If we hope to fulfill our lives, we must fulfill ourselves. Full stop. We accomplish self-fulfillment or self-realization as a woman or man on many different levels and in many different areas of our lives. Job-one is going to be finding a primary vocation—one in which we can develop, growing in it and through it. We will want to cultivate this in every possible respect.

She will find herself if she is willing to lose herself. He can lose himself when he is willing to find himself. Same result, different routes.
She will find herself if she is willing to lose herself. He can lose himself when he is willing to find himself. Same result, different routes.

We’ve also all been fundamentally endowed with a handful of general human potentials. We need to bring these up to snuff. On top of this, we need to find and develop our individual assets. We do so by building up and integrating the already-obstruction-free parts of ourselves into the rest of our personalities; and we have to clean up the bits that aren’t as-yet so shiny. Then we do the hokey-pokey and turn ourselves around. Because that’s basically what it’s all about.

This isn’t a selfish endeavor. When we do this work of fulfilling ourselves, we contribute something to life, not just through the jobs we perform, but also through our abilities to connect with others. Along the path of developing ourselves, barriers fall by the wayside. We lose our fear of others; our fear of our own selves in relationship with others also disappears. True relatedness becomes possible.

But wait, there’s more. The idea of self-fulfillment means something even more specific. It’s about that age-old boy-girl thing. Let’s face it, humanity is made up of men and women. And none of us can reach self-fulfillment if we don’t fulfill our manhood or our womanhood. Everything else hinges on this primary endeavor. So let’s explore what this means in more detail.

First, a few words about these teachings. When we embark on a path of self-discovery, new layers of our psyche come into awareness. We get access to new fertile ground to explore. These lectures aim directly at these layers as they come up. Without following an intensive path of self-development, we’re not going to readily reach these layers.

As we read these words, we may feel an inner echo as we gain an understanding that goes beyond intellectual and theoretical grasping of the material. It’s also possible these words will only resonate later on, when the layers we’re trying to reach become more accessible. The important thing to realize is that we’ll make use of this material in an entirely different way if we are consciously working to free these deeper layers—doing the deep inner work—than if we just read or listen to these words. The difference is real.

Without having an inner experience of truth, we will find these teachings to be merely self-evident, or maybe even far-fetched. But when we allow ourselves to be affected deep inside our beings, they will help us to transcend ourselves, to understand our problems in a more profound way.

However we go about it, no path of self-realization can work without bringing forward our attitudes towards ourselves as a man or woman. This necessarily will bring us to look at our attitude and approach to the opposite sex as well. Sometimes we will take the path that promises to skirt this issue entirely. We may find this whole topic unpleasant to look at. But as always, the greater our resistance, the more compelling is the case that there is something to see.

The Pull: Relationships & Their Spiritual Significance

Even if we understand the basic premise that all humans possess both masculine and feminine traits, there’s still often quite a bit of confusion. Our lack of clarity and buried wrong conclusions create in us a fear of the opposite sex. And hence, we have a hidden fear that we won’t be able to fulfill our roles properly as men and women. Naturally, such fears make it hard to relate to the other sex, which is a vital aspect of self-fulfillment.

We can always look at the way we relate to other people as a gauge of our own inner freedom. But our relationship with the opposite sex takes it up a notch. Since this is the most intense form of communication, it’s going to be even more influenced by our inner strife.

There’s a one-to-one correlation between experiencing barriers with the opposite sex and us having a similar barrier regarding our own sex. In short, if a man is confused about his own masculinity and fights against it, he will create a barrier that will make him fight against women. And of course, vice versa. Misconceptions in this area are often handed down from one generation to the next, having a tragic influence on humanity.

The result is that we do a complete 180 from what we should do: whatever is good and constructive appears to be undesirable. Let’s say we experience the drive towards union as being wrong. Such a person will give up their healthy striving to connect, thinking that isolation is more mature or constructive. This creates a fear of all natural impulses towards union. Back this up a step and one fears the self which produces the impulses and then, as a good protective measure, one creates a barrier toward the opposite sex.

