What defines the closeness and depth of a human relationship? I have broken it down into these four elements as a framework for thinking about it:
1) Mind Sharing – How open and vulnerable is your conversation? How many of your thoughts and feelings do you share?
2) Understanding – How well are you are able to understand each other’s thought patterns and predict their behaviour? Do you have a strong desire to reach consensus and understanding?
3) Shared Memories and Experiences – How many memories and experiences have you shared?
4) Selflessness and Caring – How often do you think about each other? How willing are you to give for each other? How often? How much effort? How much energy are you prepared to put into each other just because you want to? How much joy do you feel from their joy? How much pain from their pain?
Now within each relationship these elements may not be balanced. One person may be more caring than the other. One might understand the other better than the other understands them. Sometimes the unbalance is manageable and sometimes it is just too much.
Each relationship will also have different amounts these elements. For example family members might have very large amounts of 3 and 4 especially. Where as close friends will have more 1 and 2 with a decent helping of 3 and 4 (although no friend is going to match the 4 of your mother!).
It can be really interesting to think about every relationship you have (or had) in this way. It can provide a deep understanding of why you value them (or don’t).
True Love is understanding each other completely and knowing that if you could be with anyone in the world you would still choose her.
Dear Unworthy Friend
Why do you feel “not good enough”? Why do you feel worthless? Why do you fear rejection?
Can’t you see that despairing over your weaknesses makes you weaker? Focus on your strength.
Can’t you see that you cannot love others unless you love yourself? Don’t push us away.
Can’t you see that your fear makes your fears come true? Brave them.
Can’t you see that the past which haunts you also haunts your future? Learn and accept.
Embrace your greatness. You are worthy. We that love you are proof of that.
We all have fears. Fear is necessary to prevent us from doing dangerous things. But in many cases it can also prevent us from doing good things.
Everyone allows their fears to define them and the choices they make to some degree. Sometimes we don’t even know we are afraid. It seems to me one of the biggest things that hold people back in life. We can defeat ourselves with it.
Some typical examples include;
- Loss of power/control
- Instinct based fears and phobias.
I think a good exercise is to write the things we are afraid of and even ask people who know us what they observe as we may not even be aware of some of our own fears. Then we should analyse how each of these fears affects our lives and if they are getting in the way of us reaching our personal and relational potential.
Many of these fears are the result of confused thinking or a lack of self-worth. If we write them down we can think about them and why we have them. We can talk about them with our close friends and get their perspectives.
It is only by recognising what and why we fear that we are able to move beyond them.
Don’t just read this, get a pen and write!
I highly recommend reading The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It is famous as a children’s story in Europe. But this is no children’s story. It takes a more mature mind to fully appreciate the deeper themes.
One of the main messages is the importance of sentimentality and placing meaning on things. It is by giving things meaning that we give our very lives meaning.
“I am looking for friends. What does that mean — tame?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”
“To establish ties?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….”
“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.”
We should maintain all the good aspects of childishness while removing the bad aspects. Definitely one for reading over and over again because you always pick up something new.
Hans Rosling shows that the world really is moving forward, even if it takes a step back now and then in the short-term. A must watch for any global citizen who cares about the progress of humanity.
What is the meaning of Life?
Everyone creates their own meaning, I am not going to say what it should be and I am not going to philosophise on esoteric spiritual or religious ideas which cannot be proven. All I can do is share the meaning that I have created.
It comes down to what is needed to maintain a feeling of contentment. When I use the word contentment I do not mean comfort (that’s boring!). I mean you are content with the combination of where you are and where you are going. A sense of progress while enjoying the journey with a clear conscience.
I call it the three L’s philosophy of life:
Love: I need love. People to love and care for. People to love and care for me. I need a sense of closeness and belonging. I need to share experiences and thoughts. These are the deep relationships that make life worth living.
Learning: I need a sense of continual personal growth and learning. I need to feel like I am acquiring new and useful knowledge, removing bad habits, adding good habits and moving towards a better self through new and interesting experiences.
Living Ethically: I need to maintain a sense of ethics and “goodness”. This is a complex topic but in summary I stay true to my word and take trust extremely seriously. I do not use or hurt people. I balance my interests with the interests of others. I give more than I take.
These principles bring a deep and dynamic life filled with inner peace and contentment. It is wonderful!
Only through empathy can we reach our potential for learning and growth. We can learn about our self, connect with depth and compassion through understanding, we can expose ourselves to new ideas and perspectives.
Empathy is the highest form of intelligence.
Imagine that we were able to read each other’s minds. We could step into them and see through their eyes.This would be the pinnacle of communication. But all we have is words and actions to transmit to others how and what we are thinking and feeling. On the other side we need to be able and willing to receive the transmission and able to decipher it correctly.
I do not consider myself to have a close relationship with anyone unless there is a high degree of pure, open communication. I think there are three main elements to this:
Sharing: We need to share everything about our lives; past history, present events, future aspirations. I want to know their thoughts (all of them!). I don’t have time for people who filter what they say or keep closed up because they are insecure – unless they are willing to improve.
Trust: There needs to be a high degree of trust. Not only that you won’t lie by speaking falsehoods but also that you willingly share things that you know I will not like.
Understanding: There needs to be a strong desire to reach consensus. If there is disagreement there can only be four outcomes. 1) You change the other person’s mind. 2) The other person changes your mind. 3) You both change your minds. 4) You agree to disagree (just a polite way of deciding that the other person is an idiot). Only the first three of these scenarios is acceptable.
If you do not have an extremely high degree of communication then you do not have a genuinely close relationship. Aren’t close relationships what life is all about?
Share your mind. Be interested. Care.