“You cannot get wet from the word ‘water.’” — Alan Watts
I never thought I’d come out from under it. The circumstances I encountered — essentially what other people said and did — were depicted as the barometer for my experience of life. Thoughts and feelings were always collapsed into reality and whenever I’d slip into the imperceptible quicksand known as suffering, I was helpless.
You’ve heard a lot of this before, I’m sure. Not only my journey but the process of navigating through human emotions, which is much like the Millennium Falcon cascading through an asteroid field — except I’m not quite as skilled or graceful and my arrival at comprehension can be painstakingly slow.
Emotions come on like a light switch — everything’s fine, until it’s not. Nowadays, the blurring of emotions and real life is the cause of many relationships falling apart, with one or more parties quickly opting to “cut the other person off”. Scroll through Instagram or Facebook for a minute or two and you’re bound to scan over a post related to this behavior, as getting rid of “toxic” people is applauded throughout mainstream society.
I get it — some people have to learn what they need to learn on their own and being around you will only impede their progress. But removing people from one’s life is starting to toe the line as the preferred method of resolve for whenever our feelings get stuck in a rut — and I think it’s time we taper that back.
No, I’m not talking about the anomalies or extreme situations such as domestic violence and other points of no return. I’m referring to assigning labels onto people and situations without taking everything into account. Take it from someone who attempted this strategy long before it became a popular showcase of pride on social media — it’s pretty fucking lonely.
Allow me to explain my counsel.
As I allowed this resigning behavior to run rampant, I alienated myself from nearly everyone I cared about. I distanced myself from family, friends, colleagues, and confidants — all for the sake of protecting myself. (Newsflash: protection is not the meaning of life.)
I relished in my righteousness, but I couldn’t ignore the chirping in the back of my mind that advised I was the common denominator. Searching to obtain the root of my issue with people, a theme arose amongst the litany of surface-level explanations.
I identified the underlying issue boiling down to the person simply being different from me. They think different, they behave different, and they value things in differing degrees of importance. And I think I can speak for all of us, that’s our actual problem: people aren’t exactly like us.
Relational problems and breakdowns are then handled with apathy and frustration because we perceive them as a flaw in the plan. It’s assumed that a relationship should be harmonious and seamless, and if it’s not, we’re failing.
Yes, having things in common breeds connection. But how can you reach the pinnacle of your existence if you’re never challenged to give up your own point of view? How can you evolve with a singular vantage point? Moreover, how can you demonstrate how important someone is to you if you’re never willing to let go of what you cling to? For connection to transform into love, it requires sacrifice. A selfless act. Essentially, it requires generosity — and not in the way that you think.
Authentic generosity involves giving something up for its own sake, and not for a superfluous reason. By seeing your differences as what they are and letting go of your opinion — which is nothing in actuality — you communicate that this person in front of you is worth more than your attachment to something completely made up. Consider that an opinion or point of view is not in the realm of physical existence, and to value a narrative you’ve recited in your head over a living, breathing, beautiful human being is the ultimate scolding.
Why is makeup sex better than regular sex? Because passion arises from differences, not commonality.
Now you may be saying, “Wait, if I just give up my point of view, I’ll still be left with this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach!” Sure, maybe for a little bit. But thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations come and go like airplanes out of a terminal. They’re only around for a short period of time before they move on for another experience to enter in its place.
Moreover, just because you’re having an unhelpful feeling, doesn’t mean you are the unhelpful feeling — you must treat the two as distinct from one another. Identifying the power of language is critical in the mending and transformation of your relationships.
Think about how powerful the words “I love you” land when spoken to you by someone you appreciate. Those three words mixed together can pierce through whatever discomfort you may be feeling at the time to instantly transport you to a place of solitude, calm and comfort. Those aren’t the only words that have that effect: our entire experience of life has to do with the language we place around what’s happening.
We’re either saying something out loud or saying something in our head — all the freaking time. Using disempowering language is certain to create a disempowering experience —and worse, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where every adversarial viewpoint will be perceived as threatening.
During moments where communication breaks down, it’s absolutely paramount to consider an alternative approach from your automatic defensiveness. This first instinctual reaction is the wiring of the brain, which isn’t designed to make you happy — it’s designed to keep you alive. What follows thereafter, however, is your choice.
Leverage the following quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson when choosing your response to a person you’re struggling to communicate with,
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
The amount of love you have must surmount the fear you harbor. Until you choose love over all else, you’ll continue to suffer.
No, they’re not perfect — but neither are you. Taking responsibility is the gateway to communication, as you’re figurative disarming yourself. When walls go up, it’s perceived as you’ve got perfection to protect — which doesn’t exist and therefore, putting up said guard is an inherently inauthentic way of being. No one falls for someone, relates with someone, or trusts someone who’s hiding behind Fort Knox.
When you let you let your guard down and acknowledge your imperfection, you can immediately get back into communication. Vulnerable is the new sexy. Respect flows like a waterfall and people can’t help but feel close to you.
In closing, these three golden rules will keep your primitive thought patterns at bay if you implement them:
1. (Your) perception is not reality — But theirs is, and you’ve got to be willing to take responsibility for it. Practice lateral thinking.
2. Think twice before you label a person or situation — It’s probably a generalization.
3. Perfection doesn’t live here — If you can’t stand the heat, go play video games.