For those who drive, have you ever taken a wrong turn and found yourself in a dead-end, shaking your head in confusion and utterly flabbergasted that there is no road going through? For those who debate, have you ever found yourself in a rhetorical flourish only to realize that you’ve boxed yourself in through emotional appeal to a situation that at the beginning you never would have agreed with? That feeling of being trapped washes over you like a cold shower, your skin shivers, your thoughts stop and there’s a sense of being adrift in a land where causation has abandoned you at the drop-off point of a long line of linear connections. Looking back once one is in a more sober moment of reflection you can begin to glimpse the drift of the journey and how the result ended up being this full-tilt collision with fatalism, but the feelings remain and so the struggle begins to extricate oneself.
Just as above, so it is below in relationships. The emotional high has worn off, the excitement of that shiny new toy has become tarnished, the courtship has been replaced by the reality of a person who is far more nuanced than the princess/prince they began as, dashing and regal and sparkling in their unmitigated attempt at controlling a response from their intended target. I don’t mean to make this sound as abysmal as it may be coming across. Relational manipulation is not all about nefarious impulses, we all are subject to the desire to put our best foot forward, to display our charms to their greatest advantage, all for the purpose of creating a feeling of attraction in the other person and engendering reciprocal behavior. This is a game and culturally there exists all manner of ways in which it is played. We wear our best clothes to church to present a particular face to god, companies let it be known inspections are coming and so stores and employees look better that day than any other day, and we halt the words that in other social context would come spilling out but in front of the family isn’t as politically savvy to declare.
There is nothing inherently wrong with going about life this way, the problematic situation arises when we are blinded to seeing any of the outlying variables associated with the person, including ourselves. That job we so desperately wanted suddenly becomes a sinking ship as we realize the company’s numbers really weren’t as realistic as they noted; the clothing we tried on that looked so good in the dressing room suddenly becomes sheer in a different light exposing parts of ourselves we’d have rather kept hidden; and that relationship we were so enamored of suddenly doesn’t feel as safe or secure or beneficial as it once did.
I use “suddenly” here but honest appraisal leads us to acknowledge that the variables of that person’s darker side were there all along, our awareness simply didn’t stretch to see them. It’s existence is sudden only in the way that an object coming from our periphery appears as if from magic in front of us. Had we turned our head or broadened our conscious deliberation we’d have seen that object barreling at us, actual or metaphorical. We do ourselves no good by becoming incensed at our lack of sight, literal or mental. There are any number of variables in existence we blithely go about our lives in conscious ignorance of and which by and large have no deleterious effects. Unfortunately our lives are not as our stone-age evolutionary ancestors, we do not merely have to concern ourselves with the rustling bushes or the scattering of rocks from above, there are all manner of existent variables in life which can catch us unaware and, whether the incitation of our fight/flight/freeze response is ultimately helpful by pointing us towards a legitimate threat, still may create a problematic situation. The reason for this is the interconnected web of existence in which we live, where we are not the causal agents we so egoistically often assume, but another variable among many in the cosmic interplay of forces.
Certainly we are an important variable, but the old notion of viewing the so-called “external” world as somehow impinging upon us and by virtue of our magical free will selecting from an array of infinite possibilities the action we shall take is in line with that of a flat earth. The cosmic-relational perspective provides a means of viewing ourselves as within the world, not apart from it, where external and internal are simply biological delineations, not declarations of metaphysical import. What we have as opposed to rocks and trees is the ability to broaden our conscious awareness and thus via the power of intention focus on those other variables to effect ripples in the web of existence.
This has profound importance when it comes to relationship creation and the selection of people in our lives. When we cease looking at ourselves as autonomous context-free agents, we come to realize that the situations we are in, the history of our experiences and the memories that closely approximate them, and the people we are connected to are all variables just like us providing paths of potential outcomes. Our personal conceptualizations are relational from the ground of our familial attachment to the ever-increasing array of environmental connections we form in our lives. This includes both the internalization of projected narratives from others and our own projections out of that symphony of possible stories.
When we enter into a new connection, whether it be romantic or professional, it behooves us to halt for a moment a take a look at the context of our situation. If the person in front of us is dismissive of our inquiries or mocking in their appraisal of our desire to know more then we can rest assured that at minimum this is not someone we want influencing our journey. This studied inquiry, this meditative reflection can be done at any time though clearly there are moments when it is more difficult than others and it is there where the excitement of pleasure and the enticement of mystery should be mitigated by the joy of reflective increasing understanding. To find out that where one is located relationally is not beneficial for personal growth or safety is not to declare one’s innate foolishness or stupidity, but an opportunity to acknowledge the interconnected web of which humanity is a part and gain an impetus for change.
© David Teachout