No man can live as an island, except for sociopaths.
But sociopaths are ill, right? I mean they suffer from personality disorders that makes them antisocial. But what about normal people?
Sure, solitude can be used for recreational purposes, but at some point in this journey called life, everyone, yes everyone, needs someone.
As human beings, building and maintaining healthy, meaningful relationships is a tendency which is inseparable from our nature. The extent to which our social condition affects our mental health and our everyday actions clearly implies that relationships play a crucial role in the making of the beings we are. It would be safe to argue that social needs are the second most important one after physical needs (although some psychologists argue that the case is the opposite for us, mammals, and this is still debatable). Failure to sustain healthy bonds with other human being can have serious consequences. Our social condition affects both, our psychology and physiology.
But why in the world do we take relationships so seriously? Why?
Humans have evolved as ‘social animals’ which can be traced back to the time when we were cavemen and began living in groups. We shared our resources and protected each other. It was indeed, an excellent survival strategy. Being disconnected from a group would certainly mean death for a caveman and that is why sticking around with people became so important for us.
Here are two short videos that talk about social relationships, attempting to explain how our brains react to social pain and why it is important to have relationships. The facts stated in the videos are striking, so, make sure you give them a try.
Alright, that ends our biology class.
Since relationships play a crucial role in our well-being, it becomes increasingly significant for us to understand and live them.
The common perception of relationships.
“Things aren’t the same anymore.”
“You have changed for the worse lately.”
Sounds familiar? Sure, it does. This is because, these phrases represent the most common relationship problems. These problems spring from two primary misconceptions held in our minds.
Let’s destroy them.
Misconception #1: People are solids.
People aren’t solids, they are fluids!
Not physically, of course. Physically we are solids indeed, but not ordinary solids. We are mobile, conscious and sentient solids (pretty cool stuff for a solid thing). But psychologically, we exist as fluids, meaning that the personality, behavior and responses of a given individual are dynamic and not concrete. There is no predetermined set of actions or course that we follow, instead who we are is largely influenced by the world around us and thus, can be altered.
We all carry a super computer under our skulls that is responsible for anything that we do, feel or think. The Human Brain is made up of roughly 86 billion neurons, each neuron capable of making around a thousand connections with neighboring neurons. The number representing all the mathematical combinations possible is infinitely huge (isn’t that amazing? Who else is mind blown?). Every moment we are bombarded with information from the outside world, our brains, while processing this information, constantly forms new connections (destroying the old ones). Since all that there is to us is about neural circuitry, a change in the circuitry means a change in you!
(I know many people are likely to believe in some higher source of consciousness, and that is cool. Don’t worry, we will get to it in the upcoming posts, but for now, just take my word for it, or don’t, your choice.)
Let’s take a moment to appreciate this:
Freeze, do not move, drop anything else that you are doing and just, observe. Observe this person you are right now. Not the one you were 3 years ago or 2 months ago or even 5 minutes ago, because that person isn’t you. The 3 year old version does not have the memories and experiences you have gained in the past 3 years and even the 5 minute old version is not you since they haven’t thought the thoughts that this article might have invoked in you. I hope you understand now that you have been constantly changing ever since you were born and will continue to do so, till your death. This also means that the person you are right now only exists in this moment. Soon enough, this person will be replaced with a slightly different version of yourself, and this YOU will be gone, gone forever, for an entire eternity and will never exist again. So go ahead, take some time to appreciate the beautiful, fugacious being you are.
Okay, back to the topic.
People are more fluid than they are solid, they change over time, so what? What are its real life implications?
If I’m no longer the person I was, how can I be in the same relationship, in the same way? People evolve and so do all the relationships they are involved in. As the behaviors and thinking patterns of two or more individuals change, depending upon their circumstances, the connection between them deepens or weakens. Your bond with your mother is no longer the same as it was when you were 5, simply because over time, you have changed.
Often times we are left with disappointment and despair when we realize that an important relationship isn’t the same anymore. We had believed that the person on the other side won’t change but now they did. It isn’t your fault, or anybody’s, for that matter. It is how things are, but since you were believing a different story all this while, the truth becomes harder to accept. On the bright side, the fluidity of our nature and our surroundings also gives us the opportunity to better our previous actions and hence, in some contingent way, improve our relationships.
Misconception #2: Love remains forever.
No! Who told you that? Movies?
Sorry, but it’s a lie. Love isn’t forever, nothing is forever, not even the universe. Very often, while building new connections, as we enjoy them, we entertain the belief that this will stay the same forever. This belief arises from our fear of losing our loved ones and mostly, if not always, deludes us into believing that people are going to stick with us forever.
(However, this belief is necessary: imagine getting married with divorce being all over your mind! Tough right?)
No matter how sincere, complete and unconditional our love may be, it will never be enough to stop people from changing. Change is inevitable, get that.
To make things worse, when we finally realize that our childhood friend or our perfect someone isn’t the same as they were when we first met, rather than embracing the truth, we panic. We try to put a leash on the person or the situation, creating greater problems for everyone. As we switch into the ‘control freak’ mode, our fear of losing, often becomes the cause of the loss.
Relationships aren’t meant to be forever, not even anything close. Don’t you think that if it was the case, life would become boring? If everything was frozen in time (just as we want it to be while we are about to kiss), life would become predictable and obvious. Besides, don’t you realize that the transience of these moments is what makes them special? If all of us had a forever with each other, we might often refuse to offer love and acceptance as we would always have a ‘tomorrow’ to do so. So, thank you relationships, for being so volatile.
Okay so, people change, fine. But how do I make sure that they change for the good? What could be the solution to this problem?
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you the solution to that. Not because I don’t want to, but because there is no solution. That is how people are and you can do nothing about it.
You know, this is where the whole problem lies, in ‘us’. We always try to ‘fix’ things, always controlling situations and solving problems. At some point we must realize that everything can’t be controlled.
Coming back, let’s brush up on what we have learned.
• Both relationships and people are fluids. They are born, they grow and they certainly change with time.
• When a relationship no longer remains the same as it was, it’s in everyone’s favor to embrace it, rather than causing resistance.
• Relationships aren’t permanent and that is what makes them meaningful.
• And finally, we do not control everything, a lot of (important) stuff in our lives isn’t our call. It is true wisdom to embrace this fact.
Some of this, if not all of it, may appear disheartening. Relax. Here is something that might cheer you up.
Take a look at all the important people in your life, in fact, all the people in your life. Your parents/kids, Bffs, siblings, even that cute girl from the coffee shop, everyone. Try to picture what you feel for them and create an image of the connection between you and them. Now realize that whatever there is to your experience (regarding them) in the given moment, isn’t permanent. Things will certainly change and we hope for them to get better with time, but even if they don’t, don’t freak out. Human connections are only once (the way they are) and I believe this gives us a very good reason to leave aside our differences and hold on to love.
Just hold on to the love you feel in the moment, because it will never again be the same. Hold on to this love because it is only once, once in an eternity.
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Keep up the awesomeness, thank you for reading 🙂