This post is hard for me to write because it shines light on one of the core patterns I’ve spent years in therapy and years in prayer trying to break—the Savior Complex. For those of you who are familiar with the drama triangle, you know that drama tends to erupt whenever we inhabit any of three roles—the victim, the martyr, and the perpetrator. Here’s how the triangle tends to go—someone perceives herself as the victim, and she blames the perpetrator for her plight, feeling helpless, disempowered, hurt and angry. Then the martyr swoops in to save her; only this rescuing pattern stems from pity for the victim, not true compassion. It boosts the ego of the martyr, fluffing up the martyr’s feelings of self-worth, because, at the core, the martyr doesn’t feel whole and worthy unless she’s rescuing. Over time, the martyr gives and gives until she’s depleted and then she gets resentful because she has been rescuing others at the expense of her own self-care. Then she lashes out at the victim, becoming the perpetrator to the very victim she sought to help. Or she gets sick or depressed or financially depleted, demonstrating that she has perpetrated her own body or her own mental health or her own bank account. The martyr has now become the victim.
I’m in love with this Alanis Morrissette song "You Owe Me Nothing in Return." In fact, I have a girl crush on Alanis in general, especially after I heard her speak with one my spiritual influences Adyashanti. For a long time, I used the lyrics to this song about unconditional love as a sort of sacred contract I proposed between friends, family members, and romantic partners. It was my benchmark, the ideal of perfect love that I strove to achieve.
This morning, I posted this on Facebook and then Mind Body Green picked it up when it started to go viral. I wanted to share it with you here, because the more of us who remember that we are all in this together, the more we will meet terror with love and find one another in the space between stories.
From the bathroom at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, where a terrorist opened fire, 30-year-old Eddie Justice texted his mother. "Mommy I love you. In the club they shooting. Trapp in the bathroom. Call police. Im gonna die."
For most of my life, love fit into boxes. There was “family love,” the kind of love you have for your mother or father or child. There was “romantic love,” the love of your soul mate or lover. There was love for animals, the kind of pure, devotional love you might feel for your pet. Love fit nicely into defined containers—until about 8 years ago. Then I started experiencing love in ways I couldn’t quite explain. It started with experiences in nature. I would gaze at a waterfall, and then WHAM. My heart would explode with butterflies and I would BE the waterfall and I would make love with that waterfall, as if I had just fallen in love. Tears would spill down my cheeks and I would feel so exposed I could hardly stand it. Or I would call in the Cheetah or meet a cheetah on safari in Africa and my chest would get cracked open as if I’d just had heart surgery. Love would burst out of me and through me and I would love those whales or that cheetah more than I had ever loved anything in my whole life. My whole body would be buzzing with love, a vibrating tenderness emerging from the sanctuary of my heart.
In Part 1 of Relationships on the Spiritual Path, we explored issues of comfort, soul growth and judgment—and how the tender parts of us need to feel safe in order for the heart to open to its full capacity. In today’s blog, we’ll dive into some juicy territory and talk about expectations, the interface between intimacy and freedom, and the anatomy of trust. Let’s start with the elephant in the room—expectations.