If there is a secret to living the life to which I aspire, then it’s got to be in how I relate to the world, to the people in and around my life, and to my self.
I have to be able to deal with the conflicts that come with those relationships in a healthy and effective way that empowers all parties. There can’t be any other way.
Getting along with others has always been a constant and major topic of discussion in the world. What I don’t fully understand is how we all know the significance of relationships in life; and yet, somehow we tend to casually (or fearfully?) overlook the critical impact they have on our ability to experience many moments of true joy, happiness, and freedom EVERY SINGLE DAY – regardless of our station in life at any given time.
I hear you chuckling in the background as you read again the above statement. True Joy? Happiness? Freedom? EVERY DAY???????
Got you wondering what new meds I am on now, or if there’s a great strain going around the neighbourhood? Regardless of your musings, I can honestly assert – I truly and honestly experience a certain amount of zen most days. It is possible.
After years of experimentation and study, I’m testing a conclusion:
Any level of achievement or happiness in my life lies in every single relationship (and their meanings) and how I live and respond within them.
From a very young age, we learn to understand our relationships with different people come in many different forms on different levels. We learn, even in early childhood, how important and complex they can be – and we even exercise it early and often. (Do you remember, huh?)
I figure the meaning and level of relationship is
based on their expectations which is
based on their values and beliefs which is
based on their previous experiences which is
based on their secret memories which is
based on their private fears.
THIS IS THE SAME FOR ME, AS IT IS FOR YOU
and EVERYONE ELSE.
We are all the same.
AND, this is where conflict lurks in relationships, because it is all STORY made up in our minds and we have certain expectations on how the relationship should be. The reactions from those stories lead to conflict because they come from the past; and for the most part, we are all convinced WE hold the TRUTH – regardless of who you are!
Fortunately, distinguishing how we are “being” in our relationships are not that complex to sort out; actually, it’s rather easy with a little time, some focus, and personal honesty with our self.
The best news >>>
How we deal with those relationships (the “doing”) and the conflicts that come with them are even easier still to rectify. All it takes is a little time, some focus, and personal honesty with our self. (Sound familiar?)
Regardless of all the talk, the expert advice, and eons of knowledge we have we’ve gathered and shared about human relationships, we still don’t get it. Proof of that is found in the exploding industry of therapy, self-help, building esteem, motivation, etc.
Yet, with all this knowledge and activity, the world still experiences violence against humans. It’s very obvious:
We still don’t understand how to relate to each other.
Do we really want to understand?
We’ve learned from the world and everything around us (and from our own personal trials and errors) that there is no way we can survive in any way on our own. There is evidence all around us that gives validity to the importance of relationships – regardless of all it’s baggage and drama.
We are constantly bombarded with the message that “there is a better way to treat others” in religion, business, media, politicians, and social sciences among others.
To empower people, industries like film and television create stories on how people overcome their conflicts in human relationships. The actual story issue is not that important – it’s usually how the characters act and react towards each other. The character depth is always important in any story and we know we are interested in how others are ‘being’ under certain circumstances. The hero always is a relationship-builder.
And STILL, we struggle.
Is the fear that crushing?
Relating with others is the most common occurrence we experience – and we still don’t get it. Even with the knowledge that there is no way we can survive in any way on our own without these relationships – THE MOST CRITICAL PART OF MAINTAINING OUR SPECIES and our futures.
Regardless of the level of relationship we have with someone, just the fact that we’ve crossed paths with each other creates a RELATING OPPORTUNITY for us each of us to express ourselves – and it happens ALL the time.
Let’s look at these relationships
(for each of us, the categories have different levels of priority, so the following list is not rated):
(Please remember, these are only my observations and experiences I had over many years. This is not the truth.)
Family: eg: siblings, parents, extended families …
- Blood is NOT “thicker than water”.
- A long history in the relationship has a tendency to create long-term (and unspoken) grievances
- The deepest form of Love and connection – creates emotions with the deepest crevasses and the highest peaks
- Not relationships that are necessarily wanted – by default
- Different shared memories from growing up together
- Not based on common interests
Friends: eg: childhood, hobbies, volunteering, school, recreation, lovers …
- Based on common interests with different levels of commitment
- WANT to be together with each other due to similar wants and needs
- Can end the relationship at any time without repercussion
- The more often together, the deeper the relationship
Business and Professional: eg: co-workers, superiors, subs, customers …
- Based on career/job status
- Plays a role in each other’s lives
- Can be long-term if carried beyond working relationship
- Can have deeper implications on life due to type of relationship
- Other than those types which are equal, relationship can be manipulative (and vicious)
- Usually, based on fulfilling own personal needs/wants
- Can end suddenly with termination of work relationship
Life Partners: eg: committed monogamous relationship …
- Can be the most gratifying relationships we ever have
- Very personal and deep with knowledge of partner’s secrets and fears
Miscellaneous Acquaintances: eg: people on street, local shops, neighbours, services …
- Usually transient
- Nothing at risk in the relationship – easy choice to maintain or end
- Not too personal
- Not based of knowledge of each
- Develops over a long period of time
So many of us have a difficult time with relationships. For a lot of us, when we enter into a relationship, we don’t know what we are getting into, and as a result, it is this void which creates the possibilities of conflict. We have expectations.
Part of that is due to the way we see life in general; part is due to what we’ve learned about people; and part is due to our own insecurities we learned over the years about our own inabilities to have a healthy relationship (negative-based thinking).
Here are my general assumptions about relationships:
We have to accept that we are forced
to be in relationships with people.
We have no choice.
I am experimenting with this concept; so at this point, I place my trust and belief in this assertion. As I go through my day, I keep in the back of my mind this assumption and see how I think and relate to people I meet on the street – both familiar and strangers.
If we don’t have ups and downs in our relationships,
then there is probably something not working.
Given we know that all relationships will have ‘ups and downs’ and ‘ins and outs’ as it develops over the years, we can count on a few conflicts to sprinkle over the growth; and it is absolutely normal. Again, this is a good sign that the relationship may be waning and suffering in silence.
As the world is today, we know there are good people, not so good people, and downright evil people. Because we know this (and the evidence is shown to us at 6 and 11 nightly), a good many of us realize that with all the pain and suffering perpetrated by these people, it is difficult to keep a level head when determining (in our head) what to do when someone wrongs us.
Why do we have difficulty getting along?
Do we want to?
We have a set of social norms (or rules) from which we play. Acknowledged or not, they are always based on LAW, ETHICS, MORALS, and INTEGRITY. These rules give us guidelines on what is socially acceptable in any given culture (family, local, urban, national, etc).
We learn these rules from EVERYTHING WE LEARN and EXPERIENCE. The rules are complex, without limit, transient, specific to person, place, and thing, always changing, always created, hidden, and not usually talked about (unless in bad taste or academia).
I have an assumption why relationships fail:
There are many ways to get along with each other; but at the end of the day, we either feel like an imposter, secretly remain angry, or we don’t feel vindicated.
Here is a list of some of the ways we have been taught to deal with difficult people/situations in a healthy and respectful way (Remember, they are based on our backgrounds):
Sadly, for those same eons we’ve know about the richness of great relationships, we’ve also failed at effectively dealing with conflict big and small.
For part two in the next post, we will look at issues of HOW we are reacting in those relationships and what we can do to eliminate the conflict.
You will be amazed how easy (and non-labour intensive) it is
to understand how create empowering relationships,
even with people that are unlikeable,
those we don’t much trust, and
people who’s lost our respect
without the games and general feeling of disempowerment.