In addition to separating man from woman, this splits the natural forces within: it separates affection from the sexual urge. Whenever we have such an inner sense that sex is wrong, we will fear our own sex. We don’t feel we can trust ourselves in this respect. We can’t be free and spontaneous, but instead hold ourselves in check. How can we grow when inside ourselves we are timid and not free? How can we then come to know love, which is all-encompassing and knows no barriers?

The whole universe is continually marching in the direction of union. All the forces of nature and all the forces inside our bellies are reaching out to connect. But when error and blindness prevail, the winds of fear blow in and the universal flow halts. Evolution is stymied.

So here’s the crazy thing that humans do: we desperately yearn for connection with a partner and yet flee with equal desperation in the other direction. Our unreasonable fears, without which this tragic conflict wouldn’t exist, are totally unnecessary; they don’t keep us safe in the least. Our fears have us buying into this notion that the happiness of self-fulfillment—which is a part of life that should not be squashed—is “the devil’s temptation.” Jiminy Cricket.

The Pull: Relationships & Their Spiritual Significance

Life speaks to us clearly, but with our blinders on and earplugs in, we miss a lot. When we make a deep recognition by doing this work of self-knowing, a new strength and energy springs forth. We feel a brightness and joy of life that carries forward the erotic element; it is an integral part of the life force and can’t be separated from it.

So whenever we gain more truth about ourselves, a channel within opens up that tunes us into this life-giving force. This channel then closes back up when our misgivings and apprehension sneak back in, which happens because our unresolved problems will once again gain the upper hand. Then stagnation and grey hopelessness can settle in again. But if we are moving around in truth, we will be permeated with an unbounded vibrancy that knows no fear.

If we think about this for a moment, we’ll realize that this is true: if truth brings eros and eros brings union—and these three make fear, distrust and insecurity run away—life’s plan must be unity. It is untruthful concepts that breed separation. So where we are not in connection, there must be some untruth we haven’t yet discovered.

When it comes to men and women, the world is hanging onto a whole bunch of untruthful ideas. As if we needed more hurdles to deal with. Each sex resents the way it is unfairly put upon, claiming its own disadvantages compete with the other sex’s advantages. Men secretly envy the privileged position of women who, in his perception, don’t have to fight to quite the same degree to survive.

It seems to him that his responsibilities are heavier, that any failure to succeed is more indicative of him failing personally, and that more is expected of him. Meanwhile, back at the woman-ranch, there is envy of men and their privileged position of having greater freedom and being considered by the world to be the superior sex. Underneath all this are deeper fears for each sex about losing themselves.

While we make many distinctions between the sexes that are arbitrary and unrealistic, there are some that are true. A healthy person will embrace them wholeheartedly. The more we do this, the more completely can we enjoy union with the opposite sex. Once we move past our anxieties and distrust and barriers, we will come out of ourselves and be capable of moving with the flow of true relatedness. When this happens, any distinctions and differences will disappear. And in rare, blissful moments, we can have a full experience of such union—right here, right now.

Union of the sexes should not be confused with its distorted counterpart in which men become feminine and women masculine. As we know, every divine truth can be distorted, and so here it is. This fear of our own sex links to fearing the opposite sex, leading to a leveling off of the differences. One then assumes the traits of the very sex one is fighting against. Conversely, when we embrace the sex we represent, we become more able to embrace the other sex. This then makes us more masculine or feminine, not less.

So how does all of this track for a man? The main barrier he puts up against his masculinity is his fear of losing himself. This fear exists because the discipline he needs to fulfill his responsibilities in life appears to be such a disadvantage and requires such a sacrifice. If he doesn’t succeed, it will mean a loss of self.

