To Emmanuel

Dear Emmanuel,

it was a pleasure to meet you. I know you may be looking at my blog. Here is a reading recommendation to you: Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. 
It is an insightful book and very soothing the way Rilke writes about all these puzzling pieces of life. 

Keep on writing.
Kind regards,

Is it OK to analyze relationships?

©Everton Vila on Unsplash
Thursday night I had a  conversation that made me reflect deeply on the way we experience relationships. 

The lady I was talking to was concerned to rationally analyze the emotional bondages involved in a relationship. She had just been shown a model that served as an eye-opener to her, but also made her feel guilty.

On Friday I happened to read in Martin Buber's book "Me and You" about the two foundational experiences. He argued that the situation in which I am in the "Me and You" state is a state without reflection, only presence. However, this state inevitably needs to transform into other situations, where I experience the other, I reflect upon them etc. The lady I talked to may have been concerned about transitioning between the feeling whole in the first situation and cognitively reflecting, i.e. leaving this wholeness.

Taking a step back to analyse relationships may feel very strange, even like committing sin, because as a kid, relationships form the foundation on which we grow. Even if a child grows up in a dysfunctional family, it will not question the parents. Analysing relationships is therefore something that does not come naturally to us. 

However, analysing may be another way to help us grow. I think that good relationships will change naturally over time. Others may be good in a specific situation but may start limiting us. Having some tools to see ourselves from different perspectives can empower us to take on roles that we want to and disengage from roles that limit us. Mind you, I don't mean to say that the other party is willingly holding us back. Sometimes it is unhealthy patterns that emerge in relationships, sometimes the perspective of the other holds us down, but I guess, most frequently it is ourselves that hinder us from achiving our own potential or the potential of the relationship. 

What do I mean? If I hold the belief that grandma should not be alone over the holidays, I may be serving my image of  myself as the loving grandchild. If I don't take my assumption for granted, but instead, ask grandma what she wants to do over the holidays and then voice what I would like to do, I may arrive at a new level of interaction. There may be some conflict in there, too, but there is a chance that grandma and myself have a very different conversation. 

I am saying this to advocate for self-care and for empowerment. If I cannot take care of my needs, how should I be able to truly take care of the needs of someone else's? I also don't think that analysing relationships inevitably means that you are cold-blooded and calculating. Of course, you can distort the analysis into that direction. But if you also put the interest and well-being of your counterpart as well as affected others into your considerations, and do not rush to conclusions, you may arrive healthily and steadily at making new, positive discoveries in your connections.

Tipping points 2 – escapes and saving strategies

®Jakub Kriz on Unsplash
After writing about the tipping point, where a personal principle for success turns into a self-limitation, I could not help reflecting on the things we do, to avoid realizing that we are at a tipping point.

The first strategy is to allow exeptions from the rule. To take a simple example, the principle "I don't eat sweets". This may be a very helpful principle for eating healthy or keeping weight. But let`s imagine a hike on which your healthy snack stayed safely at home. The only thing your hiking partner has to offer is a bar of chocolate. Trivial? Maybe. But the point is not the single exeption. The point is that over time you may get so many exeptions to the rule that the principle gets to be only an abstract ideal, whereas your everyday behavior is directed by the exeptions. Storytellers love this discrepency, normal people hate it.

The second strategy is to escape from having to examining a principle. Let`s take "the customer is always right". But what if your customer tells you that your company will not make it to market with the new technology you are developing? The simplest escape is to drive to the conversation to safer grounds (escape). But what if your customer insists?  You may start having second thoughts, you may be wondering, how much the customer really knows about the new technology. All the while you may have discussed the weather, melting glaciers, cats on trees and god knows what, because you are trying to save your customer and yourself from the fact that - "customers can be awfully wrong". 

If you don't have sweaty palms after reading through this, congratulations. Either you are pretty tolerant for cognitive dissonance (this is what psychologists call it, when there is a gap between your ideal and the real situation). Or you are experienced enough to navigate between several prinicples.

If you feel a little uncomfortable, great. No, seriously. In storytellers' words you are feeling tension. And a story without tension is - no story. 

What I wanted to illustrate here is that principles (self-beliefs), tipping points and strategies to avoid realizing tipping points are the true material for storytellers. So, if you are going through a difficult situation, reassure yourself that you will be having a story to tell afterwards. And don't give up, just because giving up is the easiest way!