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Jeru Kabbal on Relationships

This is a transcript of a talk given by Jeru Kabbal.

One thing that we constantly put a lot of energy into, and have probably since the beginning of mankind, is relationships. Relationships can be very rewarding in your search for clarity, or they can be just the opposite.

I know we use the word relationship to mean a certain kind of relationship, what we might call a love relationship, but in reality everyone is relating all the time. See that you are always in a relationship, even if you don’t have what we normally call a lover, or a partner.

You are constantly relating to people. Even if you run away from them, you are relating to them. Then this is your way to relate - to run away, to avoid.

It's really important - if you want to use relationships as a way to help yourself become clear - to see what is behind the relationship. We think that sex is behind relationships, but actually sex plays a minor role. The traditional relationship basically is a rerun of your childhood. Even if you are not in a relationship, or if you don't have relationships, or if you have anti-relationships, they are also reruns of your childhood.

All of these relationships can be traced back to your first relationships with people. Remember that when you were born, you were helpless. You were not complete at that time without mother - because without the mother you would have died. You needed her to take care of you. So you experienced this idea that, “I am not complete without the other. Without the other, I am in trouble.” And this idea is basically still present: if only I can find the right other person, then I will be complete, then I will be safe, and then I can be happy, and so forth. Until then, it's a kind of frustration, because a part of us feels that we need the other in order to survive, and we don't have the other.


It can be that in childhood you experienced that the other which you needed rejected you. If that is the case, then that is your relationship. Your relationship is one of being rejected by the other.

I said a moment ago that relationships are basically reruns of our childhood. Now if as a child your relationship was one of rejection, of being rejected, then that is the kind of relationship you are going to have as an adult. You are going to be in relationships where people reject you. You are going to follow the old script that you wrote as a child. If you are with someone, and it looks like you are going to complete something, then something is going to change, and usually it doesn't happen, unfortunately. What changes is your lover. In other words, you get a new one. The moment you feel like something is really going to change, you don't change and you don't change the script. You change lovers. You start all over again, because it's safe and it's familiar.

So we keep playing again and again the relationships of our childhood. As a child, you had more than just one relationship, you had several. You had a relationship with your mother, you had a relationship with your father, you had a relationship with your brothers and sisters, you had a relationship with your grandmother and grandfather. These few people were your world when you were a young child. They were the major actors in your script.

Let's assume there was your mother, your father, your grandmother, and your older sister - this was the family you were born into. Basically everybody else in the world didn't count. Other people were just like minor actors - the postman, the neighbors - they weren't really important in your life. The people who were important were your mother, your father, your grandmother, and your older sister.

Now you might have loved your grandmother and hated your sister, let's say. Later in your life you are going to find women who represent your grandmother, who you can love in that way, in that grandmotherly way. It doesn't mean that the person you find to play that role is going to be an old woman, that is not necessarily the case. But you will find that there will be certain women that remind you of this relationship with your grandmother, and those relationships will be a part of your life. You will find other women that you will hate in the same way that you hated your sister. You will also find women that will play the role of your mother. There will be three kinds of women in your life: your mother, your grandmother, and your sister. Other women won't be important at all. You will never have any kind of close relationship with any other kind of woman.


If you are a woman and you are looking for a woman friend, you are probably going to choose someone like your grandmother. You will also find that there will be women that somehow come into your life that you hate, playing the role of your sister. You won't be able to ignore them, you will attract them. You will be fascinated with them. You will pull them into your life somehow. Other women won't be important, like they are not even there.

And the same happens with all the other members of your family, the people that you experienced as a child. It can be that as a child your family was visiting friends one day, and there just happens to be a stranger who is present, visiting the friends of your family. Now it can be that this person makes a very deep impression on you. This person can become a main actor in your life. It isn't necessary that they were there constantly, but it's whoever made an impression on you in those early years. You will find that there are not a lot of people. And today, what you are doing is looking for people to play those roles again for you. You will relate to them basically the way you were relating to the people in your childhood.

Of course the most dramatic of all of these are the so-called love relationships. Because it's from these relationships that we expect to be fulfilled, that we expect to be satisfied, that we expect to blossom. Sometimes it can happen. When it happens, it's because we feel like all the circumstances are right. But if we didn't really blossom as a child, then it's very difficult for us to allow ourselves to blossom as an adult. If we blossomed to some degree as a child, then that can happen again as an adult through relationships. You have to be able to see that in most relationships the predominant feeling is, “I'm not okay without you. I'm not okay as I am. I am not complete without you.” And behind that is the feeling of the infant, “I won't survive without you.”

