We are more alike than we are different: by relating with others, we validate, grow, love and learn/image courtesy of Stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net
There is a rather commonly used quotation: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” I will discuss this in terms of relationships... a difficult area because we all feel better when we have some control over our lives, and because we'd like to have this with regard to being accepted by others.
We all like to be accepted. It does take courage to still feel positive if we feel someone doesn't accept us. But it is not personal! It doesn't mean either of you are deficient in any way.
Perhaps it is human nature to desire to be in control.. It could be because it is terrifying to feel you are at the mercy of happenings, emotions and every variety of circumstance that is out of our control. We can equate this with death at a literal level, for when we were hunters and gatherers, if you were not accepted in the tribe, you would starve to death.
When we are not in control, we are naturally scared. Anything could happen. We often doubt our coping resources. What if we fall apart? Will people be there for us?
To be out of control of what occurs in the lives of ourselves or our loved ones, whether this be an internal or external experience is at best uncomfortable, and at worst, terrifying and almost like a nightmare. This can be regarding happenings that we know will occur, those that probably occur and to a lesser degree, even possible uncontrollable events, if their occurrence is something that would affect something very important to us.
In a way, perhaps us humans are, to varying degrees, control freaks. Some of these worries that are more common that spring to my mind our
-death, illness or disability of a loved one
-losing a job – perhaps we equate this with feelings of incompetence, loss of self-esteem or feeling one is worthwhile, as well as being able to feed oneself or keep a family together if supporting your partner and children.
-losing an important relationship
-natural disasters in prone areas where the result can be a home suddenly gone, lives in the case of events like earthquakes
-what people think about us
-problems with money
There are two common themes here – relationships, and survival.
There has been evidence that even if a baby is given nourishment that satisfies its physical needs, if deprived of being held, rocked, then the baby does not survive.
It may be no co-incidence that fears surrounding relationships and their loss whether through death, conflict, not being accepted or understood may have its roots that humans essentially need humans. Rejection is associated at some level with death or it could be a loss of will to live. If a person is abandoned completely or rejected, the group or tribe in the old days may refuse to feed the person, or leave them out. Of course today, it is not so literal, but people are social animals. People need people.
We need others to relate to us in some way. Not every one will –but we all need someone. Why can’t we survive on our own?
** We forget how to relate, that we can relate, and that others can relate to us. Imagine you were on a desert island. Imagine there are beautiful lush fruits, and all sorts of food were readily available to you. (In reality, obtaining food wouldn’t be that easy, but it’s not related to the point I’m trying to discuss). Okay, we sleeping well, we are eating well, imagine, we even have a television, and some of those games you can play alone (tetris, solitaire, etc). You may even have books that vicariously talk about others’ lives. The sun shines. Imagine you don’t even have any stress. Just beautiful beaches and nature, and a warm place to sleep. Again, these wouldn’t be that easy, but the point is, how would you feel?
Well, perhaps if had been “peopled-out” for quite a significant length of time. You are surrounded by colleagues, friends, acquaintances, family every day, and perhaps get about half an hour of ‘self-time’. You may think the above scenario sounds heavenly.
However, I noticed something the other day. I was with a friend, and I have always considered myself an introvert who ‘requires a large amount of space and time by myself’. I feel I have a number of pursuits and I selfishly perhaps feel I only have time to fulfil them alone. Well, I definitely enjoyed time with my friend, but then I wanted to pursue another favourite past-time, reading. As soon as I left my friend, I felt sad, and didn’t know why. Suddenly felt empty.
When we are alone, we are in our heads. If, and I have actually spent a great deal of my life like this, alone all the time, we forget we can relate. If we are scared we are not likeable, and stay away from human company for fear of rejection (perhaps through bad experiences), we may avoid people so as not to risk further pain. For rejection is extremely painful. It makes one feel that they are not worthwhile, not pretty or interesting or inherently worthwhile enough to have someone enjoy their company.
The other day, I was invited to join three other ladies for conversation. I began to fear they were thinking negative things about me. I was bullied in high school for being quiet of all reasons, and I’ve never been able to really let go of the feeling that I just don’t ‘cut it’ as a likeable sociable person.
This was only partly the truth when I told them I had to go because I had an exam to study for. But after sitting there for a few minutes, I couldn’t think of anything interesting to say to join the conversation, and started to think they didn’t want me there. There was no objective or real evidence. Yes, it was in my head. But a long long time ago now, I have felt there is something wrong with me. I came to the conclusion they were only tolerating my presence, so said I had to go and study.
Unfortunately a few days later, it has occurred to me that I came across as not valuing their friendship or appreciating their offer of it, and that something really not that important in the grand scheme of things, that is, relationships was not of importance to me. In essence perhaps they thought I was rejecting them. People aren’t mind readers.
Not everyone we meet will connect with us to a degree where we mututally find the companionship enjoyable. But without people
-we forget that we are just like everyone else. We share more similarities than differences
-I know I can become quite self-absorbed. I can lose the ability to tune into and empathise with the lives and happenings of others.
-we can’t help others – it is hard virtually making a positive difference in someone’s life. A supportive caring letter or email isn’t quite the same or as fulfilling as meeting the person.
-we can even lose touch with reality. We live in our own little worlds and forget others have lives and problems. So that if we perceive they are cool with us, jump to the conclusion that they don’t like us
-don’t even give ourselves an opportunity for romance
-don’t give ourselves the chance for others to like us and show we like and see great things in them.
… This is not to say people or relationships are perfect. Conflicts can and do occur and thinking a relationship is going to be perfect has a high chance for disappointed. Yes, you may have not been accepted in the past, but you aren’t going to give others a chance for you to feel likeable
-you may not feel you have anything to offer, but other people you will find do see things, even when you don’t see them yourselves
-you can share dreams, journeys, adventures, experiences, hopes, dreams
-be there for encouragement, a shoulder to cry on. You may be the person who stops a person crying themselves to sleep that night
-I am learning it is more fulfilling in a relationship to listen than to talk. I often talk nervously so talk a lot, but being with people is the biggest teacher of all.
We all need people. We are social animals. Yes, relationships can be hard, but they are necessary to be a three dimensional human being.
In conclusion, if you achieve many degrees, are physically fit, and do all the right things, but neither give or receive, what have you really done? Nothing without people can be that meaningful? What's it all for anyway. Life is essentially about contribution. We get pleasure out of it, and others benefit from it, and get to know you too.
Even if you start by giving three smiles to strangers on the bus today!