What do I mean by Wholly Human?
When we say ‘I am human’, we are often referring to the species, our physical bodies. So, to be human is to be that type of mammal that is not dogs or cats, and, for many of us, that is all there is to it; a self-evident fact. But, the biological species is just the beginning of what it is to be human. Our ‘human- ness’ lies beyond that; in our thoughts, feelings, motivations and behaviour.
There is so much we have in common with each other. I will probably laugh at the same joke on a comedy show or a meme that gets passed among millions of us. I will certainly flinch and run to get a plaster if I cut my finger – just as you would. If a relationship breaks down, both you and I will experience a different type of pain. We will be sad, we will grieve, we will need time to heal. On the other hand, we may both enjoy and take delight in a walk on a beach, a glorious sun set or a party with friends. All of these make up part of our common humanity. These are universal and I like that. I find it comforting that we can relate more easily to each other because we share so much.
But, whilst we do share lots, there is also much that is unique to you or me. Each of us has a combination of experiences that are particular to us – and damage that may block and limit us. These stem from our upbringing, from events in our lives, from love, care - or from trauma - that we, and only we, have each experienced. And on top, each of the emotions that we have in common, are felt differently by each of us so, I may find something hurtful that you don’t, or you may love a person who I find hard to get along with. We are a complicated mass of impulses, motivations, thoughts and feelings some of which we are very familiar with and some that we do not even recognise.
Each one of us is more or less aware of everything that makes up who we are.Often we may not even be aware that we are not aware! It is likely, along with me, that you often behave and act automatically and subconsciously because we have often buried and temporarily lost parts of ourselves. Some of us have learned not to laugh and some of us have learned not to cry; each through some sort of experience that made us feel unsafe and vulnerable, or had consequences we want to avoid. Some of us have talents we never put to use because they don’t fit with what society or up-bringing expect of us. Some of us don’t know why we just feel vaguely unhappy or dissatisfied all the time. Others may push ourselves so hard to do the right thing that we end up becoming a brittle version of ourselves that could break at any moment.
We experience ourselves being less than whole in different ways through taught and false narratives, painful experience and limiting damage. My pain may manifest in over eating and yours in under eating and exercise. My fear may close me to feeling and make me appear distant and self sufficient. Your fear may make you over eager to be liked and accepted. Your feelings may be buried so deep you use your mind to override and function. My feelings may overwhelm me and I may find tears or anger come unexpectedly and disproportionately. All of these are examples of us being unaware of that which drives us.
So many of us have been taught that parts of us are unacceptable; too little; too much. All of these pieces of ourselves need to be found in order to build the whole jigsaw that is the unique being that is you or me. They are there, they just need to be re-membered ie put back to together, and to do that, we need firstly to become aware of all of those parts of each of us.It is when we are aware and able to live from that awareness, that we begin to understand and see first our ‘less than wholeness’ and then to glimpse wholeness. That is very easy to say but much harder to do. For me it is an ongoing process; one I believe that is life long. The process is not about becoming a perfect human. Striving after some notion of perfection seems to me to be part of the problem. Whole does not mean being driven by duty or guilt any more than it means being assessed in terms of my relationship or my wealth or my job. Whole does not mean stripping away parts of ourselves or denying my imperfections. It means recognising, accepting, owning and integrating rather than trying to get rid of and dis-own (the reverse of acceptance/owning) parts of ourselves.