This is what makes us needy, this is what makes us jealous. Jealousy is just a fear that the other is going to go away and leave us and we are going to die. It has nothing to do with love. It is fear, plain old fear. It's the fear of the infant who can't take care of himself. A good test of love in a relationship is whether your love is directed to the other. If your love is directed to the other, it is a kind of investment. You are investing all of your love in the other so that you get something back.

If your focus is on giving, and you are not expecting anything back, then there is a good chance that it is love. But if you are giving without getting anything back, or expecting anything back, then probably you are not focusing your love on one person. You are simply love. True love is like a light bulb that is turned on. It just shines. The love is coming from within and doesn't depend on what is happening outside. This is a pretty hard test, and most relationships don't pass it. Because in most relationships we want something from the other. Our happiness depends on whether or not we get it. But if we want to be free, we also have to free ourselves from these patterns, because that's what it is. It's a pattern of helplessness, it's a pattern of inadequacy, it's a pattern of dependency.


Now there are such things as adult relationships. But they will look totally different than the average relationship. Because in the average relationship both partners are taking turns playing the infant. Both are thinking that the other is going to take care of them. The other is going to make me happy, the other is going to complete me. Sometimes the patterns of two people fit so closely together that they do become, in a sense, one. And they do compliment each other. They do spend their whole lives together being happy.

But usually they also spend their entire lives being infantile, playing house in a sense. And they never achieve any real freedom. Both of them are like a person with only one leg, saying, I can't walk unless my partner is here. You might make a great dance team, you might develop a great act. And everybody is impressed with your harmony and your synchronicity, and so forth. But you still only have one leg. You still are not free, because you have to compromise constantly with the other.

But once you become really aware, you will see that this is still just an old pattern from your childhood. If you really are going to be free, it means learning to enjoy dancing in your own independence, in your own freedom. Then when you relate to somebody from freedom, from your own strength, your relationship is a totally different kind of relationship. It's a relationship of respect in which you allow the other to do what the other wants to do, whatever it is - even if it means leaving you. You don't try to cling, because when you cling you are really saying my life depends on you and if you leave me I'm going to die.

Now that is a pretty heavy statement to make to somebody. In the old days, when passion and jealousy were considered high ideals, the greatest compliment was to have someone say to you, “I can't live without you.” But if you are a relatively adult person, and someone says, “I can't live without you,” then you realize what a drag that is. That means they are saying that unless you do what they want you to do, they are going to go kill themselves. That's a drag. Nobody wants that responsibility.

The game of lovers in relationships is very often the game of the hunter and the hunted. The successful relationship then consists of two people who know when to switch from the hunter to the hunted, and from the hunted to the hunter. Otherwise it gets boring. But there is always this sort of tension: that one is supposed to be running away from the other, and the other is supposed to be chasing. That's what makes it fun.

But if you are interested in true freedom, strength and happiness, then it will be very useful to look at your patterns that you have with other people, and look specifically at your love relationships, or your one-to-one partner relationships.

The perfect mother

There is a kind of relationship which on the surface doesn't look like a rerun of your childhood, but it is important to mention it, and that is your relationship with your ideal mother, or the idea of the perfect mother that you formed in childhood.

You might have had a certain experience with your mother and out of this experience with your mother you formed the idea of the perfect mother. Later when you become an adult, still looking for the perfect mother, you find the perfect woman. She may not be like your mother at all. She may be just the opposite of your mother. Even so, see that it is coming from your relationship with your mother, and that it's just a revolution against that. You will be tied to your mother as long as you are with this woman, because you are tied to this ideal that you started as a child. You will probably make life hell for this woman, because you will require her to fit this ideal. The moment she varies from the ideal, you will accuse her of not being honest, of not being fair, of not being what she claimed to be. Maybe she didn't claim anything, maybe you did it all yourself, because that is one of the characteristics of falling in love. We look for someone who more or less fits our script. Then we project the whole script on them, whether they like it or not. If we want to think great things about them, then we think great things about them, and totally ignore the reality.

This is what we call falling in love. It's like suddenly someone comes along that totally fits our patterns, or almost totally fits our patterns. We give up seeing the real person, and we fall in love with our old ideal. It comes as a shock six months later when we start slowly seeing the person that is really there. Then we accuse them of lying to us and of being false.

The main problem was that we projected onto them. They had just enough qualities to qualify, and then all the other qualities we gave to them, because we wanted them to have them. We felt disappointed later on when we discovered that in reality they didn't have them. We are angry and hurt and disappointed, and we feel cheated. But all of this again can be traced back to what we experienced as a child.

