Craving the Approval of Others – Wanting to Be Liked! – Is Our Deepest Attachment

Nov 12, 2019

QUESTION

Hello Robina,

How are you going? I hope you’re well! What a crazy world it is at the moment with the political changes going on. 

I’m trying to understand some of my friendships, and basically my place in the world, and need a bit of help. I would love some new people in my life; ones who I connect with. I hope the following makes sense!

I’ve know I’ve written to you before about my feelings of loneliness. I’ve got a few friends, and I try hard at nurturing these friendships: being nice, being happy, being fun, being supportive. Sometimes, it’s exhausting. The truth is, I find relationships very confusing at times, and I often feel like I never do enough, and like I’m on the outside trying to get in and be accepted and loved. There are only a few people who I feel really close to, like my mum or dad or family, so I find myself basically running around searching for this approval/acceptance.  

These friendships can feel like rollercoasters – or my feelings or karma is like a rollercoaster. I can’t seem to keep my center when I have issues with people. I just try not to cause harm, and then beat myself up for saying or doing something that might have upset the apple cart.

I recently had a misunderstanding with a friend, who has had a lot of issues of late. His partner has called on me to help support him and I’ve been there trying to help him. But the other night, I said something that my friend misunderstood and he got upset. I called him to put it right, apologise, but I’ve got the feeling he is still angry. He is a bit like me in that he is always “nice” in public but underneath there is a lot of anger.

I feel bad about my behaviour, or what I said, even though I didn’t mean it or it was misunderstood! It feels like again, I’m on the outside of this friendship and it is my own fault.

Gosh Robina, this stuff drives me crazy! I get to a point where I don’t think I’m good at human relationships at all! They make me feel bad about myself: all the second guessing of what people are thinking or feeling. I’m exhausted from not feeling like I’m good enough!

How can I work on my mind to correct this behaviour and to understand what’s going on?

A friend of my mine who is also in the Dharma suggested praying to Guru Rinpoche. I always pray to Green Tara and His Holiness of course. Does praying help?

I’m sorry this email is so long, but wanted to set the scene.

I hope you are doing well in your travels.

Lots of love to you.

C xxx

 

 

ANSWER

Dearest C,

Prayers are good, for sure. But in the end we need to do the work on our own mind. It’s our mind, our stories, our views, our attitudes, our opinions that cause us suffering and happiness. So we have to dig deep beneath the feelings to listen to the conceptual stories/views/attitudes/opinions that underpin the feelings, which are deep inside us, virtually at the level of assumption. That’s really what Buddhist psychology/practice is about.

It’s not an easy job, C, but that’s what we have to do. 

So my saying these words is describing the solution, but it’s just words, isn’t it? You have to do the work.

That means, at the very least, questioning our own assumptions, your own very feelings – which are the simply the consequence of those assumptions – that you’re not worthy unless someone says you are. That’s the essence of it.

Feelings are deceptive. And the trouble is we believe what they tell us.

Do you ever question these assumptions you have about yourself? It’s doesn’t seem like you do. You keep believing them.

What do you think?

Rx

 

QUESTION

Thank you Robina, I understand. Yes, it’s very hard work.

I try to question this assumption that I’m not worthy but I find it very hard not believe it, when friendships get difficult or someone “reacts” to something I’ve said or done. My mind goes straight to that place of “you’re no good.”

I try to challenge the assumption by telling myself that I’ve tried my best when I said or did this or that, and that I’m only human, but my mind goes over and under it and before I know it, I’ve accepted the bad feeling as fact.

Yes, it’s very hard. As I say, I really feel it when friends turn away – I panic and chase them, trying to win their approval. It’s exhausting. It’s hard to let it go.

I will work on not believing these thoughts!

Love,

C xx

 

ANSWER

It really is a slow process, C. We’re like terrified little girls inside – it’s incredible, isn’t it? It’s very deep. We have to watch our mind like a hawk! Slowly slowly.

So be patient and kind to yourself. And use whatever nourishment for your heart that you can.

And it does help to include some practice every day, including ones using the Buddhas: visualizing, praying, saying mantras. This purifies at a deeper level I think.

And maybe attend teachings? Do retreat occasionally? I don’t know – that’s up to you.

One step at a time, really.

Stay in touch.

