me and you and everyone we know

Posted by on Jul 19, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off on me and you and everyone we know

me and you and everyone we know

I read a great line this morning, that there are really 6 people in a relationship: you, who you think you are, who your partner thinks you are, your partner, who they think they are, and who you think they are.  Now that I’m deep in my 30s, I know I’m more “me” than I’ve ever been.  I worry a bit less about what others think of me, I am more frank about my discontents, and I’m starting to get a better sense of who I am and what I need.  There are less gestures of pretence but I know I’m still an unconscious editor of who I need to be to certain people, in certain situations, or when filling my space within the boundaries of social roles.  I still get a sense that there’s a disjuncture between who I am and who I think I am.  And definitely between who I am and who my partner thinks I am.

I think of Wittgenstein saying “the limits of my language means the limits of my world”, and believe that our words do begin to mould us into a shape that allows us to be understood by another.  But we are mistaken to then believe that what we understand of another is indubitable.  What of all of those unspeakable things we hide?  The forgotten things that formed us?  The stuff we dare not say and the things we grapple to define, they are lost in the space between self and other.  I do think it’s possible, with much introspection and inward searching, to come to know yourself pretty well.  But can you ever really know another person?  Is every relationship really a kind of (maybe benign) manipulation?  Each word we say in communication comes in place of another word, each thought is either expressed or repressed, the choice is an immediate and unconscious cost/benefit analysis.  We often fear offending, fear conflict or rejection and so we censor our shadow selves.  It’s safe to say that our partners are hedging their bets as well, somehow, in their own ways.  It’s just not possible to share 100% of our inward journeys, nor would we be likely to find someone to join us for the ride if we insisted on providing colour commentary for it all.  But reading that little quote this morning got me wondering: after 15 years, do I really even know my partner, and also, have I really even tried to know him?   I think I may have stopped digging in the naive belief that he is really the man I think he is.  Which he is not.  Which he can never be.

Is there an issue?  Should we be dissatisfied at the limits put upon our understandings of one another?  Or should we be resigned to the metaphysical probability that that very gap of understanding another is what might actually define us as distinct beings?  If, as in the yogic tradition, we seek to understand the universe as a non-dualistic place, a universe where we are all particles of the same divine whole, then isn’t a key to breaking through the separation of “me” and “him” and “her” a deeper exploration into understanding the other self?  Does the fact that we are always gazing through our own warped lens make such an exploration a fruitless endeavour?  What is it that motivates us to even want to know another person?  Have you ever thought about what is being fed when you dive with curiosity into another person’s story?  I think that it’s possibly our fear of the unknown, our fear of chaos and confusion that drives us to seek out a crib sheet on others.  We hear their tales, we watch them spin a life, and then we check them off as “known” and there is a sense of order gained.  When I really meditate on this, I have to say it gets me down.  If I lay down in this line of thinking, in all this time, with all of this investment, all I know is appearances.

When I was in California, we had a visiting Swami sit for discussion and darshan who was talking about the need to let go of the desire to control and manipulate and instead rest in the belief that it’s all being held together.  Someone asked a question about how to act/react when dealing with a close family member who is causing you grief and anger.  He responded that non-action is still action, not complacency, and to react in anger is to create more hurt and anger.  To see that another person’s demonstration of anger comes from their own hurting is to begin to see them not as an other but as you understand yourself.  Your freedom comes in looking past the words, the projections, the creations, and going right to the heart of what drives our emotions.  We all want to feel loved, we all want to belong, we all want to be seen.  The ways in which we act and the words we say when we try to garner these qualities in our lives is the moment when the blinds are pulled.  If I stop trying to understand my partner from a belief that he’s a rogue player and instead see him as wanting the same things as me but asking for them/searching for them in his own patterned ways, it becomes so much easier to cut through the static and believe that knowing him is possible.  Knowing anyone might be possible if knowing means seeing the thread that unites us.  To know me is not to know my peculiar darkness, my curated collection of secrets and lies.  To know me is to understand that I want what you want.  And when I’m difficult, it boils down to my just-as-peculiar way of asking for it.

And this too is the heart of compassion- an often difficult emotion to conjure in the midst of a lover’s spat, a time when our perceptions of self and other are particularly incongruent (“he’s wrong/I’m right”).  I love that line in Le Petit Prince, when the Prince is told by the fox that you become responsible for what you have tamed.  When we know someone, they become tamed to us.  It’s like a surfer learning to see the patterns in the apparent chaos of the waves- it is not the wave but the knowledge of it that creates its shift from monster to friend.  We have a responsibility to try to see beyond the story.  To try a little tenderness.  For you- or them.  Same.


All content by Lisa Veronese. Please do not publish or copy my material without my consent.