Humans want to feel safe, embedded, relevant and valued. While we can create these states to certain degrees autonomously, it’s usually through interaction with others that we thrive. Social interactions are the basis of our species, but can be risky: what about misunderstandings, quarrels or fights? We need ways to judge others, and our interactions with them. Establishing emotional autonomy is a quintessential part of adulthood: to increase one’s capacity to self-soothe, to create a feeling of safety and to feel valued just for one’s own sake. Only those who can do this, can really care and love others – since otherwise they need a high degree of reciprocation.
This makes attention between humans a major currency (some will also feel this from animals or objects) – denial of it is immediately noticeable, and usually leads to frustration and pain: consider how social deprivation (through incarceration) is considered to be society’s strongest punishment. Since we crave others, it’s important to understand what sort of “other” is actually beneficial to us – without this understanding, unhealthy relationships will thrive.
Relationships are complex, implicit deals: they can be good, bad, and everything beyond such obvious patterns. They allow for endlessly intricate dynamics, way beyond schoolbook teachings, and even change over time: relationships are never static, but change according to their participants. That’s why introspection and discussion of experiences are important – they help us analyze and judge our encounters of the world, potentially turning hardships into life lessons. They help us uncover and understand the implicit, unspoken aspects of our selves and our relationships. This is extremely powerful: it can turn a victim into a proactive re-interpreter of past actions, resulting in someone with the power to influence future actions, and thus our approach to life itself. Relationships are complex puzzles that we can try to solve – perpetually.
Time Does Nothing
Depending on one’s socialization, it can take years to understand what sort of interpersonal contact is healthy and sustainable (offering safety that allows for growth). As we grow up, our unique character and style is blended with the behaviors of our educators. These usually become our first sociological and moral compass – but not necessarily one that actually suits or benefits us. Judging people and ourselves requires us to analyze our compass, which requires the deepest inquiries into our upbringing, and can uncover haunting realities. Judging people is an endless challenge, and benefits from an open mind, psychosocial knowledge, empathy, and the willingness to reflect our past behavior and interactions: time itself doesn’t turn experience into knowledge.
You ultimately want to surround yourself with people you can benefit from. To understand what this means, you need to understand the many shapes and forms of benefits: criticism, economic support, attention, abandonment, collaboration – behavior that leads to your spiritual and emotional growth. Simply finding these in a person doesn’t imply beneficial behavior though: it’s always about a person’s attitude, their behavior and intention, and how these feel to you. The more you know yourself, the better your choices may be. At the same time, an increase in knowledge will always also blind you through arrogance: the more you think you know, the less your eyes and your mind will remain open. Finding a balance between knowledge and openness is a life challenge.