Dignity and respect in relationships
I was recently trying to collaborate with someone for a workshop. All was going well. Then suddenly the relationship took a downturn. She was seeking a rent for her space, far more than seemed reasonable. Add to that she said a few things that seemed as though she was doing me a favor by offering her time and energy for planning the workshop. This pinched. Since I had helped her by contributing my time, energy and resources for her new enterprise earlier.
It left me feeling disappointed, alienated and distant. Suddenly the affinity I felt transformed into an aloofness. The mind jumped in trying to make sense of the experience. A few mental judgements were formed. Greedy, ungrateful, rigid. The mind started having imaginary future conversations. What would I tell her if we got around to having an authentic dialogue?
I realized nothing beneficial comes out of forming judgements. And sometimes what we call authentic conversations are reactions couched in polite words. They tend to make the listener defensive, rather than receptive.
What should I do then?
Sharing three insights that helped me to avoid being judgmental, yet acknowledge and deal with how I felt.
1. Interplay of Energies
We often hear “don’t take it personally” but how does one really do it? When we are hurt, angry and isolated, it’s as personal as it can be. Is it possible to impersonalize? Yes. When we see relationships as the interplay of energies, rather than the interaction of two individuals, it seems less personal.
Albert Einstein discovered the formula E = mc2. Which means everything in its essence is Energy. When I perceived her not as a person but as an energy, it didn’t bother me so much. Her energy was at the stage of evolution where it wanted to control things for self-benefit. It wasn’t bad. That was where her energy was at the moment.
It didn’t mean it would remain there forever. Perhaps it would learn, mature and realize what it was doing and how it was impacting others. Meanwhile my energy was in a state that did not resonate with her energy. If the energies don’t match it simply means that. It does not mean something is wrong with either of us.
It is foolish to expect an unripe mango to taste sweet. Similarly it is futile to expect the energy of an individual to be different from what it is at the moment. Acceptance of an unripe mango does not mean one has to taste it. Similarly acceptance of a person does not mean we cannot draw boundaries in relating. But before we take action we have to accept what is. As it is.
When I saw the situation as the interplay of energies it didn’t bother me so much. Eventually it isn’t even two energies. It is One Energy expressing itself in different shapes and forms.
2. Take Action
Acceptance blunts the sharp edges of judgement. This creates a new equilibrium in relating. This new balance is not reactive. It stems from Silence.
“What is a balanced response?”
“What seems the natural thing to do?”
“How does my energy want to respond?
What felt right for me in the situation was to withdraw. It wasn’t a reactive, sulking withdrawal of a child. But withdrawing my energy from a space that does not appreciate my values. Even if I had to pay a price for that withdrawal, so be it.
Often I have seen that we tend to stay in a relationship long after the welcome period is over. Because we have gotten used to it. We do not know what we would do if we did not have that relationship. So we overstay. Complaining, resentful and reactive.
If we can develop the courage to live in the unknown, not knowing what the future will bring ,we can avoid these negative feelings. But it requires us to be vulnerable. Raw. Exposed. Judgement is a form of passive aggression. Often our helplessness, lack of courage and inability to take action transforms into judgement.
Either way, one has to embrace vulnerability. Either the vulnerability of the unknown. Or the vulnerability of being uncomfortable in the known. There is no escaping vulnerability. Sometimes it is better to choose the unknown over the known, as there is a possibility of something new emerging when we let go of the old.
3. Maintaining Dignity
This is important. Often when we are hurt we lose our composure. In doing so we disrespect others.
If the relationship is not healthy, move away. Maintain dignity. If moving away is not an option, don’t complain. Maintain dignity. If the person doesn’t see his fault, don’t talk behind their back. Maintain dignity. If the person realizes her mistake, don’t rub it in. Maintain dignity.
Maintaining dignity is a lesson I have learnt the hard way. But a lesson well learnt, and worth learning. No matter what differences we may have with someone we can still respect the person, and in doing so we respect ourself. When we disrespect someone, we are demonstrating our weakness. The other is a mirror for us. They reflect our desires and fears. If we care to notice.
If we break the mirror, it will not change our reflection. We must be grateful that we are able to see ourself in the waters of relating. It is easier to blame others, than to see what in us attracted the situation. Similarly it is easier to tell others what they need to do to improve themselves, rather than shine the torch of awareness on ourself.
Incidentally, the person I was wanting to collaborate with messaged the next day. “What I learnt through our conversation, is that I was thinking too much. Was too occupied by the past and the future.” I responded “Glad you had that realization.” I don’t know how our relationship will change going forward, but I am fairly certain we will continue to respect each other.
All of the above is possible only when our identification with thoughts diminishes and our capacity to see our mind from a distance increases. When we create this space, we will gradually realize we are this Space.
Space does not judge.
It simply observes what is.