We all put a lot of energy into relationships. Even if you haven't actually been with a lover for months or for years, you are still relating. You are relating according to a pattern. But you can free yourself from those patterns, so that you can genuinely relate to people, relating as an adult. Because you have to see that one of the most important things when you relate to other people is that it keeps you regressed. Relating from these old patterns keeps you childish. You can't grow up and hang on to these old patterns. And the old patterns will keep you in those childish attitudes.

Being in a childish attitude means also that at the subconscious level you feel weak and helpless and dependent. It is going to take all your power away from you. You may feel strong as long as a substitute mommy or a substitute daddy is there, but at a much deeper level you are still going to be feeling dependent. When you can see that you are not dependent, that it is all right for the other to leave you at any moment, then you are going to want them to leave, if that is what they want. Any kind of holding on your part indicates that you feel you need them, and that need in turn represents a kind of dependency, a kind of helplessness.

Sex is a different issue

This is not very easy for us to look at in our culture. Because for one thing, the religions have made much of relationships and have established the whole institution of marriage. It is very difficult for us now to separate one thing from the other. I have only briefly mentioned sex, which comes in. But sex is actually a different issue.

You can have a sexual relationship as a child, as with the mother, or you can have a sexual relationship as an adult with another adult. But the sex itself is not the issue in relationships. It sometimes seems to be the issue, but it is not the real thing. There is a kind of energy - you might call it sexual energy - the energy of aliveness which attracts the baby to the mother, or the baby to any alive, warm human being. This could be called sexual. But at that age it is not usually what we would call sexual. It's just energy, it's life energy being attracted to other life energy.


But sex is a different issue. When you put the two of them together, then you multiply the complexities, and sometimes the fun. From experience I know and can say that relationships are basically reruns of your relationships from childhood. Many people feel threatened by this statement. They are like the one-legged dancers feeling like I am pulling out the other leg from under them. They don't really like to hear it, but that's the way it is.

The best thing to do is to openly, honestly look at the way you relate to people. Look especially at the way you relate to close friends, to lovers, to people who really play an important part in your life. See how much of the way you relate is actually a repeat, or pattern of the way you related to people when you were a child.

If you want to, you can free yourself from these things. But let yourself have that choice. That's the main thing. Do what you do from awareness, and not just as a pattern, not just as a habit. Because habits, if used with unawareness, will always make you a slave, and will keep you from really being free. If you can use your patterns with awareness, consciously, then that is something different.

Our relationships to people are a part of our relationship to our self. You can't have a true relationship with yourself unless you are clear about your relationships to other people. You owe it to yourself somehow to become clear about relating. Because it is through relating, as a child, that you have a feeling about who you are and whether you are lovable, whether you are worthy, whether it's all right to be free, whether it's all right to be creative, to be joyous. All of this comes from other people. Now if you really want to discover yourself, it's very important to see how much of who you think you are has come through your relationships with other people in your infancy and childhood.

So, would anybody like to argue?


Question: I almost said I'm scared, but that's not true. Actually I'm very curious. I have been without a partner for quite a long time, and I have had the experience of these dependent relationships a few times, with long times and short times. And now I see that I am in the process of connecting more deeply again with one person. I don't know how far it goes, but I feel I am truly connecting and I am more open to give and take. And also I see so many things popping up, and I see I could fall right back into the game, and I just catch myself and go back with myself, and get myself some space to look at it. Every moment it is like the old things, or something new, and it's like - I feel really excited about it. It's like it is not possible to make a decision that I want this love relationship. It's not possible. It's just that it's work every day. And I don't see that it's changing. I cannot say that come tomorrow I will be in a deep love relationship and it will be forever. It is like every day, every morning I wake up, I have been dreaming. And I have to say to myself, well it's today, and he is not my daddy, even though he looks like him, and he is not my brother and I don't need to be jealous about my brother. Every day.

Jeru: It is work. But this is also the way to get clear. And you did bring up something which I wanted to mention and didn't, at least not so clearly. And that is that relationships can really be a tool for you - if you will use them that way - to see your patterns, to see what you cling to. And two people can help each other tremendously if they will learn to be open, and just help each other see those patterns, help each other become free of those patterns. So I am not suggesting, for example, by any means that you just simply drop relationships. Rather, the best thing to do is to go into them, but with as much awareness as you can manage. Not with the idea of clinging to each other, but helping each other, or allowing the other to help you see where you are stuck, to see where you are somehow crippling yourself by feeling dependent on the other. And learning to give the other more and more freedom, and learning to take the freedom that the other gives you. That way respect grows, and neediness begins to disappear. You help each other to truly become an adult. And then you have a really beautiful adult friendship. Who knows where it will go, but at least it can be very rewarding, very nourishing.

