August 2017 By Pulkit Sharma Relationships wilt or blossom depending upon how evolved our perspective is and how much self work we are willing to do, in order to make them work, says Pulkit Sharma When our personal relationships are full of compassion, trust, understanding, love, respect and mutual satisfaction there is all pervasive bliss and harmony. But when these elements are missing, the relationship becomes a source of hopelessness and rage. As human beings, we are constantly changing, either by conscious will or through the force of circumstances. In a similar manner, our relationships are always in a flux, representing the psychological placement of two people at any given point in time. In real life there is nothing like ‘happily ever after’ or ‘miserable for infinity’. A good relationship can turn bad while an unhealthy relationship can be transformed into a desirable one. Since childhood we dream of having relationships that are perfect like a fairy tale. Even though more than a million sceptics have urged us to give up this fantasy and embrace real life, we refuse to give up hope. We start every new relationship with great optimism thinking that this one will be the dream come true. However, after some time it dawns on us that the relationship is deteriorating. We try different tactics to save the relationship, but nothing seems to work. It is important to understand that a superficial trick cannot resolve deeper problems. A relationship can be transformed only if either or both the partners develop an insightful perspective. We often rush to tell our partners what is wrong with them and how they need to change. This leads to a huge resistance from the other side and both people lock horns in a never ending battle of blame-game. On the contrary, it is much easier and effective to first transform ourselves because once we change, the other person will be motivated to initiate a similar transformation within himself or herself. Always remember that an example is much more powerful than a thousand words. Therefore, be the change you wish to bring in the other person. In my work with couples, I often find that the following are the five key areas of self-introspection and change. Looking through the eyes of the other Almost a decade ago, a young son and his middle-aged father approached me to iron out the bitterness between them. The son shared that while growing up there had been umpteen instances where his father had ridiculed and punished him. According to him, the father’s callous behaviour had left deep emotional scars on his psyche and he developed a fearful personality. On the other hand, the father pleaded innocence by asserting that his hypersensitive son was making a mountain of a molehill. In my sessions with them, I slowly made them aware that both of them were refusing to understand the other’s perspective. The father was unable to open himself up to the emotional experience of the son that he had felt traumatised by all the strictness and discipline. That no matter how benign the disciplinary action was, his son was devastated by the experience. He needed emotional support, care and a candid apology to overcome the trauma. In contrast, the son saw the father as just a persecutor. He could not open his eyes to the fact that his father deeply loved him and never wanted to harm him. All along his father had thought that a rough behaviour was a good way to goad his son to do well. His father longed that the son should acknowledge the intense love and care that existed beneath the facade of rigorousness. When both father and son let go of their resistance and started looking through the eyes of each other, they could move on and repair their relationship. One may wonder why is it so difficult for people to give the simple gift of empathy to each other in their relationships? The main culprit is our ego. Till the time we are trapped in an unrelenting web of self-love and grandiosity, the other person’s perspective will appear small or meaningless. We want others to give up their worldview and mirror our outlook. But when we transcend our egos, we open up and welcome the possibility of diversity. Consequently, we understand and value the perspective of the other, no matter how different and trivial from our own. Sooner or later, in return the partner also respects and comprehends our worldview and both get the required space and support to be who they are and follow their unique trajectories in life. Subsequently, both the people experience fulfilment within themselves and with each other and the relationship becomes robust. Taking charge of your happiness One can often hear people complain about their relationship, that they are miserable because the other person is not making them happy. It is worthwhile to introspect that as mature and self-reliant individuals why on earth do we pass the task of making ourselves happy to others? There is generally a background to this flawed expectation. All of us have been denied many things in life, starting from early childhood and this leaves us with a painful feeling of deprivation. In order to assuage this pain, we fantasise that someday someone will love us so much that he or she will compensate us for the scarcity we faced. This fantasy often includes how the other person should feel about, relate to and behave with us. For instance, the ones who feel uncared for, want the other to be an epitome of nurturance. The one who feels devalued wishes the other person to constantly appreciate whatever he does, and the one who feels unheard wants the other to just be a sounding board. This puts a huge burden on the other person because in order to gratify this expectation, they need to give up their individuality and just exist as a need fulfilling object. Even though many people force themselves to play this role out of love, a sense of duty or fear, sooner or later they experience complete burn out. Consequently, they get fed up and turn bitter. No matter how hurt we feel in our life, we need to find ways to work through this pain and drop the victim identity that constantly tries to control and seek compensation from others. If we wish to be happy then it is our duty to find happiness within ourselves instead of shoving this responsibility on others. It helps to sit in a deep introspection with the intent of figuring out the ways in which we wish to grow as a person. While doing this it is crucial to let go of all conditionings and influences so that we can hear our true voice. Once we get some tentative answers the next step is to make a concrete plan and execute it to realise this growth. As we walk on this path of evolution, we experience lasting joy within. The only purpose of relationships is to hold hands, support one another and share the ups and downs of our individual journeys towards self-growth. Beyond this, if we expect anything more from our relationships then we are creating a recipe for disaster. Focussing on the light in others Often in our interactions with others, we concentrate on their undesirable attributes or on the good qualities they lack. Rarely does our attention go to their positive aspects. The mind either outrightly refuses to register the goodness that exists in the other person or chooses to downplay its significance. Most of the time we are happy to fix the entire blame for the interpersonal mess on the other person. We go around telling others that they are darkness personified, there is no light in them and that all the problem in the relationship is because of them. This tendency invariably hurts and enrages the other and leads to a negative, self-fulfilling prophecy wherein he or she actually turns into a detractor. According to Sri Aurobindo, each person is a mixture of darkness and light and is in the evolutionary process of manifesting his divinity. If there is a shadow of untruth, evil, suspicion, ignorance, envy and confusion in his mind, somewhere deep within there also exists an immense potential for light, characterised by truth, goodness, faith, knowledge, generosity and clarity. This dormant light can manifest in all its glory provided we motivate the other to see it and live out his true self. When we put all our focus on the light in the other person, the force of our positivity and encouragement is bound to bring out the best in him or her. As a result, the person gets transformed into a new being, full of light and all negativity becomes a thing of the past. This new being relates to us from an evolved perspective and as a result we also experience a similar transformation. Thus, to truly improve our relationships, we need to stop ruminating over the shadow parts and consistently search for the light in others. An opportunity to progress When in distress, people repeatedly ask why the Divine gave them a troubled relationship. They wonder what wrong they did to not get the gift of an ideal relationship. In this context, one must remember that the mind always takes a short-term and a hedonistic view of things and can never see the larger picture. According to the Mother, if we keep faith and develop a deeper perspective, we will realise that all relationships – good or bad – have been given to us by the Divine for our progress. While a so-called good relationship may support us directly, the seemingly negative one encourages us to grow by throwing a challenge at us. It is up to us to either break down when confronted with this challenge or get transformed by responding to it with unshakeable faith and untiring efforts. In my psychotherapeutic work with survivors of abusive relationship, I have noticed that for many years the survivors feel terrorised, but with persistence there comes a time when this fear is replaced by staggering courage and a will to live. There have been instances where people developed qualit
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