I have thinking quite a bit lately about the issue of relationships. The thing that concerns me is the level of aggression that comes into our relationships. Not only aggression, or at least not only patently aggressive behaviour, but all the various subtle manifestations of this: social one-up-man-ship, character assassination, power struggles and so on. A particularly vivid example of this was pointed out to me a few months ago. When anyone in a social gathering tells a story, how shortly afterwards (sometimes not even afterwards but during) another teller will jump in with a ‘better’ story. Since I’ve become aware of this it amazes me how this happens virtually without fail- and to my utter dismay I am very often the one doing it. Generally it’s as if there a certain amount of social light and love available- we all crave it and are willing to step on each other to get it. It’s really not a pretty sight. I have recently started facilitating a Jungian study group with about 20 students. Maybe it’s because as the facilitator I somehow hold a different perspective but I am amazed at the amount of power play that goes on. What is spoken is almost merely symptomatic of a deeper more primal drive which is the drive for dominance, or for love depending how you look at it. A philosopher friend of mine, Cary Winograd, once said to me any question in a class is at bottom just a cry for love and attention. That may seem simplistic and I don’t think it is true in every situation, but it has given me pause for consideration when asking questions in workshops or classes that I attended. And honestly I ask a lot fewer questions than I used to. This overt Darwinian behaviour is ubiquitously evident in society. I am no expert on Schopenhauer but this kind of thing makes me sympathetic to what he says- that the world is blind will manifest. So much of what I see around me is the instinctive drives in action Eros (sex/ procreation), Thanatos (destruction) and the Will to Power. Is there any way out of this to a more humane relatedness? Well personally I don’t care for organised religion, but it seems as though this is possibly the only alternative for man en masse. Left to his own devices he is a nasty piece of work. The problem is, as any depth psychologist would rush to point out, that the drives operate anyway, just more insidiously for their disguise. So I don’t know what the answer is, but I am going to share some thoughts on how to possibly mitigate this overtly instinctive and unconscious behaviour. 1. Create space- try and get your own egotism out of the way when relating to other people. 2. Realise that the level of respect and love you show others is probably very close to what you can show yourself. Meaning you can perceive other people as mirrors of aspects of yourself and in understanding this realise that the level of love you give them is a reflection of the love you have for yourself. 3. (Following number 2) learn to love yourself- if you can truly learn to love yourself, loving others becomes much easier. 4. (Paradoxically with number 2) Stop believing that fundamentally other people are the same as you and try and become aware of their differences from you rather than their similarities. Then see if you can accommodate these differences. 5. Avoid violence (psychic/physical) at all costs, unless it is to protect yourself and then use the minimum force necessary. 6. Behave with a degree of conscious respect, love and humanity in your relationships. 7. Treat yourself with conscious respect, love and humanity- you are not only your brother’s keeper, but you are your own keeper as well. 8. Avoid judgment. 9. Practice humility. 10. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. 11. Making winning only your second priority, make your first priority relatedness. 12. Question your own motives. I suppose I could sum these all up by simply saying stop being so insecure and having to constantly affirm yourself at others expense. Try and meet other human beings and talk to them instead of feeling obliged to utilise them ‘ who knows you might learn something. (Granted it’s unlikely seeing as you know everything already, but just try it and see what happens ) With love, Stephen.