“For it is not only indolence that causes human relationships to be repeated from case to case with such unspeakable monotony and boredom; it is timidity before any new, inconceivable experience, which we don’t think we can deal with. But only someone who is ready for everything, who doesn’t exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible, will live the relationship with another person as something alive, and will himself sound the depths of his own being.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
Thinking about breaking patterns of behavior, learned from how I was raised, what I’ve experienced, and the unconscious evolution of my (our) brain(s) to react protectively based on heuristics rather than nuanced realities.
As humans, and therefore social creatures, the whole work and experiment of Being is deeply relational, and when we meet others we meet ourselves and our patterns in new and sometimes difficult ways.
I think we are evasive of intimacy, not only from fear of loss, hurt, or rejection. It’s also fear of how knowing someone else will change how we know ourselves. The more deeply we know another, the more deeply our own souls — and who knows what might lurk there?
I remember being made to memorize, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” It made me mistrust myself, my intuition and my desires. It was a toxic belief I’ve since let go of.
My heart, and yours, does what it does. Not from evil, but from wisdom or lack of wisdom. Because for one thing, your poetic “heart” is really your biological brain, and your brain does what it does from the extent of its understanding, and that’s not bad, or good. It’s just that understanding needs to be allowed to change constantly, to reassess where harm is being done and amend behaviors accordingly.
This is part of why intimate relationships, whether it’s family or romantic or a friend you’ve let in closer than anyone else, can be so upsetting. The deeper they get in, the more it hurts when they finally trip some unconscious land mine and we hurt each other. But you’re not evil for having the land mines in the first place; that’s just the game.
Stephen Mitchell wrote, “The greater our insight into what lies beyond good and evil, the more we can embody the good.” The more you know how it works, the more you can let go of holding onto the narrative that “This is just how I am. I hurt the people I love in this way, and I always will.”
Instead of thinking so harshly about your shortcomings in embodying your values, get curious about it. Your failures are a roadmap for healing and growth. Own your part in doing harm, and then ask, what lies beyond that story? Where did that story come from? How could you write a new, restorative ending when you hurt someone? How can your wounds teach and soften you?