Join me in an exploration of the Me AND You Universe, a concept introduced to me eight years ago by Diane Poole Heller. She described an interpersonal Me AND You universe; I have found that idea applies also to our intra-personal and transpersonal experience.
In one of her modules of her DARe Training, Diane teaches about how the Me AND You Universe contrasts with the Me OR You Universe. She calls each state of mind a universe because they are a lived reality that is exclusive of other realities in a person’s experience. Most of us live in the You OR Me Universe. Unfortunately, our early attachment experiences lead us to the conclusion that we can have either ourselves or the other, me or you. In Pathwork terms we might call this a Main Image. It’s a belief that “if I have you, then I lose myself, and if I have me, I lose you.” This is a duality of consciousness or psychological splitting which is very painful. The way this often shows up for me is that I am loving being with you, but also can’t wait for some “quiet time”. Then when I am alone and have this “quiet time” I am missing being with you. Either way there is a tinge of dissatisfaction and a lack of wholeness.
For those of us who had a parent who was inconsistent, coming and going from our lives (maybe due to jobs, depression, illness or overwhelm) — one conclusion a child would make is, “If I give up on myself I may have a much better chance of keeping you.” These children often seek perfectionism and performance as a way to sustain their parents attention longer, deferring their own needs. Others of us who had a parent who was often unavailable with low affect or self centeredness—a conclusion the child make is, “I will rely on myself and pull my attention inward”. The first child has a “I get you-but-not-me” belief and the second child has a “I get me-but-not-you” belief. For those of us whose parents hurt us instead of protecting us we will find ourselves bouncing from me to you as above, never truly landing in either place, with life always feeling somewhat lacking, insufficient, and perhaps chaotic.
The good news is that healing is possible! We know through neuroscience research that the brain has neuroplasticity. I like to think of this as a brain at the gym working out to strengthen the positive pathways, letting the older, historic habits atrophy.
Recently I had a You AND Me experience. It took me several days to realize why it felt so good and profound because it was so simple. It was on a beach vacation with my family, two grown children, two grandchildren and my husband Tom. We had a full morning and early afternoon of fishing, walking, swimming and beautiful weather. And then…ominous clouds rolled in, unexpected, around 2pm. And then the rain. At first we huddled under beach umbrellas but then we gave it up and retreated back to the house. Instead of worrying about everyone else, I ran a bath for myself. It felt so good to immerse myself in the warm water and pretty soon everyone had showered or bathed and ended up in the living room. Two were playing cards, one was building Lincoln Logs, one was playing the guitar, one was on a computer and I was reading the Sunday New York Times. I was also cooking a roast for dinner, periodically getting up to fiddle with the oven temperature, add carrots, potatoes and onions. Cole got tired of the Lincoln Logs and asked me what I was doing. He wanted to review all the pictures he took at the Aquarium the day before. On my phone, comfy on the couch, we took another Aquarium tour, seeing it all through his eyes. He had seen many things I missed, a seahorse exhibit and fishy personalities captured in the light and angles of his photo compositions. Occasionally I would say, “Go show this one to your Dad”, (who is a serious photographer) and Dad would pause his guitar and make approving murmurs. This weaving in and out of having my own interests — reading about how the Taliban came into existence — and interacting with the family was so fluid. And then wonderful smells began to waft from the kitchen, the roast almost done. It was a simple experience of family, a sweet three hour stretch of time on a rainy summer afternoon, but it was also an experience beyond this, an experience of having myself and everyone else in perfect harmony and balance.
Many of us struggle with the intrapersonal Me and You. It feels like there is no way to make peace with all the parts of ourselves. One part seeks perfection while another part rebels and wants to be lazy. In another very simple moment which also felt like an epiphany, I realized I had achieved the Me AND You moment inside myself. I was thinking about shoes. This does not sound like this will lead to some inspirational moment, but stay with me. I was thinking about these favorite black leather platform shoes that I had many years ago. I loved them because a friend of mine had them and I wanted to be like her. So I got them too. I spent much of my life wanting to be like other people, trying to emulate their clothes, style, manner of speech, bodies. This imitation is a natural developmental stage— how we learn when we are young but this stage lasted for me into my 40s and 50s. As I was thinking about these shoes I realized I no longer want to be like anyone else. I just want to be me whatever that may look like or mean. Another arriving at a Me AND You moment.
Finally there is the Me AND You that is between me and God or the universe itself. It is when I and the Universe have each other. I felt this today as I watched the sunrise. Melting into the always present magic of the moment the sun first appeared on the horizon, the sky ablaze in red through the clouds. This transpersonal experience of having myself and this greater wondrous experience of nature as One.
As humans we naturally drift into duality—good, bad, life, death. The Me AND You Universe is the ultimate antidote to this duality. It is the true experience of win-win, getting to have it ALL, if only for a summer afternoon.