Seeing Through the Walls
In Our Relationships
by Michael Maciel
The assumptions we have about each other act as walls in our consciousness, separating us from those we love most. Some of the assumptions we hold are so "set in stone" that we don't even recognize them as assumptions - they simply are "the way things are". In order to get past these assumptions, to deepen and authenticate our relationships, the walls of our assumptions must be identified and then transcended.
Nevertheless, assumptions can be useful. They give us "bite sized" chunks of each other, making complex personalities manageable. We might, for instance, base a decision on what a friend says, because we assume they are being honest with us. Assumptions can free us from always having to ask "what if" in our relationships - they give us a workable basis for trust.
Problems arise, however, when our assumptions are negative, or when our trust is violated "out of the blue" when we thought everything was all right. Assumptions, both negative and positive, hurt us when we try to use them as the basis for our reality. Since they can be useful, we don't want to destroy them outright, but we do need to aquire the ability to see through them when we need to.
First, we need to discover where the walls are. What are we assuming about the people we love? Be careful, now. If you proceed with this, things could get messy. In all likelihood, the things we aren't seeing are the very things we don't want to see. We may have built those walls for our own protection, or so we think. The whole point of doing this is NOT to gain control over others, but to discover the truth. And the truth, no matter how painful, always gives us power - over ourselves! We want that, because we know that it's human nature to bury our heads in the sand. Sometimes, we have to force ourselves to look.
So, the first step is to ask, "What do I KNOW about this person? What am I certain that they would do, if I said...? If I had to describe them to my best friend, someone who really knows me, what qualities, what shortcomings? What scares them? What makes them laugh? What draws out their strengths, and under what circumstances would they try to cover up? Write the question, and then write the answer. Use these questions, or make up your own. But write them.
Okay. Now that you have something down on paper, pick the one you are most sure of and separate it out from the others. Cut it out with a pair of scissors, if you need to, but let it stand alone. Place it on the table in front of you, so that you can give it your full attention.
Now, let's say you picked kindness as the one quality that you KNOW is true about this person. This is the one thing you love them most for, their ultimate saving grace, the brightest jewel in their crown - as far as you're concerned. If asked, you could come up with any number of reasons why this is true. You could back up your reasons with countless examples. Even others would agree with you, because it's common knowledge.
Next step: once you're comfortable with this, pretend that you are standing behind yourself looking over your own shoulder, observing yourself resting in the fact that this person is kind. Then ask the question, "Is this true?" Ask this in the most matter-of-fact way that you can. Try not to succumb to the urge to rush in and defend this person. Just let the question hang out there in space the way a single note on a piano would float in the air in an empty recital hall. Stay in your observer self. This will help you to remain detached from the process. Do not look for an answer. Let the question hover in front of you. Make the question the important thing, even more important than the answer. Do this until the desire for the answer begins to fall away. Only the question remains.
Two things are likely to happen: you might feel disloyal, and you might begin to feel doubtful. Try to understand that there's a big difference between asking a question and doubting. We've all been taught that it's wrong to doubt a loved one, so we tend to view our questions as doubts. Doubting someone you love is frightening, because you don't want to lose them. This is not about doubting. You are simply, in a detached way, asking a question. Ask it in such a way that it really is a question. In other words, feel it as a question, as if you didn't know the answer.
Once the question is able to stand on its own and you no longer feel that the answer is important, you should start to feel peaceful. Relax and let go into this feeling. The answer is no longer important, and you have firmly established the question as a question in the mind. Now, let go of it and simply enjoy the feeling of peace and relaxation. If you do this right, the whole exercise will be easy to let go of, and you can then turn your attention to something else altogether.
What you have done is to plant a seed in your subconscious mind, a seed in the form of a question - not a doubt - but a question. If you plant a seed of doubt, you will reap suspicion. If you plant a pure question, you will reap answers. The important thing is that you allow the answers to come in their own time and in their own way.
This is where it gets interesting. At some point in the future, in some unsuspected way, the answer will be delivered right to your doorstep. It will either confirm your assumption about this person you love, or it will show you more than you knew, and perhaps more than you wanted to know, about the full range of their personality. You don't want your thinking mind to fill in with a cheap answer. That's what the thinking mind does, if you let it. Let the universe give you the answer! It's so much smarter than we are.
The next question is what do you do with the new information, especially if it's not what you expected? This, of course, is a test. It is perhaps the only test that life gives us, namely, what do we do with the truth? In terms of soul growth or spiritual progression or character development or whatever you want to call it, this is where the rubber meets the road. This is where you get traction and the subsequent movement that traction always provides. It's the movement that frightens us. We want things to stay the same, especially in our relationships.
