We Live in a World Filled With and Defined by Others.
Whether we know or are willing to acknowledge it, Others are the most important thing to us. No matter who you are, what your personality type or disposition is, or what your goals look like, your relationship to the Other is the focal point and guiding force of your life.
Because other people are of such importance to us it is valuable to consider the nature of our relationship to them. Through the consideration of this relationship we are able to let go of limiting concepts and behaviors, become more mature and effective, and more fully enjoy their presence.
This article is designed to facilitate your personal exploration of the Other, and will take the form of a guided contemplation, presentation of concepts, and suggestions for new ways of being. We will progress through the following five sections. Be sure to feel the truth behind each suggestion.
- Others Dominate Experience – How do others contribute to my experience of self and life?
- Problems with others -or- How do others contribute to my suffering?
- The cause of these problems -or- From Whence Doth Thine Problems Arise?
- The Form of a Good Relationship -or- What is it like to love others?
- Attaining Good Relationships -or- How do I love others?
Others Dominate Experience
So much of what we know as life exists in relationship to others. The following is a list of some, by no means all, of the contributions Other makes to your experience. As you read, intend to experience the assertions for yourself. Be open to an insight beyond your current understanding.
- Self is a relationship to Other- The very existence of you as a person is a relationship to other people. The literal boundaries and borders of you are defined by those of others. You begin where others end. Try to grasp this on an existential level. This is deep. Get it now and get it again more deeply later.
- Survival depends on and is threatened by Others- Physical, social, and conceptual survival is largely dependent on others. Their support/cooperation/acceptance is experienced as necessary because you depend so heavily on them to provide the resources and services that sustain life. Without others you would have no food, water, shelter, job, money, friends, or lovers. All of this requires a relationship with others. Not only do you depend on others for these things, but they also compete with others for them. Although typically unrecognized, this dynamic represents a life and death struggle and is experienced as such in subtle yet significant ways. A quote from the Mahabharat points to this dynamic “Where there is other, there is fear”. The fear, which can be sensed at any time regardless of the situation, arises because others are seen as the source of, and the primary threat to, Life.
- Emotions are manipulations of Others- We take emotions to be fundamental to who and what we are. Emotion is what gives life meaning, charge, value, and humanity. Our experience of self and life is dominated by emotion, yet we rarely ask ourselves what function and purpose emotions serve.
Contemplating the matter reveals that emotions are used as manipulations of Others. Said another way, a primary function of emotion is to get other people to do things for us. By generating a state that we believe will encourage another to do what we please (ex: anger to intimidate, sadness to garner support) we are manipulating them into action appropriate for our personal survival.
The connection may be hard to see at times. When contemplated honestly however it can become clear that so much of what we call emotion is an attempt to control other people. First, contemplate the importance of emotion, then ask “what is the purpose of these feelings?”, “What function do they serve?”, “How are my emotions related to other people?”
- Language refers to Others- Thinking is linguistic, culture and knowledge exist largely as language, our understanding of reality depends on language, our experience of self is defined largely by the language used to describe it. And what is the purpose of language? To communicate with others!
The tool designed to facilitate the passage of information from one body to another now permeates and dominates our experience of self and life. It is important to notice the inherently social nature of language. Its use is always tied to others, regardless of the context.
First, grasp the mind-bogglingly pervasive impact and contribution of language (it boggles). Then, realize that language is a tool for communicating with others.
- Self-image is a reference to Others- What you experience as your self-image is in large part generated from the perspective of, and in relationship to, those who view you. Put another way, you simulate other people’s experience of you in your own mind, and then experience this as yourself. You see your body, face, and movements as if from the eyes of another. This is done so you know how you look and can manage this appearance in accordance with your personal image and self-concept. This self-image was generated to help you survive socially, to begin with (fit in, become lovable), so the whole activity is purely social.
Grasp the impact of self-image on your experience. Then see that self-image would not exist in the absence of others
- Self-esteem is a comparison to Others- Your value, worth, and self-efficacy is derived through comparison to those around you. Your self-assessments are generated by comparing yourself to the best and worst examples of each category and then placing yourself somewhere between these two extremes. So much of life is a game played on behalf of esteem maintenance, which is really the self’s attempt to be as good as another person or ideal.
- Culture (a large group of others) creates your world- On a fundamental level, our experience of reality has been inherited, learned, programmed from culture. Our understanding of self, world, other, life, and so on have been primarily handed to use by others in the form of cultural knowledge. It is through others that we come to know what anything is.
Briefly but intensely, contemplate the massive contribution that culture makes to your experience of world, self, reality.
- Others are your authority- Your experience of there being an external authority strongly affects the way you think and live. The right way of being, the nature of truth, your identity, and many other fundamental aspects of life have been largely created, dictated, or enforced by an authority. This is someone you deem to be an expert, or knower of truth.
Get a sense of how much the presence of an authority contributes to your understanding and experience of reality.
- Others Entertain you- Without playmates, your experience of Being would be relatively hollow and lonesome. Or so it seems.
- You Want to be Loved- The drive to be loved is strong (very, very strong) in humans. It is through others that you seek to fulfill it, without them a perceived void in the heart would persist.
- You feel the need to be around others (occasionally)- The average person (you) has a ‘need’ for exposure to others. This shows up in much the same way as hunger or thirst. What happens without others? It seems like something bad.
- Look into your own experience and notice the impact of others on you and your life. It is unlikely that you will fully grasp the depth and nature of this dynamic right now or all at once. While instantaneous insight and comprehension are possible, the bulk of this realization will likely unfold through time as a progressively more complete understanding begins to take shape.
Fully realizing all of the aforementioned influences would cause a radical shift in your experience of reality.
