Our personal relationships can be the source of the greatest joy and the most painful sorrow. What percentage of our lives are engrossed with the negative aspects of those connections? Unfortunately, the troubling times seem to loom fresh and powerful in our consciousness.
Perhaps is because we are clearly worriers and worrying produces feelings of unease, unhappiness, anxiety and or depression. Most of us are quick to assume the worst. When we are disappointed in others we quickly believe that they might have consciously attempted to damage us in some way, or disregard our feelings, or abuse our kindness. In truth, it is nearly impossible to comprehend the motives of others. They may not understand them either. But the reason we frequently see the glass ‘half-empty’ may have evolutionary and genetic implications.
The worriers among our ancestors, the ones that ran at the first glimpse of trouble, who stood erect at the first strange noise, who saw the world as threatening and dangerous, probably survived to reproduce. They passed along this negative outlook down the generations. It is literally in our genes. It is true that there are other impulses which often surprise us–altruism, courage, the willingness to die for a country, a cause, a loved-one. This tribal identification, not dissimilar to the reactions of ‘hive’ animals such as ants and bees, promotes the survival of the group, even at the expense of some of its defenders.
Yet we understand joy because we have all tasted it–and it can be incredibly uplifting. It may correlate with the neuropeptide dopamine’s release in the brain. But what is the source of our joy? Is it based on the accumulation of material goods? Success at work? At play? Does satisfying our competitive need to ‘win’ do it? But what about our interior state of consciousness? Philosophers and mystics have always pointed to our inner world, our minds as the creators of our reality. But does that meditator’s concept that we are each merely the witness of all our thoughts and feelings [therefore disassociating from them]?
As crucial as our mind’s interpretation of our inner world may be, there is an entire universe out there. We are not isolated, we are not celibate monks inhabiting a monastery. Most of us have family, friends, work associates who we need to deal with. Much of our joy and suffering arises from those relationships. Certainly we can choose how we ‘spin’ those interactions. Ultimately, however, we need to balance them against the real world around us.
To delude ourselves that all is well when it is not the case is ultimately unhelpful. But it is not unreasonable to create the environment by which change and transformation can occur. How do we balance the fear with the reaction to that fear? One concept that deserves special attention is that of karmic connections.
Those who believe that souls reincarnate over many life-times with the same souls playing different roles may perceive a difficult conumdrum. Is it ever the ‘spiritual thing to do’ to reject, abandon, escape from close friends and particularly relatives who upset us, challenge us, annoy us? Do we confront and challenge with threats and withdrawal? Or do we understand that our proximity indicates that we are placed together in this particular lifetime to assist each other work through difficult circumstances together.
Who knows the best way to deal with such situations? Do we attack, go on the offensive, berate, yell, humiliate the other? Or do we patiently and persistently challenge those we care about to become their higher selves?
That is sometimes the most difficult approach of all. Yet to avoid the effort to heal such close relationships only postpones the inevitable–in this lifetime of those that follow.