‘I’ ness to ‘We’ ness

‘We’ ness i.e. Inter-dependence is a stage where I believe I am today and I still am a work in progress. For most of my 20’s I have been independent in terms of earning money and making life choices based on what I deemed was right for me. Although it sounds great I believe while I was being independent I missed out on some valuable suggestions and advice that was being offered to me at that point. This period covers a few odd times when I would allow people whom I considered to be mentors nudge me towards a certain path. And that was just that. I have mostly been a person who did things based on what she ‘felt’ was right for her.  I believe it is certainly a much needed attribute while you are finding yourself and creating your sense of identity. Being autonomous is certainly a trait that most people in the Mental Health field would admire in anyone.

Following your journey as a child in a average Indian middle class family, you would be lucky if elders were even remotely interested in hearing what you had to say. Elders are meant to be respected and they ‘knew’ it all. I was fairly lucky because my parents did allow me a certain amount of freedom to decide for myself. Given this socio-cultural context, a lot of children do struggle to become truly independent. I believe I did attain a slightly above average level of autonomy which has helped me until today.

As life would have it, the past few years I have been presented with situations where if

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Autumn

I had chosen to continue to be this self-deterministic person, I would have lost some good job opportunities or relationships. There was a point where I had to learn to truly receive inputs from the people around me.  Spiritually I see it as growing beyond the sense of “I” into a secured sense of “We”. It is stage where you are so secured in who you are that you can listen to others even if they have opposing views or suggestions that do not favor your ideologies. This is also something that one can learn only through relationships and through the act of ‘relating’ to another.

Being inter-dependent is being able to accept support from others when you need it and not being this stubborn strong willful person who simply wants to show others that he/she can survive alone. Being able to reflect and introspect is definitely a quality one needs to be able to admit that he/she was wrong. This also has a lot to do with you being able to trust someone else to have your best interests in his/her mind. You begin to see that you are not alone and that you are not meant to be. Even from a spiritual standpoint we all are connected but it becomes a tad bit difficult to grasp it in the human form when egos get involved in the process.

For me the first step towards acknowledging inter-dependence began with me admitting when I was wrong and accepting another way of looking at or doing something. This stage is also honestly freeing in a way that you are not supposed to be the ‘know it all’, you can ask for help and inputs. Like many other things, it is a change and our egos resist it for as long as possible. There is tremendous richness in being able to draw from this connectedness/togetherness/inter-dependence. It is a space where you continue to be YOU at the core and are able to truly appreciate another’s presence.

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The Stronger I get, Harder it is for me to bend…

The Stronger I get, Harder it is for me to bend…

You must be wondering what’s with the title, guess what this title just slipped off my tongue 2 minutes ago when I was talking to my friend. Serendipity, would you call that? Well, without dragging that much let me tell you what I am referring to. I am referring to the strength of the person that we become with age, experience, insights etc etc. The word bend here is not used with a negative connotation but refers more to adjustments. Some years back when I was pursuing my MBA, I had heard the term agility which meant that you are strong but flexible to adapt to situations. I always kept that in mind as a benchmark of how I wanted to be. The professor who talked about explained the concept with a beautiful analogy of the green grass and tall trees. Tall trees are noticeable and look strong whereas the short green grass often goes unnoticeable and looks meek but when hit by a storm, tall trees fall down to the ground and the green grass survives. This questions our basic understanding of strength which often is phrased as ‘as hard as a rock’. When we consider the above example, we are forced to rethink of strength as the ability to survive which has a prelude in one’s ability to adapt. I have given the example above to contextualize the word bend in my writing ahead.

Some years back, I was going through a phase of asserting my identity to myself. I was searching for my own value system and the way I wanted to live myself which included my work, my idea of a vacation , my ideal life partner and things I would like to engage in etc. With the help of some of my mentors and great friends I became the person I wanted to be. I received positive re-inforcement for the way I was with some minor areas of improvement. It has always been tough for me to receive feedback which involves criticism but I was lucky to find people who made me understand the value of positive criticism and I paved my way through those improvements. I reached a stage where I felt that I was the best person I could be and consolidated my idea of myself through my actions. Having moved from a point where I was not sure of many things in life to a point where I was being just the way I thought was best made me confident in myself. I would easily adapt to different situations and be open to different perspectives in life. I was happy that I was the green grass and not the tall tree.

Little did I know that I was going to be presented with a relationship where I would have to reflect on my self perception of what I am. It requires discernment to be able to decide whether your assertion is proving to be stubbornness in a relationship. It is this reflection that forced me understand that when we are in a relationship, there obviously is an other( read person) whom you ( encompasses your values, habits, behaviors, beliefs etc) are trying to relate to. I was trying hard to be the green grass whereas in reality I was coming across as the tall tree in the relationship. Today while I was talking to a friend, I mentioned to him that there is reason why our parents want us to get married by the age of 23-25 or so. The reason being, at that age we are still in the process of solidifying our identity and not achieved closure on it. As we grow older, we become more of the person we are and hence not ready to modify ourselves easily if so proposed by someone else or by circumstances. This closure provides us with stability in our thoughts and does help us move in positive directions. Right at this moment, I am tempted to offer an example from partnered dances like salsa, jive etc. The feminine aspect of these dances is to be able to follow the lead offered by the masculine. The beauty of these dances is to be able to complement each other’s moves and more so for the female partner who can be the best individual dancer but has to know how to offer herself in the best with the lead. Another aspect in these dances is that, a female is more receptive and not assertive (The male and female used here are not necessarily referring to ideal man/ woman traits).

