In one of my dreams a group of frustrated and critical women, an un-nourishing restaurant experience, and a missing suitcase representing unacknowledgment, unrealized longings and social neediness, and a symbol of independence and of not going somewhere in life confronted me. Whew! With dreams like that who needs stress?
But through my dream and subsequent reflection I learned something about myself. Once again I noticed that I was still looking for approval from my mother and as was usual, I didn’t get it. She’s been dead for 13 years now and the part of me that’s still looking for acknowledgment is the part of me that tried to get it 60+ years ago.
I also learned again that there’s no satisfying acknowledgement from outside myself when the inside has yet to acknowledge. I project the unsatisfied acknowledgement onto the stage of the waking world and then blame the waking world inhabitants for not acknowledging me properly. I’ve known this for quite some time, but I always seem to forget until the universe brings it up to me yet again, and again, and again.
This is not to say that the waking world inhabitants don’t have their own acknowledgement issues. I’ve observed many folks either delivering conditional acknowledgements, or throwing up subtle and not so subtle barriers toward acknowledgment coming their way.
Conditional acknowledgment, the kind where one hand delivers while another takes away such as “He’s really good for someone as awkward as he is!” Is like no acknowledgement at all. Don’t bother, I say. Don’t toss an acknowledgment that’s going to drop to the floor before the intended receiver can catch it. You won’t make any goals that way.
Acknowledgment is a tricky thing, we’re all looking for it and it’s all about the approval we didn’t get, or perceived not getting, from our parents. Acknowledgment can be energizing and empowering, or de-energizing and disempowering depending on the sincerity and quality of the delivery. Better to just say “good job” than to get all flowery and come across as disingenuous.
I used to present a workshop a number of years ago called “The Acknowledgment Workshop”. I spent a great deal of time helping people discover what acknowledgment was and was not and what were some of the barriers to giving it and some of the obstacles to getting it e.g. accepting it. What I didn’t do then was to talk about the inner dialog that many of us have that makes it difficult to present, or accept, nor did I spend much time talking about who’s really responsible for getting and giving acknowledgment.
Bottom line– Personal responsibility is more than being responsible for your actions, it is also being responsible for what you project onto your experiences and onto the actions of others. Responsibility includes your interpretation of reality and what you do with that.
Acknowledgment is a dance between the receiver and the giver with each responsible for what is delivered and what is received. We owe it to the one to whom we are giving the acknowledgment to make sure that it is given in a way that it can be received and that it actually is taken in the manner it was given. It is also incumbent on the receiver to communicate to the giver what is wanted and needed.
That last part is by far the most difficult because it can be quite embarrassing and it has the potential for disempowering the giver e.g. it can be seen as a criticism of the acknowledgment and thus insult the giver. Mostly I wait until another time and place and unrelated to the off-putting acknowledgment to make a statement of what I need regarding an acknowledgment, though if it’s just between the other person and me, I have been known to take them aside and let them know that I didn’t really feel the acknowledgment, but for an acknowledgment junkie like me that doesn’t always happen e.g. why take the chance that whatever acknowledgment was there will then be rescinded?
I also learned (again) that one cannot receive or deliver true, unconditional acknowledgment through the ego-self. It is through the larger soul-self that acknowledgment is experienced. It is through that part of each of us that is, and experiences, love. And as with everything meaningful, that’s where acknowledgment comes from either in it’s giving, or it’s receiving–love.
Acknowledgment has the best chance of traversing the distance between people when it comes out of that place of love and is embraced by the same place in the other. Love is never conditional,half-hearted, or self-serving.
Yet love in the form of an acknowledgment isn’t always about “peace and pleasure”*. Love can come to one whether consciously intended or unintended by the giver, in a way that makes the receiver look deeply into their self to see what lies in their heart of hearts.
The Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran wrote in his Prophet pointing out another level of love,
“All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure*,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.”
Though Gibran may not have meant it this way, I believe that there are some secrets of the heart that need to be made known so that they do not prevent it’s true expression. In this way a conditional acknowledgment can be in the service of love because it focuses your attention on what you’re doing with it and provides the opportunity to ask yourself why. For me the pain of an unsatisfying acknowledgment can be useful and healing. My heart is often opened through pain and thus I try not to reject its healing process.