Rx

 

QUESTION

Thanks Robina, the teachings are so helpful so yes I definitely need to attend more of these.

I do practices each day and pray. I find talking to His Holiness also helps. Are there any particular practices you would recommend for me?

Robina, is the key really just seeing it all as karma? My thoughts, feelings, assumptions; and friends being nice, turning away from me – all karma? I know it’s far more complex than this, but I’m trying to learn how to unpack it all in my mind and to challenge what I’m seeing and experiencing.

Love,

C x

 

ANSWER

There are two things: 1. karma and 2. the delusions: that’s the essence of why we suffer, according to the second noble truth.

Basically we come into this life fully programmed with our various tendencies, which are basically habits as a result of having done those things before. We also come programmed with the seeds that determine our relationships, whom we meet and how they see and treat us.

The deepest of the tendencies (besides the root delusion, ego-grasping, which is the primordial wrong assumption about the very nature of our own self) is called attachment – primordial enough! At the most spontaneous, energetic level this manifests as deep, deep dissatisfaction: I’m not enough, I don’t have enough, etc. etc. This manifests according to our tendencies. Some people crave for food, others sex, others alcohol, etc., etc. – the objects of the senses are the grossest level of this. 

Then we have – and we all have it deep in our bones – attachment to being seen and heard and approved of by others. Basically the craving to be liked!

For you, clearly, it’s not mainly sex or drugs or money or handbags; it’s the other one. It’s the deepest one in all of us, but for some of us it’s also most prominent. Thus a prevailing sense of being separate, alone, outside, etc. etc.

The simple fact is that this assumption – that we’re not worthy – is literally, literally, literally not true. So we have to learn to not believe it and gradually build up the truth in our mind and to believe that.

As Lama Zopa Rinpoche says, it’s bad enough that things appear to us wrongly – in your case that you appear to yourself that you’re not worthy – but the worst thing we believe the misconception.

We’ve been practicing this all our life, since birth, C! Every second, there was little C craving the good feedback from her mother and father, and every second she got it. And she’d be so relieved. Phew! I must be okay! So now they’re gone, you’re swimming about trying to find the feedback elsewhere. 

From the point of view of your past karma, you had virtuous karma with your parents: they adored you and looked after you. That’s due to your past virtue! Very fortunate. But then attachment gets into the act, it confuses everything.

If, let’s say, you can’t find someone for a close, loving relationship, like you had with your father; if people leave you, etc., then that’s due to negative karma.

I’d suggest that what’s happening now is actually purification. Because you’re seeing your mind more and more clearly these days, you think you’re getting worse. But you’re not; you’re just it more and more clearly. Which is our job! If we can’t recognise the problem, how can solve it?

So, not getting what attachment wants is terrifying, but it’s a marvelous opportunity for you to acknowledge and grow the extraordinary, kind, loving, intelligent, ethical C that’s in there already, and to grow her. That’s your job!

So, dearest C, slowly slowly. Be brave. 

Love,

Robina

 

QUESTION

Robina, this is so, so so helpful! Thank you! It so helps with my understanding.

I know I have heard this explanation from you before but it is such a much needed reminder. It is scary and painful at times. 

 

I’m glad this is purification. It certainly feels like it because it is so painful at times. I do see my mind, my behavior and my craving more clearly – but I will focus my attention on believing in the goodness in me and grow that.

Meanwhile, I hope some good karma will come in!

Thank you again Robina. I treasure these teachings.

Love,

C xx

 

ANSWER

Tell me what practices you’re doing at the moment, C?

 

QUESTION

Robina, in the morning I am doing water bowl offerings and prostrations, as well as Lama Zopa’s mantra and prayer to Green Tara.

I’ve also started mediating again. I don’t have much time in the morning with work. I also try to remember to do food offerings.

At the weekends I have more time. Yesterday I also meditated and read some writings by Lama Yeshe, which I find really helps me.

Love,

C

 

ANSWER

Sounds good, C.

But how about a tiny practice at the end of the day: sit for a few moments and recall a few positive things about yourself. I know it sounds beyond corny, but it’s profound. The negative thoughts and feelings arise naturally; we have to cultivate the positive ones. Try it! I’m serious.

Then go to bed with a happy mind!

Rx

 

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