He also fears letting go of himself in a relationship. This will mean he gives up his discipline, which seems like a perilous thing to do. In his confusion, he thinks he has to choose between discipline and letting go. So he does both in the wrong way. He holds on where letting go would be productive and harmonious. And then he refuses to take self-responsibility where this would lead toward self-realization. If one component of this mobile is out of balance, the whole thing will be out of kilter.

Man must learn to be responsible for himself in the true sense of the word, so then his fear of letting go will disappear. Then discipline and letting go will function together in a unified way. If a man finds himself isolated behind barriers, he has reversed the poles on these two things. Self-fulfillment then is not in the cards.

And for a woman? The same fears apply, but from a different angle. She will fear giving herself up and surrendering herself because of the apparent helplessness this implies. This girl-power-defeating approach makes her more helpless and dependent. The more she battens down the hatches on control, trying to use false discipline to prevent the dreaded loss of self, the weaker she becomes.

In the end, this will either make her become needy for love and approval, or she will become mentally, materially or even physically dependent on others. To the degree she thwarts her femininity, her resourcefulness will suffer. So she too ping-pongs between discipline and letting go, also exerting both in the wrong way and mucking up self-fulfillment.

For a man to refuse to take responsibility for his vocation or for his everyday emotional life, fearing he will have to carry too great a burden, he burdens himself more. He cuts himself off from all his spirit yearns for. For a woman to refuse self-surrender because of the apparent helplessness she ascribes to this, she resorts to an artificial and unhealthy self-control. This makes her more helpless, isolating her and causing her to give up her destiny. All of this balancing happens within the framework of spiritual laws.

The Pull: Relationships & Their Spiritual Significance

Discipline and letting go are the two primary aspects that can be termed the prototypes for masculinity and femininity. They exist in both sexes in a healthy state, but we arrive at them from opposite ends. When a man becomes willing to take on full responsibility, with everything this entails, he can let go of himself without danger of losing himself. When a woman doesn’t fight her destiny—letting go of her fear, pride and self-will—she must gain strength. The selfhood she claims will give her full security in herself. She will find herself if she is willing to lose herself. He can lose himself when he is willing to find himself. Same result, just different routes to get there.

If we come to discipline and letting go by way of wisdom, truth, strength, freedom and love, we will find ourselves arriving at unity and self-fulfillment. We will establish harmony with the universal forces. There will be a continuously regenerating supply of life force that will unify us on all the various levels. But when we let go and apply discipline from a place of blindness, weakness, error and fear, we’ll end up stuck and stagnant—and still separate. Such disharmony causes unrest and worry, for the soul knows that it is missing out.

In the final analysis, discipline and self-surrender must meet and become one. Each helps the other become more harmonious. By combining healthy strength with flexible discipline and mature self-responsibility, a person becomes strong enough to surrender fearlessly, and wise enough to do so discriminately. In such a state of relaxed openness, a person will be outgoing and able to live productively in union, while also living self-sufficiently.

The Pull: Relationships & Their Spiritual Significance

So how do we apply all of this so we can put it to good use? We have to find our fears. Simple perhaps, but not easy, for they are so hidden. Once we start to look for them though, they won’t be that hard to miss. Places to look: where do I resent my own sex? How do I avoid contact with the opposite sex? What are the injustices that make me nuts so that I exaggerate them as a way to hold onto myself? Can I feel the deeper fear of losing myself?

We can notice how we argue that it is justified to remain on guard: does it feel like people are out to take advantage of me or my need to love and be loved? Do I fear forgetting myself, creating an even stronger need that may then be frustrated? Won’t that mean more pain if I get rejected?

In truth, many people are too childish and selfish to not take advantage of our openness and outgoingness, especially if they are trapped in wishful thinking. But No, healthy involvement won’t bring more pain than isolation. Partial fulfillment of our needs doesn’t make them feel more intense than denying them altogether.

