The ego’s narcissism has us waiting for the perfect person to appear. The Holy Spirit knows that the search for perfection in another is just a smokescreen that hides our need to develop the perfect within ourselves. And if there is a perfect person out there – which there isn’t – would they date you? When we give up the c***dish obsession with scanning the planet for Mr. or Ms. Right, we can begin to develop the skills of compassionate relationship. We stop judging people and start relating to them instead. We recognize, first and foremost, that we’re not in a relationship to focus on how well the other person is learning their lessons, but rather to focus on learning our own.
The ego defends against love, not fear. Pain in relationships can be perversely comfortable pain, in that is one we know. We’re used to it. I once heard a tape by Ram Dass, an American spiritual teacher, in which he told of seeing a newspaper article about an abused baby being taken away from his mother. As a police matron tried to take the baby, he kept struggling to remain in his mother’s arms. Although his mother was the one who beat him, she was the one he knew. He was used to her. He wanted to remain in familiar territory.
This story illustrates our relationship to our own egos. The ego is our pain, but it is what we know, and we resist moving out of it. The effort it takes to grow out of painful patterns often feels more uncomfortable than remaining within them. Personal growth can be painful, because it can make us feel ashamed and humiliated to face our own darkness. But the goal of personal growth is the journey out of dark emotional patterns that cause us pain, to those that create peace. Psychotherapy: Purpose and Practice says that at their peak, religion and psychotherapy become one. They both represent the relationship between thought and experience, and are used by the Holy Spirit to celebrate one of the most glorious human potentials: our capacity to change.
There is a tendency these days to analyze our neuroses ad infinitum, yet use the analysis itself to justify rather than heal the wound. After a certain point, having seen why a pattern developed (“My father was emotionally unavailable”, or “My mother abused me”) and the effect it has had on our personalities (“I don’t know how to let a man get close to me,” or “I now have a hard time trusting any authority figure”), actual change occurs because of a decision on our part: the decision to heal, the decision to change. It ultimately doesn’t matter so much why I become angry or defensive. What matters is that I I want to be healed, and I ask God to help me.