Put it in a box

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is a theory of motivation, following physiological and safety needs are the need for love and belonging. We all need to feel cared for and experience a sense of belonging to others. There is a need to have at least one safe figure that can be trusted and depended upon; a person that one knows will be there come hail or storm. The world we live in has conditioned us to put people and how they relate to each other in boxes. Some of these relationships we are born into are parents and siblings, and some we make of our choice like marriage, adult intimate relationships, and friendships.

Sometimes we are born into or choose relationships that hurt more than heal us. One feels like drowning in waters of anguish and pain day in and out; hitting a dead-end of sorts. There is a disconnect from the get-go that we perhaps refused to recognise and for years we drag ourselves into such relationships, working hard to convince ourselves and the other that we are happy.

This world is full of people with whom if we get lucky to cross paths; we instantly connect and the space between seems effortless and flowing. Most importantly it doesn’t feel like work. But then if we are conditioned and hard-wired to work in our existing relationships, we inadvertently try to turn that dynamic into an act of labour too.

Putting a new friendship or relationship into a box, and pre-defining what can or cannot be is one way of limiting what two people can create between them. If anything I have learned and where I am currently in life, that’s the last thing I want to do. Perhaps I am unorthodox in my thinking, perhaps I like to enact fantasies but I believe that if two people are lucky enough to discover a profound connection, they need to allow whatever is emerging between them at its own pace and energetic drive. It’s our conditioning that dictates us to give labels to relationships. We feel that the label will diminish the anxiety of fulfilling unspoken expectations from the other that might come our way in the future. It’s also an unconscious way of resisting all that we might become with this person which enhances the internal conflict. Do I allow myself to feel more when my mind says a future with this person is not on the cards? Can I surrender to the emotions that are emerging although they don’t align with my view of what should be the limitation of this space?

And so there is a feeble attempt to put the relationship into a box. Friendship is the safest box to put it in. Why can’t we allow ourselves to breathe freely and let time define what space two people create between them? Why do we need to sublimate that precious energy of what is emerging into a stereotypical box?

A life that sometimes keeps us stuck in unhappy relationships, needs to be lived freely with others. We have to allow ourselves to be spontaneous and cherish and nurture the connection and embrace the power of being seen, heard, valued, and appreciated by the other. We need to permit ourselves to fully experience the other without holding back and resisting in the fear of, what if the dynamic that is emerging cannot be contained in the box we believe it was destined to be in.

Let’s stop putting ourselves into boxes in an illusion of controlling an outcome that we think will make us feel emotionally safe and, in that process, lose out on all those moments where we feel cared for and valued. Seize those moments that you are breathing into and allow yourself to feel loved and have a sense of belonging. If you get lucky to meet someone with whom conversations seem to flow; are effortless and bring joy and healing; then don’t put each other in any box. Let the energy between dictate the dynamic and keep breathing into it.

Zara Maqbool

The writer is a BACP (British Association For Counselling and Psychotherapy) accredited individual and couple psychotherapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at zaramaqbool@yahoo.com or her official website.

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