So here’s the never-failing key to finding our way out. If we use it, it will eliminate this conflict. It will allow us to use cautious wisdom without having to hold back the best in ourselves. If we find and use this key, our lives will never be the same again. What’s the key? The willingness to be in truth—to be in reality; to see what’s true, even if we don’t welcome it.

If we have become blindly unaware of our needs because we have displaced them, we will be blind to the people surrounding us who are supposed to fulfill our needs. So how do we grab that key and use it? Once we become aware of our needs, we will automatically become aware of how much others can fulfill them. At first, this means we may run smack dab into the frustration of our will.

But if we can face these facts, then wisdom will prevail. We will be able to use perception of the truth as our guiding light. It will show us to what extent it is reasonable and realistic to have expectations in any situation. So then we can let go of ourselves.

But what most people do is we fight, blindly, against four inner conditions. These are: 1) we aren’t aware of our real needs, 2) we aren’t aware of the urgency of our specific needs, 3) we aren’t aware of who specifically could fulfill our needs, and in what way, and 4) we aren’t aware of the extent to which the other is willing or unwilling—able or unable—to satisfy our needs.

When we lack clarity on these four points, our relationships become fraught with friction. There will be misunderstandings, hurts and real or imagined rejections. All this causes us to withdraw in one way or another. But if we are aware of these four aspects—even if only a little bit—we will be able to evaluate our interactions with others more realistically. This might not make the intensity of our needs drop overnight, but they will become more bearable. Then we won’t need to pacify ourselves with illusions or wishful thinking.

At that point, we will be able to look truth in the face and accept what is—even if at the moment it’s far from perfect. It’s when we are operating from blind needs that we send forth blind commands—usually unconsciously—which are impossible to fill. Once we’re aware of our needs, we may also be able to see that someone is actually quite unsuitable for filling them. So then we may relinquish our demands on them.

We have to stop displacing our needs so that we can mature enough to tolerate the frustration of temporarily not having them filled. The discipline of facing the real situation makes us grow, which inevitably increases our self-respect and self-liking. It makes us feel more secure in ourselves.

Sometimes it happens that our demands, in and of themselves, are reasonable, but people driven in a different direction aren’t capable of fulfilling them. This is not a rejection of us, people. It has nothing to do with being rejected. So much freedom can be found by discovering the truth of these words. To be able to observe ourselves and the other with objective detachment—unearthing trouble spots without anger or guilt—is the healthiest way possible for practicing discipline and self-responsibility.

That’s the best way to face the reality of our relationships. Our fears will then vanish. We will be able to accept a No without becoming an angry, hurt child. Then our self-respect and independence will climb, giving us sufficient security to let go, to whatever extent is appropriate. The limits of what is appropriate at any given point in time are not set by the mechanisms of fear and distrust. They are just the potential based on what is.

Our readiness to tolerate the frustration of our will—giving it up for a time, if need be—coupled with our ability to face what is, will open the spigots of relating. We need to stop closing our eyes in wishful thinking and forcing currents solely because we don’t want to give up our will. We need to be willing to look at whether our demands might be unreasonable.

This is the doorway that leads to self-fulfillment and self-realization as a woman or a man. All of our barriers toward the opposite sex must go. We need to see where our fears lie, which cause us to hold back. And we need to uncover our own blindness. We also need to become aware of the full extent of our demands that we are constantly issuing forth. It’s so incredibly easy to rationalize, cover up and explain away our issues. It’s far more valuable—albeit difficult—to look at our own raw demands.

Then we will no longer fear the demands from others. We will be able to cope with them, laughing a little at our own childishness. This will bring reason, justice and fairness into the equation. What a huge leap toward freedom from fear, isolation and stagnation. Such subjectivity opens us up to full relating and living, and to knowing a measure of happiness that each of us so desperately yearns for.

The Pull: Relationships & Their Spiritual Significance

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Read Original Pathwork® Lecture: #122 Self-Fulfillment Through Self-Realization as Man or Woman