Question: I somehow felt that there was another way. I think I got it from a master, but I think I misunderstood him. If you have had many relationships, and you have had a lot of time to practice and see your child in every relationship, and you decide that I don't want this anymore, so I will just pull away and take the path of meditation, or whatever. And some people can make progress on the more solitary path, perhaps they are afraid, but if they have seen that everything leads to chaos, why not choose the solitary path of peace?

Jeru: There is nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong at all. The only thing that would be a little bit tricky is whether or not at a deeper a level, at the subconscious level, you still do feel dependent on the other. That would be the thing you have to check. Because if you do, then it's like running away from something that you really want, settling for something that seems to be second best, and then rationalizing that it is what you really wanted. On the surface it can look exactly the same. Someone who has, let's say, transcended dependency, and is relatively satisfied to be alone - and that doesn't mean not being with people - can look exactly like someone who is afraid of relationships. Or someone who wants relationships, but feels like it's never going to work out - so why don't I drop the whole mess - but actually at a deeper level still wanting it.

So that's something that everybody just has to look at to see whether or not the child within them still wants someone, but because they are afraid of being hurt, or afraid of being disappointed, or afraid that it's never going to work out anyway, or whatever, they turn their back on that. It's a kind of resignation rather than freedom.

You can answer that basically by looking into the subconscious. The conscious mind doesn't know these things. But the subconscious has a very precise idea about it all. And this does happen very often in meditation that people go into meditation as a kind of sour grapes thing, and that's why you get a lot of sour meditators. They say, “Well, who wanted it anyway? Who wants to be successful anyway? Who wants to be famous anyway?” So then they go into meditation. However it doesn't really work for them. When they are sitting, they may look like someone sitting there because it is the greatest joy in their life, but inside one part is discontented. On the outside you may not tell the difference at all. It's up to every individual to look inside and see why they are doing what they are doing.

Question: I grew up in a family where I was surrounded by men. I had a father and two brothers, and my mother was the only woman. I find today that I have very beautiful and deep friendships with women my age or younger, and I cannot connect with what you explained about it being a kind of a repetition or a continuation from the special relationships you had in childhood. Because I don't recall having any relationships with women outside of my mother. And these women don't at all seem to have anything to do with my mother for the most part.

Jeru: Well, you are going to have to look into the subconscious. It has nothing to do with younger or older. My guess is that if you look, you will see that in your relationships with women, either they represent your mother - whatever that relationship was - or they represent the incidental women in your life as a child. It isn't only the mother. It might be somebody else in your family that you related to as a child. It doesn't have to be someone that was there all the time. It could just be someone that you met once. Yet you felt so relaxed, so open, that you are always looking for that kind of a woman again, and finding her. But I would suggest using the pendulum, and making a list of the women in your life that have been somehow important to you, and then just ask to what degree does this woman represent someone from my childhood, or to what degree does this woman remind me of someone from my childhood? Include in that list your ideal woman, your ideal mother, that you formed in childhood. Because on the surface, people can look very different, but at the subconscious level, the subconscious is seeing something similar there. Maybe it's their attitude about you, the way they accept you. Maybe it's a certain quality that they have that is important for you. The other qualities may be totally different. But the main thing is that you actually have to check out the subconscious. That is where it is really and truly happening.

It is a quality that we look for usually, not necessarily the outer features. Sometimes it can be the outer features. Look to see where it is coming from. You may be attracted to someone because they smell a certain way. You may never suspect that it is just the smell. Or the way a person walks may turn you on, or remind you of an old familiar pattern, or whatever. It doesn't necessarily have to be the visual content of the memory that does it.

Question: Once you realize that basically you are relating to others through these old movies, could you say something about communicating, from that space, once you have seen it.

Jeru: Well, one thing you could do is to say to the other when you want something from the other, “my four year old would like this...,” or “my four year old gets angry when you do this,” or “my four year old feels threatened when you don't do this.” If you really want to go for it, you can call your lover “daddy.” Or if your lover doesn't represent daddy, then you can call your male lover “mommy.”

Question: The problem with that seems to be that it changes so fast. For example my girlfriend wants to be a little girl sometimes, and I say fine, go for it. As soon as she starts doing it, my four year old goes, “I'm going to bite you.” He listens to her for a little while and the whole time he is going, “When is she going to be finished?” As soon as she wants to regress, he gets bummed out.

