We build castles and we feel safe and comfortable within them. Sometimes we don’t even know that we live in a castle, or that there is a place that is outside our castle. Needless to say, living in this castle has some costs. We find ourselves attracted to another human being, but at the same, we fear getting too close. We find ourselves getting angry, really angry, without understanding why, but knowing at some inner level that the person we were angry at did not cause our anger. We want friends, but discover that no one really measures up. We find ourselves without meaningful connections to our world.
I encountered costs of living in my castle that were pretty high. After 8 years of marriage, my first wife suddenly left. I was totally confused by this at the time, but more recently I have seen that she had emotional needs, for support and intimacy, in particular, of which I was totally unaware. Her leaving was the only strategy she could see to get those needs attended to.
In recent years, I have discovered that both of my children felt very lonely when they were young. I can only wonder whether, had I been more available to them and more understanding of their needs when they were small children, they would have been less deeply wounded. Again, it wasn’t that I did not want to be present for them, I simple did not know the skills.
If we are lucky, we realize that these patterns come from living in our castle. So we begin to think about leaving. But in order to leave, we have to pass through that fire at the gate; we have to shed our protections and expose ourselves to the world. And yes, once through the fire, we open ourselves to further wounds, pain and hurt. But we also open ourselves to the possibility of becoming the person we truly want to be, of getting in touch with our true values and of experiencing the kind of intimate connection that we all desire above all else.
I am able to leave my castle behind (on most days, anyway) through my awareness of Compassionate Communication. Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of Compassionate Communication, teaches us that each person’s feelings and needs are neither good nor bad. We experience empathy when we connect in a heart-felt way with our own feelings and needs. Empathy for myself gives me the courage confront my world, dangerous as it may be, in a spirit of acceptance and joy. A resonant awareness of the feelings and needs of others allows me to form deep and meaningful connections.
Losses like mine can never fully be made good. Still, I can celebrate that I have begun to learn what it takes to come out of my castle, to leap through the flames and begin to live in a world where I can develop real, deep relationships with other people (not the pseudo, superficial relationships I had in the past). I overflow with gratitude for this gift.