The book “Search,” was published in 1985, but had a great impact on me at the time and I believe it is a bookish weapon you too can use in life.
It is a summary of what he was teaching at his workshops at the time. Janes Kavanaugh was a Catholic Priest and a poet and a writer who taught what he believed. I read this book the first time right after my first divorce.
“When we deny strong feelings as I did for twenty or thirty years, they take their toll at some point in bodily symptoms, disease, depression, or consistent unhappiness,” says Kavanaugh. He talks about a young woman he saw at the store and how she looked sad and in despair, but would not communicate it to anyone. “She will dream of some magical solution, seek her release in novels or movies or the soaps, and join the parade of the empty and miserable.”
He discusses how “Searchers” are different than the woman above. They want to live a life that reflects who they are and are aware of danger signs of suppressed feelings. He says, “Self-healing begins with an awareness of what we are feeling. To know our feelings without editing or qualifying, without classifying them as good or bad.”
Kavanaugh says, if our image of ourselves refuses us the right to be angry or even unpleasant, our own kindness will probably kill us. Or if our self-image prevents us from being gentle and soft and even afraid, we will wall ourselves off from the world in a private tomb.” “…corroded feelings are the great murderers,” says Kavanaugh. He just says we should be aware of our feelings and that “Search” can teach us to grow up and take responsibility for our present feelings, to “get rid of the ghosts.”
Dependence and Interdependence (Chapter 2)
This section of the book I underlined over and over. On the subject of dependency, I underlined this: “Many of us are thrown back upon ourselves through a ruptured relationship, a job loss, or poor health. The child in us begs for someone to take the pain away.” “…the dependent child can be a killer!”
He goes on and I underlined this as well: “A solid friendship or committed love is an interdependency wherein we meet one another’s needs. That’s what life is all about. Total independence can b a mask for one who fears any dependence and intimacy. We need each other. We need to reach out, to share the burden of living, to find the helping hand when we are lost and alone.”
Meeting Our Own Needs (Chapter 3)
“Search” continually talks about the “long game”,” about imagining our life a year from now, if we do not take responsibility to meet our own needs. God or an inner spirit speaks to us through our needs.” He makes the point that if you ignore your needs for a lifetime you will end up alone or lonely.
I really liked Kavanaugh’s poetry which is interlaced throughout the book. Here is a bit from the poem, “Personal Freedom.”
“ Stand back from life and observe it at a distance.
What makes sense and what imprisonment?
Who knows consistent freedom and who follows a path
Made by ants following ants in proscribed procession?
I have no idea where I must live or how,
No blueprint made in Japan or heaven,
Only heart and mind that know what is true and false,
And what it is to feel the pulse of freedom,
Without which, for me, there is only a premature death.”
When it comes to mental health and indecision. He says, “We can decide to communicate honestly no matter the cost, to begin to be who we are to the extent that we can. There is no deadline, no rule of thumb the covers everyone. Many of us have been taught so intensively to think of others that it takes us years to respond to ourselves.”
Then when people live life under others heal he has this to say, “When we have been put down enough or have suffered enough personal degradation, our anger can be an important ally to rescue us. Often we forget that anger is a powerful part of our emotional makeup and it can save us from self-annihilation. When summoned, anger often enables us to respect who we are and becomes a significant source of self-love.”
Here is a summary of what he is saying about decisions: prolonged indecision can lead to serious illness, decisions follow from unmet needs and practical options, a bad decision is often better than no decision and play the long game. All of these are good to remember.
Personally, I enjoy solitude. I am rarely lonely which is a good thing because I spend most of my time alone. Kavanaugh says, “Loneliness can almost devour the sensitive and aware and cause a deep-rooted fear of abandonment and a diminished sense of self-worth.” He says of single people that, “The freedom they chose becomes another kind of prison.”
I think he makes too much of it. He talks about people exploring meaningless relationships but are still alone. I say enjoy your solitude. It is a precious gift.
One of the key parts of this book is when he discusses support systems. He says and I agree, that, “…the essence of a support system is to establish genuine and solid strength within oneself.” This is so important. If I did not have this strength I would not have made it this far.
Beginning again, say after a divorce or even a breakup is difficult. I like his poem about it:
I cannot begin again
To study the veins of granite rocks
And explore the anxiety of clouds
To relearn the secrets of the trees
And see the shadows of mountains.
There are too may forms already seen,
Too many sounds heard too often,
Too many dreams etched in my memory like water scarring ancient foundations.
This is not all of the poem. You need to find the book and read it. If you can’t find the book, let me know and I will give you the rest of it in one of these posts.