Emotional Bondage

54 QUESTION: Would you be good enough to give us some ideas on the subject of emotional bondage, especially on how to begin searching for it in the image work?

ANSWER: There is not only one explanation for this, but as many as there are human personalities. What is the sum total of the human personality? So many factors are involved: temperament, character, the way the various universal forces work in proportion, general development, the particular development of certain trends.

Out of all these have arisen the circumstances in this life and also in previous lives. All these, plus additional factors, play a role. But let me try to find, briefly, a common denominator.

One inevitable factor in bondage is fear. As you well know, fear can only arise out of self-will and pride. It may sound like oversimplification, but this viewpoint may bring the beginning of clarification to a person who has an inclination to bondage.

The growing child strives for love, but it may not receive as much of it as it desires; or it may receive a different kind, an imperfect kind of love, leaving the child unfulfilled. Now, if the self-will current goes into certain channels, subconsciously the person may think: “I must have love; I desire love, yet my experience has shown me that I cannot really get it; or rather, I can get it only by submitting to certain things I really do not like.”

On a primitive level, this happens when a child has to obey and do certain things it does not want to do. Partly it has to give in because the authority is stronger, but partly it gives in because it does not want to forfeit the love it craves. These contradictory currents, or apparently contradictory currents – the desire for love and the fear of losing the love or of not getting it – put a strain on the emotions and create this conflict. More specifically, it creates in certain temperaments a tendency to be in bondage.

Of course, many other things play a role as well. But we cannot go into all of this in a general discussion. There are so many possibilities. Perhaps to a very small degree any unpurified human being may have a little of this tendency. Just think about how important it is for you to be in the good graces of someone important for you, or be approved by the people you love.

The moment there is too strong a desire, or the inability to give up the desire, you act out of fear and out of a pressure that amounts to compulsion. This may not always be strong enough to be called a bondage. In principle, however, it is the same because you may be untrue to yourself in little ways. If the need and desire for love is stronger than being true to yourself, the bondage principle is at work.

It is my advice for anyone on this Path to look for this current, even if an obvious bondage does not exist. You will find that many people who apparently have no bondage at all, who seem rather to be quite unsubmissive, quite rebellious, behave in such a forceful way only because deep down they are afraid of this very problem. By acting in the apparent opposite manner, they believe they save themselves from bondage.

The healthier you are emotionally, the less of a show you will make about being independent. The more one is basically afraid of it and fights against it, the nearer one is to the extreme of outright bondage.

One more thing: where bondage exists – whether manifest or latent – a certain amount of masochism and sadism must always exist. Masochism arises out of the unhealthy reason of compulsive submission in order to get something, such as love or approval. Sadism is the consequence of detesting one’s submissiveness and resenting it.

This resentment is, of course, projected onto the other person involved, although often indirectly and subconsciously. Resentment directed to the self is masochism. It is the very same resentment: in sadism it reaches out to the other self, whereas in masochism it turns back to one’s own self.

 

QA159 QUESTION: I have a problem in that somebody, say in work, could be acting nice toward me and even if it were totally insincere and just all an act in order to make me do their work, and I know it and they’re aware of it, I seem bound by the rules of this kind of thing. I feel afraid all the time of hurting somebody’s feelings. If there was a direct conflict and I had a fight with the person, then I could tell them what I thought, but…

ANSWER: The niceness binds you, you mean?

QUESTION: Yes.

ANSWER: Now, in the first place, this kind of being bound has several facets to it. One aspect of this being bound is that you fear your own aggressiveness and your own hostility. If you would not fear it – if you would have come to terms with it – it would not somewhere lurk close to the surface.

You could take the niceness at face value, deal with it and really choose what you want to do. If you would want to comply because this is indeed what is preferable for you without being deceived by its motivation, you would not mind it. You would perhaps even prefer this to a coercive and disagreeable way of tricking you.

You fear it particularly because, on the one aspect, at all times you despise yourself for the need for approval, for the need for niceness. Therefore you have an inner need to prove to yourself you are not in such a way bound, and therefore would like to go full steam ahead with aggression. It is almost a compulsion – in order to preserve your self-respect – to reject such niceness. Do you follow me?

QUESTION: No, I seem to be totally lost. Somehow what you’re saying is running away from me. I can’t follow.

ANSWER: Well, let me try to make it clearer. There is a certain amount of self-contempt in you, because there’s a tendency to comply with the niceness. Do you follow it that far?

QUESTION: Yes.

ANSWER: Because you have this contempt, there is a temptation in you to be aggressive and hostile, so as to prove to yourself and perhaps to the world that you are not submissive, you cannot be bought by niceness. So the disagreeable feeling you have is very much due to this tendency in you that, on the one hand, wants that others are nice with you and, on the other hand, despises yourself for it and feels the need to be aggressive. Is it clearer now?

QUESTION: Yeah.

ANSWER: So this is the one thing. On the other hand, there is also a tendency in you that may perhaps be a little deeper. You would have to look a little closer at certain reactions where you have a tendency to be very nice with people in order to make them submit to you, where the shoe is on the other foot, out of your own fears, out of your own indirect ways of wanting to manipulate people. Are you aware of that at all?

QUESTION: No, not yet.

ANSWER: Well, when you resolve these problems, then you will be able to cope with such a situation. Now, how you resolve it: this cannot be done from one day to the other. You know, it does take time and help and work and concentration to go into the depths of one’s own being, to fully understand such problematic aspects. I can only point to them here.

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