Jeru: It sounds like you have a contract in which you are allowed to be the child all the time, and then when she wants to be the child for a change your child can only handle that for a few seconds. If you see that, that's fine, there is nothing wrong with that.

Question: But she doesn't feel fine with it...

Jeru: Well, it seems she doesn't feel fine with it, but actually she does! She does feel fine with it, otherwise she wouldn't be doing it. She will find in her childhood a similar pattern of some kind. Now it might sound like in her childhood that she was playing mother, but that's not really the case, because her relationship probably is with the father. If you represent her father, who himself wanted to be taken care of, maybe her mother was taking care of her father, allowing her father to be the four year old. Her relationship to her father might have been one of having to let him have his way, in order to get any attention from him.

She will find - if she looks - a pattern there. Part of her pattern will be frustration. Not liking it, and yet that's what she went through, and that is what she is going to repeat, until she becomes free of it. Part of her pattern will be the frustration of trying to have someone give her attention, even though she is doing what she wants to do. Do you follow that? In other words, her pattern probably is that she had to play second fiddle. She had to place her own desires and so forth in second place in order to get any attention. Maybe in a sense she flirted with her daddy, playing the little girl, but at the same time the real thing would be that she had the feeling that she couldn't really be herself with him, and that he demanded whatever it was that he was demanding. I'm just saying these words, but I'm sure that if she looks, she will find a pattern there. Even though now she says she doesn't like it, it's a familiar pattern, and it's easy for her to be in it. If you should turn around, by some miracle, and totally drop the four year old, and totally be there for her, and just say, “Whatever you want, I will do it. You can be totally childish, and I will be the adult for you. I am the big, strong daddy, and I am giving you total freedom.” You do that for a couple of days and she will lose interest in you totally.

Question: That's something, exactly the way you described it. I have had the opposite case. And I was running away. I was working hard to get into that position. And he was like that, he was a real daddy.

Jeru: This is exactly the way it is. The moment you come out of the pattern, you feel uncomfortable. Then this guy that you have been trying to train to be the perfect daddy - when he is finally the perfect daddy, you say, “He is not the man I thought he was. He has changed. Now what I want is a real man.” So it's good that you see that now.

Question: So there is really no clear, absolute way of doing it. You just have to work with it. I know basically that all of the patterns are different in some way, but yet they are all the same. So can you basically use one way?

Jeru: The patterns can be totally different in all kinds of people. But there is one thing that they all have in common. They are all based on the dream. They are all based on memory. They are not based on the here and now, they are not based on truth, they are not based on reality. In other words, all of these things are still coming from the dream that is happening at the subconscious level, based on your feelings of inadequacy at birth. So the knife that can cut through all of these things - it doesn't matter what patterns they are - the knife that can cut through all of them is focusing on the here and now, on the one hand, but allowing the memory to come to the surface so that you can see that it is just a memory.

It's the same with everything. The whole subject of relationships - for somebody who is on the path - is no different than any other subject. It is still a matter of trying to see the difference between memory - how it is affecting you, how it is creating patterns - and the truth, the reality of the here and now.

In the here and now, you are not a helpless infant. In your memory you are, but in the here and now you just live and experience that which is happening. If another person is in your presence, then you experience them. If you are an adult, you experience them in the here and now. You see their beauty, you see their intelligence, you see their harmony, and you see - if you are really in the here and now - that they are a divine being, a divine creature, and that you are too. And you also see that you don't need that person for survival.

Understand that at the subconscious level, what you are dreaming is that you need the other. Your idea of the other has become fixed by your experiences of infancy and childhood. It can even be about someone other than your mother and father. Many people have very strong attitudes about men, based on the way the doctor handled them at birth. This can be a very strong influence. Birth is the strongest experience of your life. If you have this male person handling you as if you were a bag of beans or something, slapping you around and that kind of thing, then there could be a certain attitude that you will have toward men.

So it doesn't necessarily have to be your mother or father, but definitely experiences from your infancy and childhood. The secret will be, for those of you who consider yourselves on the path, people who are trying to find out who they really are, to understand that relationships in that sense are no different than anything else. They definitely can be used, because relationships represent our deepest attitudes about ourselves. The way we relate to other people says something about us. That's the most significant thing. If your relationship indicates that you need the other, than you are saying about yourself, “I can't take care of myself. I am not okay as I am. I am not complete as I am.” See that relationships tell you something about your relationship with yourself...

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