What are you going to do with the truth? I have used kindness as an easy example. We can all think of much more challenging subjects. Knowing your level of commitment to your relationship and your level of commitment to yourself will help you to know what to do with the truth. There are no easy answers here - not with this. One thing you will find out for sure is how much you value truth and/or relationship. I say and/or because truth can be hell on relationships! No one will fault you for turning a blind eye to the unimportant and inconsequential. We will all be faulted, however, if we ignore what is harmful to us.
So, what I'm saying is this - know what's important to you in your life. Doing this exercize will give you the truth with unfailing specificity, if you do it well. Save it for the really important stuff. Nothing can be more tyrannical than an obsession with "the truth". The truth always cuts, it strips away the false, it lays things open to the full light of day. This can be good when things have become stale and encrusted, or neglected. But some things need nurturing and a chance to grow up into their full stature before they are put to the test. If we go about exposing everything before its time, much that is good will be lost.
Our assumptions about each other, the positive ones, bolster us up and help us to make the right choices in our lives. If you assume that I am a kind person, it will be easier for me to act kindly. We all have a strong tendency to act the way other people expect us to act. If, however, their expectations start to take on unrealistic proportions, due in part to our eagerness to please, then a breakdown can occur. We can surprise ourselves, and them, by doing something inconsistent with what they have always "known" about us.
Doing the above exercise in regards to someone you love can have the effect of withdrawing the support of your knowing and make it easier for them to be human. In our example of "kindness", it was probably kindness that drew you to your partner in the first place - they possessed a quality that you admired. Silently, the two of you agreed that he or she would keep the attraction alive by fulfilling your expectations. Already we can see the trap. Not only is the relationship swerving into inauthenticity, but someone is being set up to fail.
Setting someone up is a good thing if you are playing tennis. It can be sudden death, however, in a relationship. The fact that both of you are complicit in the scheme does not make it love, because the only thing being served is each other's self-interest. "I will continue to look good for you, and you will continue to love me." The problem with this arrangement is that there are no controls on it. Expectations tend to grow over time, and eventually everyone gets tired of keeping up with them.
Spiritually, this is a violation of freedom, because the person being held aloft is unable to make authentic choices. Unless we can choose authentically, our choices are invalid in terms of soul-growth. The only way we can move forward in our spiritual development is to act from within, without the prompting of others. It is not what we do "right" that counts, but what we do automatically. This is the test and the proof of soul-development.
Withdrawing our expectations from the person we love seems to fly in the face of what it means to "trust", but this is only because it's easy to confuse coercion with love. From a spiritual standpoint, expectation is a form of coercion, which is legitimate if your purpose is to nurture. Tying a vine to a trellis in order to make it grow according to plan works well in gardening (and in childrearing), but not in a relationship - not one that is working towards spiritual viability. To be spiritually viable, there must be freedom on both sides, freedom to act authentically - from the soul and not from the mind.
The undeveloped mind, however, will construe this to mean that we should "let it all hang out" in our relationships. "Take me as I am" and "Love me - love my problems". If there was ever a reason to delay marriage until both parties are at least a little mature, this is it. Otherwise, the relationship landscape turns into a battlefield and the relationship itself into a contest of wills. No one wins.
Walls can also be good. Like contracts, they describe the parameters of our expectations. Relationships find longevity when built upon foundations of agreement. But agreements are not often made consciously. We fall into them, and oftentimes they are scripted by others - by society, by our family of origin, and by our own cultural conditioning. Unless we write them ourselves with full knowledge of what the agreements mean, then we are not living our own lives. Rather, we are living out a role, a stereotype, and we give up the opportunity for meaningful soul-growth.
Today, relationship is an integral part of the spiritual path. Mainstream religion has looked at it psychologically, emotionally, and traditionally, but rarely spiritually. It has been viewed as a social contract necessary for spiritual health insofar as it serves the needs of the group. It does not share the same level of spiritual validity as celibacy, the mandatory lifestyle of traditional monasticism, both East and West. The reason for this is clear - no one knows how to do it, how to blend the quest for spiritual realization with the intensified transparency that being in relationship always provides. It is simply too difficult. But, difficult or not, this is the path we find ourselves upon in the New Age.
This term "New Age" has been wrongfully turned into an adjective. Traditionalists want to say that Nothing Has Changed, but they can't quite pull it off. Everywhere the evidence puts the lie to their assertions. The spiritual path has taken a turn upward. It is broader and more inclusive. It demands more from us and of us. It has moved beyond the walls of the temples and churches and into our very lives, including our relationships. Spiritual growth, soul-development, spiritual realization - call it what you will - has expanded its curriculum. From the boardroom to the bedroom, the way we interact with each other is the test of how well we have assimilated the lessons of the great Teachers.
Relationship has become the cutting edge of spiritual creativity. We walk by placing one foot in front of the other and leaning forward. We cannot sidestep our actual lives in hopes that we can find a shortcut to God. How we see each other is how we see ourselves, and, ultimately, how we see the Divine. Everything depends on this.