Relationships are everything
As probably all of us have experienced to varying degrees, what defines our Lives most is the relationships we find ourselves in. I am not just talking about intimate connections, because relationships come in all shapes and sizes. They dominate our Lives, from work, family, love, sex and whatever else you can think of. We are social creatures by design, and so naturally everything we do is for the most part embedded in a relationship with another human being (or human beings) one way or the other. Yes, some people decide to hole up in a cave in the Himalayas for 10 years to meditate, but for most of us that’s not really a desirable option. On the other hand, horizontal relationships are.
At the same time it’s typically relationships that stress us out the most. Why is that? What is it about the interaction with other human beings that can make this a minefield?
The Master Manipulator between your ears
Now you probably don’t want to be hearing this, but most human behavior is, at its core, manipulation. And no, this is by no means something necessarily evil or sinister. Ultimately, what we want is to have things our way, to get our needs met. A lot of this happens not even consciously. These needs are always the needs of the Ego, of what we perceive is “Us” or “The Self”: The need to be seen, the need to be validated, the need to feel superior, the need to be right and make wrong. It is a way of interaction we have been taught from a very early age onwards – how to coerce what it is we want/need out of someone else. The Ego is a fragile little thing and always on the lookout to defend itself or attack other Egos for the same purpose. It is simply protection, and that’s why calling it generally bad is not helpful. What’s easily forgotten about this though is the fact that with two Egos being primarily busy getting their needs met there’s little room left for an actual connection.
And isn’t what a true connection so many people are after?
Most human relationships are of the vertical type. What does that mean? It means there is always a (mostly unconscious) power struggle and manipulation involved to get the Ego what it wants. In a vertical relationship there must be always a winner and a loser – maybe not always in a literal sense, but the Ego must be satisfied that it comes out on top, unscathed, unharmed, its shell not cracked. Vertical relationships are incredibly self-centered because there is very little capacity to actually see the other human being. All we typically see is someone who refuses to behave the way we would like them to. And the Ego can’t have that. It thrives on the concepts of individuality, of being different, better.
But to truly connect to another person it is essential that this person is seen, and that this person sees us. That won’t happen when you’re too busy trying to get what you want from the other.
Horizontal relationships are the exact opposite. They operate under the premise that we are all equal but not the same. Think about this for a minute. We are not the same in that we all have different abilities, different character traits, different inclinations to different things. Recognizing that we all have an Ego also falls under this category. Not all aspects of the Ego are bad of course, and in its healthier forms it expresses itself differently across a wide range of human beings.
At the same time, we are all equal.
We are all born helpless. We all need connection. We all have the capacity for love and for goodness. We all want to be seen. We will all die one day, no exceptions.
That which is equal in all of us has nothing to do with our Ego. It is something that lies beyond it, that thing which constitutes our “real Self”. This real Self does not need to be right or feel superior. It has no use for these concepts. And because it is free of these concepts it can perceive another human being how they truly are. All of a sudden, true connection emerges. Not just two Ego-Selves wrestling with each other in sometimes subtle ways to gain control out of fear and anxiety to get their needs met.
Horizontal relationships are a radical approach that can be practiced in any setting – whether it’s our intimate relationships, at work or wherever else we interact with others.
Isn’t it time to take the stress and angst out of our relationships? If you are curious about these concepts and want to learn more, connect with me here.