My last relationship was extremely instrumental in teaching me a plethora of lessons, but by far, the most important one I learnt was the value of understanding.
I believe understanding is one of the most overlooked, yet essential assets to any relationship.
In his bestselling book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey recognized the significance of understanding in relationships and ascribed it as the 5th habit: “Seek to understand, then to be understood.”
Understanding is essentially the ability to ‘place ourselves in the shoes of someone else,’ which helps us to see life through the eyes of the other person.
The wise, Eckhart Tolle once said, “If we were to walk in the shoes of someone, exactly as they did, we would make the very same choices that they made.”
Many times, we judge and condemn others for their choices because of our limited, personal perspective. We project our point of view on to the person, unconsciously expecting and believing that they should think and act in the very same way.
After several painful battles with my ex, I soon came to realize the unreasonable and near impossible nature of my expectation and belief. Why? Simply because we are all individuals experiencing life in a unique and personalized way.
This realization triggered a desire to further explore this frequently discounted relationship resource, to help me learn more about myself and to better improve my relationships
This is what I found:
1. Our Current Operating System is Based on Our Body of Information
The fact is, each of us is operating from a body of information we have accumulated from the time we entered the world to the present moment. This body of information is based on our socialization, direct and indirect experiences and perceptions.
This body of information heavily influences, how we view the world, how we think, how we speak and our choices.
As individuals, our body of information varies because each of us has a different exposure to life, which contributes to the way we are.
When it comes to a relationship, where more than one individual decides to come together, both parties are bringing their individual and distinct body of information to that partnership, which is often different and sometimes opposing.
Despite the differences and opposing nature of each person’s body of information, recognizing and realizing that no one person’s body of information, is more right or better than the other, is important to the health and sustenance of the relationship.
If we allow ourselves to be more open to someone else’s body of information, which is what understanding helps us to do, all parties can benefit significantly.
We are given the opportunity to learn something different to what we know, thereby expanding our body of information.
In addition to this, all parties can collectively decide which aspects of each person’s body of information, will best serve the partnership, which will inevitably promote love, growth and expansion for all.
2. The Dominance of the Unhealed Accumulated Self
Many of us are currently operating from what I call, ‘The Accumulated Self’. This Self comprises of our accumulations throughout our lives or the aspects of our identity we were not born with. This Self is made up of our personality, socialization, conditioning, past experiences, beliefs, memories, and perceptions.
This Accumulated Self is essentially the sum- total of our interactions with our environment and our perceptions about our experiences.
For a vast majority, ‘The Accumulated Self’ is severely hurt and wounded. Often, these wounds are seldom dealt with and eventually become a part of who we are, shaping the way we see and interact with the world.
Commonly, we unconsciously and inevitably inflict the same pain and hurt we feel with those around us. The late, Wayne Dyer once said, “You can’t squeeze an orange and get apple juice, you can only get apple juice. Similarly, you can’t ‘squeeze’ a hurt person and get love.”
This reality is perfectly captured in Sandra Wilson's memorable quote, "Hurt people, hurt people." Understanding that we all have some level of hurt we may be operating from, can help guide our interactions with others.
I agree, it can be challenging to separate The Accumulated Self from the True Self, the True Self that is a Divine Soul having a human experience, especially, when we are negatively impacted.
However, if we remind ourselves in every moment that, each of us is working through our personal challenges, just as every other person, this will help us to be more compassionate and understanding of others.
3. We all have a Right to Free Will
We were all born with the ability to choose. Our choices are based on a host of factors, some of which were discussed previously, but is primarily based on what we believe is most beneficial and serving to us at any given time.
When we are faced with a decision or a choice, self-preservation is usually the first factor considered, followed by the people and situations who we believe will be impacted by our choice.
A choice is highly personal and subjective and while we are guided by environmental norms and rules and our personal value system, a person’s choice reflects their assessment and judgment of the matter at hand.
When it comes to relationships, our individual choices will inevitably affect the other parties involved in the partnership. It is always our hope that our partners make decisions that will be mutually beneficial to us.
However, in the instances when their choice may not be bilaterally favorable, employing the understanding that we are all always choosing what’s best for us in any given situation, can potentially eliminate judgment and blame.
We are then afforded the opportunity to learn from the choices and experiences of our partners, thereby once again helping us to grow both individually and collectively.
Reflecting on my findings, I see the immense value in instituting and prioritizing understanding in any relationship. Adopting understanding as a habit and practice can minimize and possibly eliminate the painful and stressful interferences we usually experience in our relationships. The type of interferences which often sabotage the essential relationship goals, of expressing and experiencing love, growth and expansion.
At the end of the day, each of us would like to be understood. And one of the best ways to get what we want is to become a model for it. If we want to be understood, first seek to understand and watch your relationship flourish and grow in love.