One of the things you’ll have to get used to if you are to cope with and have a good life is that your entire life experience is contained inside of your brain, connected to your body, with all your thoughts. You can walk outside among other people, but they cannot see into your mind. There is only clues through your verbal, non-verbal, and physiological responses. As humans, we so desperately want to connect with others, which is great, but you must first remember that your life is your own and will be for all time to your grave. I submit to you that acceptance that you are alone in this world is a good thing and will help you cope with your life better. Let me explain why.
This isn’t intended to make for a depressing story, but rather facing reality and learning to accept it. I, like you, wish for deep and soulful connection. And in some part, with a little luck, dedication, and determination, you might achieve it. But even if you do, that other person doesn’t know your mind and your thoughts. Certainly, shared experience, conversation, and intimacy can provide some measure of connection. But that is only for the time taken to do it. And there is still a matter of your life experience which even if conveyed using words to another, still doesn’t quite adequately capture the experience.
And even more importantly, you don’t know the others perspectives. You can play the deductive reasoning game and take your experience with that person – and if they are an honest person – take what they have said and done in the past and try to use those as clues for the future to understand them. You can put yourself in the moment they are sharing and try to understand the sights, smells, and feelings. But you are not them, and your brain did not form the neural pathways that theirs did when they had the experience. Accepting that you’ll always fall short in trying to fully understand someone is OK – it’s a step toward peace and acceptance.
Are we truly alone then? Can we have no real and full connection with anyone else? I think that’s a good question. I can only talk about my own life and how little I feel I know about those around me – even those I have been close to for a large majority of my life, or other close friends. Right now I can think of my wife Heidi. And I understand some of her life experiences, the things she likes, and what kind of mood I think she’s in. But I’m not always right. I really just have an outside view of her – kind of like a house with windows. I can see the outside, but the vast majority of what is going on is in the inside.
I think we as individuals – only we truly understand ourselves. Certainly, one could talk to a therapist and see if that person’s experience could shed some light that we are not able to ourselves. But more than likely, a therapist is going to try and jostle your emotions such that you come to a point of peace and acceptance in your life with your circumstances and past events. This lack of being able to understand others fully is something I’ve had to accept. And let me explain what this acceptance has led to.
I know that because I don’t truly understand anyone, that I will always be an imperfect person in my interactions. Whether it’s as a husband, father, soul friend, or what have you, I am a flawed human being. And I also accept that others around me have the same limitation. They see my face and hear my words, but they don’t quite have the view inside the house through my windows that I experience. Oh, I’d love to hook up my brain with someone and try to share that way. But even then, the context and information for each of us would be interpreted in different ways – would the two even be able to talk the same language?
Because I know I am inadequate at fully understanding people, it gives me more peace. I know that I won’t always say or do the right things. It means that sometimes in my life I am going to mess up because I didn’t quite understand what someone needed to hear at a certain time and mess up. It means I won’t be as sensitive at times when I should be.
It also means that I accept other people’s actions toward me. Because I can’t fully understand someone else, I know they are trying to do the best they can to communicate and convey information. If that person says or does something that feels unfair or unjust, I simply remind myself that they can only see my skin layer and hear the few words I speak. They don’t have insight into my mind. And therefore, they are imperfect at understanding me.
When you learn to accept that you can’t fully understand others – only yourself – you come to a sense of peace with this imperfect situation. Life becomes a lot less stressful when you no longer worry that someone is going to say that right thing at the right time with you. You become a lot less disappointed when things don’t turn out quite how you’d like them. You learn to accept others and their feelings because only they truly know them self and what they want.
As you go throughout your life, take your own life and examine and feel it. Think of all your experiences. Think of the sights, sounds, smells, etc… Understand that you as a person cannot be completely understood by another. Come to terms with it and accept it. Accept that you as a person will always be alone with the knowledge and experience you have about yourself. Once you accept this, it makes it much easier to interact with other people and have empathy. Because you don’t fully know the other person, simply listen, observe, and do the best you can, accepting whatever the outcome may be.
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