Problems With Others—How Do Others Contribute To My Suffering?
The majorities of life’s troubles and challenges arise in relationship to others. Getting clear about what they are is the first step in resolving them.
- Hurt– Other people are the primary source of pain in most humans.
- Fear– Others are the scariest thing out there.
- Anger– Nothing is more infuriating than others.
- Mistrust– Others are prone to lying, manipulating, and engaging in selfish behavior.
- Misunderstanding– One of our greatest challenges is to understand other people.
- Loss– The death of significant others is a constant threat and source of much sadness
- Envy– Who is there to envy but Other? This can be painful and ineffective
- Uncontrollability– Others will do as they please, and this is often a problem for us.
- Unpredictability– Because you do now understand others their actions will be unpredictable which can be difficult to manage
The Cause of These Problems—From Whence Doth Thine Problems Arise?
Every single one of these problems can be traced back to the presence of an illusory separate self. The problems exist solely because you do. If you weren’t here to have the problems, they wouldn’t exist! So, what is it about you that causes so much trouble?
- Particularity- Because you are specific, and intend to remain that way, there are many outcomes you must avoid and attain. If you had no need to be your person, believe your beliefs, feel and look a certain way, or accomplish your agendas then there would be no ‘problems’. You would not be compelled to manipulate others. You would have no need to obtain or avoid anything and so others would be as they are without qualm.
- Separation- Reality is inherently unified. The experience of separation as fundamentally true and real is the primary cause of suffering in humans. When other people are felt to be existentially separated and different from us our relationship to them takes on a completely different texture. A struggle against others is needlessly engaged. A sense of fear permeates the feeling body and an endless pursuit of resolution necessarily follows.
- Vulnerability- Death, loss, and pain are ever-present possibilities for us. We will inevitably overlook the wellbeing of others in order to avoid these experiences. Doing so degrades the quality of our relationship because a mutually beneficial situation is not your concern, and so will not be achieved.
- Brokenness- Being a person means being limited. This limitation is often interpreted as brokenness. This brokenness causes you to hide from others- to lie. Lying leads to mistrust. A struggle to ‘fix’ this brokenness lead one down selfish avenues of manipulation.
- Selfishness- Exclusive self-concern causes you to overlook the needs and ‘shape’ of those around you. Problems arise as you helplessly relate to a fantasy instead of the actual event.
- Ineffectiveness– The previously mentioned tendencies lead to an inability to cause the desired effects. You will be relating to a fantasy rather than the actual condition. You will be relating to a partial representation rather than the whole.
The Form of a Good Relationship- What is it Like to Love Others?
Defining and describing a good relationship with others allows us to work towards something real. It is in this working towards that we discover our personal limitations and struggles. Creating an objective is a necessary step for any transformation, even if the objective is simply the absence of something.
- Free from unnecessary suffering- It is ok to suffer! But much of the suffering we endure in relationships can be shed by making simple shifts in perspective and intent.
- Fulfilling- A sense of wanting more will fade. Each interaction is exactly what it needs to be. Interaction feels real. Things are as they should be.
- Motivated by love not fear- Acting out of fear causes all the aforementioned problems. Acting out of love is inherently effective and fulfilling. Being driven by positive emotions leads to good outcomes more often than not.
- Effective in collective pursuits- Whatever you and your other intent to create or accomplish will come to fruition when your relationship is made conscious.
- Mutually beneficial- Both parties get what they want and need.
Attaining a Good Relationship- How Do I Love Others?
Your relationship with others is only ever an expression of what you are. The key to creating a better relationship with others is to change yourself. This requires the elimination of that which is ineffective, and a subsequent adaptation to the Truth such that you become what is best in any given moment.
- Scarcity context– The perception of scarcity makes you needy for resources and attention. As such you will be compelled to manipulate others to get what you need. You will also be inclined to defend and attach to what you have as if it were the only one available. Both of these drives make it much more difficult to relate to others in an easygoing enjoyable way. Let go of scarcity perceptions and adopt the perspective that there is more than enough for you.
- Stop believing your beliefs– Beliefs about the way things get you into trouble (cause suffering, reduce effectiveness, reduce fulfillment) because they are inherently unvalidated, untested, not-experienced-by-you assertions about the nature of reality. As such, beliefs cut you off from the moment-as-it-is, and force you into a fantasy, conceptual reality, or fabricated experience.
- Close mindedness kills- The inability to adopt a new perspective limits effectiveness and forces you to unnecessarily maintain uncomfortable identities. An open mind allows every perspective to be as if nothing.
- Integrity is essential- Every aspect of self must work in accordance with every other. A conflict between internal drives always leads to a conflict between selves. when you are in integrity with yourself you are able to love others.
- Principles that transcend self-motivation- Principles that adhere to the dictates of Truth (Honesty, Integrity, Honor, Communication) rather than the needs of self (pleasure, manipulation, agenda, self-image) can improve your relationship to others in many ways- think about this for yourself.
- Selflessness- The self is bound by fear and driven to survive. Less self allows you to be more fully and effectively in relationship to others. Letting go of the seed to fulfill selfs many drives frees up consciousness to take more enjoyable and effective forms
- Realizing your true nature- Seeing that you and everyone else are nothing takes the pressure off and makes celebration possible.
- Knowing your character- See and accept yourself for what it is. Only when you can love yourself can you love others. It is in seeing your own fallibility and suffering that compassion and patients for others arise. You come to understand that you share a condition, and that in this condition you suffer and celebrate together.
- Hard Work In The Name of Love- Moving towards a loving effective relationship with others typically requires a significant effort on the part of the individual. Take on the transformation and intend to actualize it in every interaction.