With all the description above, I am trying to say that sometimes our perception of our strengths becomes our weakness. My idea of asserting myself had reached a point where I did not feel the need to change anything in myself and was not willing to bend for anything. I found that the strength of who I am was coming in my way of nurturing my relationship. It was hard on me to realize that my individuality had become too strong to accept any changes even if they were minor in mature. I felt as if I wanted to stand at a place where I was comfortable and wanted the other person to do all the hard work and reach towards me. As I write this, I would also like to mention that I am not an advocate of sacrificing to an extent where you cease to exist and fight to search who you are all over again. Instead, I would be glad if we could find a midway of doing things which calls for a lot of discernment at our end. In some heavy words, it would be finding your path between individualism and collectivism. It would be a move from being independent to being interdependent, from saying “this is me, take it or leave it” to saying “is that how I come across?, let me think about it”.

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Togetherness

Well, this is just the beginning of another life lesson for me and from the looks of it, it seems like a tough one indeed. There are times when I felt that I can live my life all by myself and that I don’t need to be married to someone but today I feel that having someone next you all the time, keeps you in check at different points of time and through various life transitions.

The Thread (t) s of Intimacy…

People, People, People…all around us. We want them and run away from them too. Most of our lives are spent or invested in relationships. Right form the time we are born till we claim our coffins, relationships with other human beings always surround us. Love them or hate them, you cannot do without them. There are various reasons why we have relationships with people. The relationships we seek satisfy some of our needs and desires. These needs can be broadly categorized into physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Physical needs are well known to all. Emotional needs are that of warmth, affection, appreciation, acceptance, security etc. Mental needs could be of intellectual stimulation, discerning rights and wrongs etc. Spiritual needs could be that of seeking harmony with life, a positive outlook, need for oneness etc.

Based out of these needs and may be more, we seek relationships. Subconsciously, each one of us has clearly defined criteria of accepting and rejecting prospective candidates into that mould or framework we are looking for. Just like a kitchen recipe, we all know at the bottom of our hearts that how much of which ingredient we need in our life. As per our conditioning and scripting, we attract the kind of people who will add the required spice to get the perfect flavour in our lives.

I believe that it is from the most intimate relationships that we learn the most. Many of us derive our sense of being from these relationships. In my view, an intimate relationship is one where you are not required to be someone else but your own self. Your Self, is not threatened here. It feels 100%. Unfortunately, there is a lot of homework and investment that goes into the development of this kind of intimacy. In order to feel that sense of security, you will first be challenged whether you need to share your feelings/ emotions/ fears which for many years were covered by a protected shell known as “private self”. It is only when you can learn to open up without fear that you can enjoy the relationship. This definitely works on a tacit assumption that your partner appreciates your opening up. Each one of us decides what we should and shouldn’t share with our partners. The opening up requires courage and a deep sense of security in oneself. It requires courage because you need to move out of your comfort zone and start walking inward with your partner. You take chances of being “misunderstood”. The entire process makes you vulnerable. It is for these reasons that we carefully choose the people to whom we open up with and bare ourselves.

The irony here is that we seek closeness/ intimacy in relationships and escape from them for the same reason. Every person has defined the limit till where he will tolerate another person. The feeling of Oneness which is sought through sex never goes beyond that, for, we cannot shed the clothes of mental make up that we wear. The intimacy we seek is like getting naked each time you open up to somebody. Shedding off these physical garments is much easier than taking off the layers of one’s deep rooted desires, thoughts, insecurities and needs. Taking from the analogy of a recipe, the best cuisines are those in which all the spices lose their individual flavours to make one delicious serving. The paradox in it is that they lose themselves but are always remembered, for, the final outcome wouldn’t be possible if they weren’t there. It is this losing of our self which we fear and never open up even to some beautiful angels who cross our paths. We are more concerned about the momentary vulnerability of unclothing ourselves than the gains that one finds by merging into the parts of the other. We choose to settle for less by taking minimal risks.

To quote an example here: A friend of mine lost his first love in an accident. He married an individual who did not meet him at all planes and he never grew out of his first love. A decade after his successful marriage and being blessed with a child, he felt the gap in him growing and fell for a girl who possibly met those unfulfilled needs. His passions and love which were locked till now started opening with the warmth of this new relationship. Nevertheless, having protected a part of him for so many years, he could not give himself completely to the relationship and named the growing distance as “personal space”. It was the growing intimacy that possibly threatened him and forced him to keep away to safeguard his pride and responsibilities. He knew what he was missing in life and hence was afraid to handle it when he received it.

Being yourself does not mean you never change. The “I” constantly needs to be renewed through a process of learning and unlearning. Quoting from nature, it is the mighty looking trees that are forced to break in a storm and the feeble yet agile grass survives it. The rigors of any intimate relationship provide a good basis for this constant renewal process. Human beings are known to learn more through pain than through pleasure. Intimacy has the capacity to transcend that pain into an enjoyable experience. Unless, we give ourselves completely into any activity or relationship we cannot gain the maximum.

We go on accumulating skills, degrees and qualifications but hardly ever take our learnings from the school of relationships. Not many of us know why we do what we do, likewise, even this aspect of our lives i.e. the ingredients we seek in our recipe of life, remain a victim at the hands of our awareness of ourselves.

Hence, the threads of intimacy become the threats of intimacy.