in symptoms; e.g. not eating, not sleeping, not exercising, etc.
The truth is, you seem to be experiencing this very dilemma right now. You have both a new born and a three year old, and a husband and a self. And while you have urges to meet all of their needs first, you also are mentally healthy enough to know this won't work for long.
The answer? Obviously, you need to seek an answer to this dilemma WITH your husband and not simply FOR your husband. In other words, you will never find an adequate answer if you keep looking by yourself. Connection is key.
Ironically, this need; the need to get help with our needs, is the one our birth-separation wound most blinds us to. It's simply not visible and so, we forget it most of the time.
Look, Jen, You need help and you know it. More important, you deserve help and you know this too. So just do your best to stop being so neurotic and go make some demands on your husband. And remember. I know him too. So I know he can take it (smile).
[Question 5] Is it possible to satisfy more than one person's needs at a time? Three people? Four? Is it possible to find the fractal in a group’s needs and address that? Like finding a thread of similarity? Is it possible to for a two (me) to remain conscious in the presence of a one (my newborn son, Aidan), a three (my husband, John), and a four (my three year old son, Jack)?
Is it possible to satisfy more than one person's needs at a time? Yes. How? By making connecting more important than meeting these needs. However, in babies who have yet to develop this capability (including both your sons), accomplishing this can be quite a challenge. Next to impossible, in fact.
Know that you can work toward you and them getting better at this over time though. Not just better at meeting your family's needs. Rather, better at not forgetting to make connecting more important than meeting their needs.
How would this look?
In two years, it might look like reading your sons a story while you eat, effortlessly and with joy.
In one year, it might be that you and you husband each make connecting to a son a piece your primary goal. Both sons get satisfied. And you are not alone.
And in the present? Start being more bitchy and less guilty. More needy and less ashamed. More smiley and less paralyzed. More amazed and less confused.
How can you do all this? ASK FOR MORE HELP (smile)!
And congratulations on your new son.