One of the reasons relationships are so important is that they take us out of ourselves. You cannot have a relationship with another human being…without relating to them. And you can’t have a good, honest, loving relationship without opening your heart, extending empathy and humanity, seeing the world through their eyes, and beginning to expand your own definition of “self” to include others.
We’re wired that way. The fastest way to grow is to be in a relationship with a mature human being, to care about it enough to move beyond your self-image and perceived limitations. To fear losing it more than you fear revealing yourself.
To be willing to let love in. That vanquishes fear. Vanquish fear and you automatically begin to expand to include others.
I remember my mother caught me playing too roughly with our kittens, swinging them around by the paws. I was perhaps seven years old, and they were fantastic toys to me, more responsive than wind-up dolls, and warm and fuzzy, but that was about it.
“Would you want someone to swing you like that?” She asked, after stopping me.
“Sure!” I said.
She smiled tolerantly. “Did you notice that when you let go, little Sally ran away as fast as she could?”
Uh…yeah, I had. I started to feel a little funny.
“So she didn’t want any more of that. So…would you want someone to do something to you that would make you want to run away as fast as you could?”
Having been bullied, extensively, I remembered being slapped, choked, head-rubbed, hit, mocked, and other things that motivated me to run as fast as I could the first chance I got. I remembered how I thought about those people. And with sudden alarm I wondered if Sally, our kitten, felt the same way about me.
And that was a threshold. I began to attribute INWARDNESS to the kitten. She wasn’t just an object, she was a living being with feelings and needs. Once that connection was made, nothing was ever the same.
It hurt. I wanted to close my mind to what Mom was saying, but she was the source of love, of food, of shelter, of all good things. And she was telling me something from her heart, and I had to hear it, or suffer separation from the being I loved most in all the world.
That day I changed. No more salt on snails, no more firecrackers in ant hills. And the things I said to other human beings began to reverberate in my own head. They weren’t objects. Not shadows. Not bit-players in my own personal drama. They were beings with hopes and needs and feelings.
And…I had said and done things that I would have considered hurtful, had they been done to me.
We learn by imitation. If we have been the recipients of love and kindness, we believe we are precious. When we experience that deeply, we NATURALLY wish to share this with others. We wish to replicate the sense of love and acceptance we found in childhood…or to satisfy our needs…or to express our inner nature…
Whether you want to look at it psychologically, physically, emotionally, or physically, the human urge to connect, to love, to share makes perfect sense, is in fact the natural consequence of growing beyond fear.
CONNECTION IS THE NATURAL STATE. People who are closed, disconnected, unempathetic, manipulative and/or hurtful are displaying dysfunction, parading their wounds and lack publicly. They are to be pitied, not hated. They can hurt you, so they must be defended against…but they usually hurt themselves more than they can ever hurt others.
Our connection to others opens the door to understanding the unity of all beings, all reality. Whatever shields we put up to defend ourselves, protect ourselves (and there is NO ONE more cynical than a romantic who trusted and was betrayed) we yearn for that connection, and will seek out either ways of fulfilling that need, or ways to numb and deny the drive.
Don’t believe this. Instead, look at the people around you and ask: “what would be true about this person if it is true?” If the more that they jump and scream and criticize and attack, the more they actually crave connection? If the more they push people away, the more vulnerable they actually are, the more they fear rejection and betrayal?
If you look at the people around you, and this helps you make sense of them, then adapt it as a possible rule of thumb…until and unless it lets you down.
But meanwhile, look into your own heart. Ask yourself if you see yourself as a precious thing. If you see other human beings as precious. If you extend your own humanity to those around you. Do you need to make people wrong? Do you believe in “us versus them?” Do you need to believe others are below you?
These are all ways to avoid reality. To be able to swing the kitten by its paws. Hey, it’s not real. It’s just a wind-up toy, a shadow on the wall of your inner cave.
Don’t believe, just ask: IF it is true that we are all connected, what does the way you treat others say about how you really feel about yourself, down in the secret depths?
The answer to that question may not save you, but it might very well save a kitten or two.