Why it is Important to be Real With Each Other in Your Relationships
PHIL: What does being real even mean? I had a science education and spent most of my life as a computer programmer – a career that requires constructing long chains of actions that must mesh with each other perfectly – so I have long tried to describe reality in terms of words. The search for a rational theory of everything has always been a Holy Grail for me. But alongside science, I also explored psychology, Zen, encounter groups and retreats, and I came to know the indisputable reality of direct experience. As I phrased it in my youth, “The facts precede the explanation.”
I’ve always been aware of the difference between my thoughts and my experiences, but recently, I’ve been framing them as being two kinds of consciousness, and to admit both of them I must be open to the unspeakable. Sometimes I have opened that space through willpower via sitting and retreats, and sometimes it arrives unbidden. Many years ago, Maude had a TIA and was rendered near speechless, and the depth of my connection with her swept everything else away.
How often, when I need to make a choice about something, do I pick a path that doesn’t feel right? Not very often. This can only mean that all of my decisions are based on how I feel, and then I come up with a reason that explains the choice. (For complex decisions, intuition does better than analysis; see the experiments by Ap Dijksterhuis in “How We Decide” by Jonah Lehrer.) And yet the challenge for me is to hear my emotional response and allow myself to act on it. (Other people may have the opposite balance; for them it is a challenge to think in time to rein in their knee-jerk reactions.)
All of that is a preamble to pointing out that relationships are emotional as well as rational. For a business relationship, you may need to ignore the emotional if they are the only supplier in town. Your connection may be intellectual if you have a shared interest in, say, 17th Century Venetian glass. But in personal relationships of all sorts, both are shared; the relationship is more than just verbal. To make it a real relationship, feel how you are and speak it.Most decisions are based on feelings, and then comes a reason that explains the choice #quote Click To Tweet
MAUDE: At their core, all deep relationships are an opportunity to be real with each other; both with the other person, and with yourself. You get a wonderful feeling from connections that have this as their basis. Equally, you are aware when it is lacking and feel something is missing in the relationship. How can you help create this seemingly easy, yet often complicated way of being together? What makes for that feeling?
For me, this is most recognizable when I sense the other person has an actual interest in me. This includes both wanting to know what I’m experiencing and in sharing the same about themselves; specifically when they share how they are feeling rather than just what is going on.
I feel connected no matter how long or short the exchange is, when we are truly present with one another; that there is no thought of getting somewhere else, or doing something else. This feeling comes from a sense of being seen and heard, and not on the amount of time allotted to any particular exchange. For that to occur, you can’t have an agenda that is more important than being present together. You have to have an open mind that is not partially filled with busyness and self, one that is available for being rather than doing.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t many important and necessary communications that are action oriented or for the passing of information, but those are not the ones that create meaning and value.
The feeling that I get when I sense someone is hearing me and seeing me, is deep and precious. The feeling I get when someone is busy in their mind with other things and only half there and mentally at their next activity, is of being hurt and disappointed.
We all want to feel loved and valued in our relationships. That comes from being present with each other with our whole being. It comes from giving our attention to each other, from learning how to really listen to each other.
To listen, really listen, you have to be interested. You have to want to learn. You have to be open to encountering something new; the thoughts and feelings of another, not just your own. Life has become so busy and filled with comings and goings, with doing and taking care of, that many have lost the art of stopping, putting the mental chatter aside and actually being with each other. Much of this kind of busyness doing is transitory and will pass without a trace. Being present with someone, learning who they are, sharing who you are, these are of value and will remain.
Photo credit: Phil Mayes
Photo note: Friends’ hands
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