Thursday 16 May 2013

The hypnotic effect of relationships

As often as I can I teach students that there's no such thing as an isolated monad called an individual. There are two-legged walking  and breathing junctions of emotional patterns. Far more than air surrounds and connects people. Significant others and the self combine in patterns of intended, unintended and enduring feelings, more objectively known as emotions. Emotions are not nouns, even though you feel them. They are swirls and eddies of a vast ocean of intention that connects with physiological cells resulting in habitual recurrences or more open-ended movements.

Relationships play a huge part in creating the sense of self. Even the lack of relationship does this. Sense of self is basically a resonance of relationship, or even more pointedly, a resonance of presence. I have come to realize that when we personify God, we don't help our understanding. When we look for holy presence rather than a powerful uncle we are more likely to be awed for real.This may well happen, even when we're not looking for it. A bit like the back of the cupboard that opened into Narnia, we can always approach the interface between the physiological and the spiritual, yet the mystique of what's real at the end of the day (and the cupboard) is not up to us.

When people communicate with each other, by definition, currents and patterns of emotional resonance are set up. These continue, even when one is alone. One is not merely alone with one's own feelings. The fight that you had last year is still rolling around in your chest. The affection that a single smile washed over you a decade ago still warms you. The man in the Avis ad will never recover from being treated so nicely. He will stand there, holding his forlorn flowers forever, not being able to take in that she treats everybody that way.

It's fine to be flippant about this realization, another to go back to the places in the past where communication got knotted, trust was cut off, hope was burnt and love remained a dream.

There is a well of emotion deep within that calms, corrects, heals and restores the heart. I'm not sure which relationships to describe that have impressed this truth on me. I have experienced much kindness and generosity, and from these experiences I have learnt to approach the source, to separate the words from the wisdom to which they point, and to trust. Emerson wrote "Take the way from man, not to man" and I think this is the path to which he referred. Mankind is not the centre. Human emotion is strong, variable, unpredictable and arises, mostly, from unconscious places, resulting in life-changing scenarios.

I don't think of emotions as fleeting feelings, although these are included in the experience of sensate vitality. The senses are the skis, the emotions the movement. When I am deeply moved, I am reminded. I am reminded of where I come from, who I am, who my friends are, who my beloved is. Also that I am beloved.

Few relationships have a neutral influence. Freeing, fruitful, somewhat destructive, distracting, challenging, confronting, caring: the values carried in relationships are a matter for perception.

Where this relationship got stuck, you got stuck; where that relationship petered out, you petered out. Where another blossomed, you bloomed. When the most significant one died, you did not.

There is no death of this deep movement that links experience to experience via the meetings between one self and another. The ocean is made of limitless movement, just as the Tao is spoken of as water, and the Holy Spirit as wind.

I know a preacher who says,"I preach until I see the light of understanding in their eyes". Unless he has remarkably outstanding techniques of communication, his sermons are bound to be long. It can be difficult to shift patterns of felt belief.

On the other hand, if one is willing and hungry and thrsty enough to go back to where the heart lost clarity and confidence, it's easy to be relieved of unnecessary burden. Truth is not to be found in a concept but in relationships.

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