Simply Being Human

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Lately, a thought has been running through my mind that I can't let go of - "We are all just being human." I've been thinking about what that really means—on the ground, in the trenches, day in, day out.

As a psychotherapist, I am given the sacred task of sitting with others in their suffering. The therapist is entrusted to sit with people when they are in pain, filled with shame, feel unworthy, unloved or unlovable, when they are vulnerable. People come and lay their burdens down in my therapy office, not necessarily because they know me, but because that's the sacred contract we have entered into. The client and I co-create the temenos, the holy container, that which can hold the wild mythic energies of being human on this planet in this lifetime at this point in history.

Here are just a few things I've learned from personal and professional experience about what it is to be human. (Caveat: These are culturally bound observations.)

To be human means—

  • We have all of the emotions. All of them. And the list is long.

  • We often believe that we are not supposed to have some of these emotions.

  • There is an inherent creative function in all of us. We are creators.

  • We all piss, shit, sleep, eat, were born, and will die. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. On. This. Planet.

  • There is an unbearable tension between the overwhelming biological imperative to connect with other humans and the isolating experience of shame.

  • We have imaginings and fantasies—about love, death, sex, other people, life, the gods.

  • We often believe that we are not supposed to think some of the things we think.

  • We defend our beliefs furiously, fiercely, and unequivocally as if they were a matter of life or death. Or as if they defined who and what we are in our totality.

We are creatures of great contradiction.

  • We expect people to honor our boundaries, and we want what we want when we want it. In attempting to gain what we want, we violate the boundaries of others.

  • It is when we cling to our pride that we are most fragile and when we step fully into our vulnerability that we are most resilient.

  • Hurt people hurt people.

  • When it is hot, we yearn for winter. When it is cold, we clamor for sun.

  • We pursue our lover until they give up the chase and turn toward us, and then we become the pursued.

  • We love our play and need our work. And vice versa.

  • We want to be our own unique selves, and we are terrified to be so.

A mantle of Divine Presence

If I am sitting on the ferry or in a restaurant, or I'm walking through the grocery store or an airport, or I open the door to the waiting room to see the beautiful soul who has shown up at my office for the work—and if I am mindful and aware in those moments—my heart fills up with great compassion for all of us who are being human . . . . the mother struggling with the wailing infant, the young couple who are angry and stonefaced and not speaking, the woman who sits alone looking at her cell phone, the adolescent so awkward and graceful in his new adolescent body.

When I read the news of the day—and if I am mindful and aware in those moments— my heart fills up and breaks at the same time. The news of the day are the mythic stories for our times, of what it means to be human on the pivot of either our impending extinction or some miraculous unforeseen salvation. Playing out across the nation and globe are the devastations of being human in our acts of betrayal, greed, denial, avoidance, hatred, fear, envy, tribalism, need, and the terrible love of violence.

Guernica, Picasso

Guernica, Picasso

On the ferry, in the airport, at the bar, on the field of sport or war, in the halls of government, wherever we are—we are all just being human in a mythic time. Pissing, shitting, sleeping, eating, loving, being lonely, afraid, angry, hopeful, filled up with bitterness and sweetness, at the mercy of Time and Change, overcome by fear and at the same time covered with the mantle of some Divine Presence. Simply being human.