We are going to look at how we adapt and as a result lose touch with ourselves. One way of adapting that we all know, to a greater or lesser degree, is to please others; to make others feel comfortable or at ease, to do what is best for the other person.

A certain degree of adaptation is healthy; live and let live. But what is not healthy is sacrificing yourself, losing yourself. And we often lose ourselves when we accommodate the other, because unconsciously we think that if we don’t do that, we will end up alone. And unconsciously we believe that being left alone is dangerous for us.

In all of us there is a deep belief that just being ourselves, being in our natural state, means that we cannot function in life, that we cannot survive. We have developed the belief that in this world there is no place for who we are, and that we have to conform to others in order to survive. 

This belief is mostly unconscious and was created when we were very young, when we really could not survive without the other. As children, we were in touch with our being. We were ourselves. But we were often not seen in who we were, in our being.  Or we were even rejected. And that was very painful for us. Imagine: you are 1 or 2 years old and you reach out to mother (the nurturing environment) and mother is not there. Mother is not available physically or emotionally. There is no contact, there is no connection. And this lack of connection is perceived by the child as life-threatening. After all, the child is completely dependent on mother for love, protection, care, warmth and nourishment. The child cannot survive without mother. And this painful experience triggered two movements.

The first thing that happened when we were not seen, where there was no contact, was that we withdrew. We pulled ourselves together as a defense against the pain, and we took a wait-and-see attitude. We waited for the right circumstances to reach out. But because it is life-threatening not to connect with mother, there is at the same time a tremendous instinctive need to restore that connection at the point where it was lost. And this triggered a second movement. Here the child does not wait for the right circumstances to reach out, but begins to actively seek contact to restore the connection where it has been lost. “If I am not seen in who I am, how do I have to be to be to be seen?”  And often it meant accommodating; pleasing the other person, making the other person feel comfortable or at ease. Doing what is best for the other person.

So, this adaptation was an attempt to restore connection where it was lost and maintain that connection. And in doing so, we also warded off the painful experience of no connection. And it has worked. It has protected us from pain and it has helped us survive. But in doing so, we also lost touch with our being, with who we really are.

And this is exactly what happens now in our adult life as well when we adapt, when we start accommodating; we lose touch with our being, with who we really are. When you accommodate and you feel that you lose touch with yourself, you can take it for granted that this survival strategy is at work; that you unconsciously want to avoid being alone, to avoid feeling the pain of no connection. And then to know that by doing that you are losing contact with yourself and with the present moment. And that the solution is in fact to remain present to the fear of being alone and to fully experience the pain of no connection. By fully allowing the reality of no connection now, which we could not allow as children, the associated pain and fear can leave our body and system. And as a result, the defenses against it will dissolve naturally and we will feel free and able to live our lives fully.

Know that adapting and accommodating others has helped you survive, but now it is holding you back from being yourself and living your life to the fullest. And it is no longer necessary. You have already survived.

Inquiry practice

How do you adapt? How do you do that in your family, in friendships, in relationships, in work? Do you make yourself small? Do you keep quiet when you think about something differently? Do you wear inconspicuous clothes? Are you unfaithful to yourself just to avoid being accused of being unfaithful to others. Have you ever noticed that you have an insight and you keep it to yourself in order to be with your friends, to be part of society?

And explore how this adaptation is now holding you back from being completely yourself, from who you really are. Explore how your habit of adapting to others diminishes and limits your expansion; how this habit makes you disconnected from yourself.   

You can do the exploration with someone else for fifteen minutes each, or you can do the inquiry in writing.