Staying Inside Our Relationships

Jeff Carreira Philosophy 7 Comments

This is my final post in a series exploring what it means to “stay on the inside of life.” What we are exploring is some of the philosophical/psychological challenges of extreme objectification. When the world turned from the bleakness of the middle ages to the brilliance of The Enlightenment what led the way was a radical new ability to objectify the world. What was being discovered was the capacity to turn the fleeting immediacy of lived experience into ideas and concepts that could be spoken about, worked on and then applied back into our lived experience.

The endeavor of science, which was birthed with the Enlightenment, is about breaking lived experience into quantifiable concepts like weight, velocity, etc., and then manipulating those concepts to make predictions about past and future events.

An unanticipated consequence of all this objectification is that we soon got so good at it, that we made objects out of all aspects of life – including our selves. One of the results has been a growing sense of fragmentation and isolation from our own self. This sense of separation from the world and from ourselves is one of the maladies that existentialist philosophers were attempting to cure.

Our relationships with other people are another thing that we have learn to objectify and separate from. When we are inside of our relationships we experience those relationships as a sense of “we”. The pronoun ‘we’ implies more than just you and me. It implies something shared between us. It implies that we are together in some essential way.

Inside of a ‘we,’ we are together. There is an implied sense of commitment and continuity. If ‘we’ look around when ‘we’ are with our friends or our family ‘we’ see a “we” and “us.”

When you look around and you see a ‘we’ there is a particular feeling of being an identifiable whole. We are on the inside of that group. When you look around and see ‘them’ you have moved to the outside of the group. Now the ‘we’ is an object over there that has become a ‘them.’

Play with that distinction in your mind. Imagine people all around you, or go somewhere to be around people, then look around and see them as ‘we.’ What does it feel like to be inside of a ‘we?’ What does it feel like to be part of us? Then look at the same group, but turn everyone into ‘them.’ What does it feel like to be on the outside of a ‘we’ looking at ‘them?’

Staying on the inside of our relationships changes the way we relate to the people we are committed to. Whether it is a spouse, a family, or just friends – I contend that real relationships are those that we are committed to staying on the inside of. In a real relationship we make the commitment to being a ‘we,’ no matter what happens.

There can and will be challenges in every relationship and too often our habit is to step outside of the relationship when the going gets tough. When we step out of the ‘we’ what we create is an objectified ‘them’ over their. If, when we are having difficulty in our relationships, we step outside we will usually identify the source of the problem as ‘them’ whoever they are.

We have gone from ‘we have a problem’ to ‘you have a problem’ or ‘they have a problem.’ We have stepped outside of the sphere of shared accountability and responsibility that exists in a ‘we’ and have pushed the blame over there onto ‘them.’

I certainly would never say that this kind of objectification of ‘the other’ didn’t happen in the middle ages…it certainly did. I wonder though if the ‘us/them’ boundaries of that time were mainly those fixed by kingdom, religion, and class.  Today we have taken the art of stepping in and out of relationship to new heights. We can randomly draw and re-draw the ‘us/them’ boundaries in our lives over and over again – often to suit our own needs.

Please download my eBook “Philosophy is not a Luxury” as a gift in appreciation for your readership.

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About the Author

Jeff Carreira
Jeff Carreira is a mystical philosopher and spiritual guide. He is the author of eleven books on meditation and philosophy. He teaches online programs and leads retreats throughout the world that teach people how to let go of their current perceptual habits so they are free to participate in the creation of a new paradigm. To put it simply, he supports people to live a spiritually inspired life, free from the constraints of fear, worry and self-doubt, and aligned with their own deepest sense of meaning and purpose.
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9 years ago

Thanks for this simple piece.
I am immediately mailing it to my wife!
I agree that we ourselves have to be very intentional over the longterm to maintain our closest circle of friends/colleagues within the “we zone”. In my view it comes primarily down to us alone, what we choose to do in this regard.
We have control of this first intentional choice.
Each thought and reaction that places them outside places us at great risk of later unnecessary alienation.

9 years ago

‘ What was being discovered was the capacity to turn the fleeting immediacy of lived experience into ideas and concepts that could be spoken about, worked on and then applied back into our lived experience’. I just started to read Cindy Wiggelsworths’ 21 skills of spiritual intelligence and reading back your post right now, I suddenly saw that this ‘conceptualization’ you are talking about is actually a also a great good. This morning, someone was telling me a story, she was insecure about it and from the ‘inside out’ I had to agree with her. Then suddenly I shifted from… Read more »

9 years ago

What comes to mind is that, we are ALL together in this. It is the non-separate nature of reality that manifest itself through Staying Inside Our Relationships into our experience. Pointing to this non-separate experience of reality, makes your statement extremely powerful. The question to me is not, are we on the inside or not. But are we expressing to be on the inside or not?
9 years ago

In rural, tribal and village communities, it was easier to recognize and identify with others and humanity’s “we”ness. Now in huge cities, it’s much harder to identify with the multitudes of others–complete stangers–many iof them too different and “outlandish” to be considered as “we”. It’s an exercise I try to maintain in my daily travels but find it difficult, almost impossible to understand except in a very abstract way. Yes, we’re all children and adults of (God) but (really)? I’m abashed to speak thus but to be honest, I admit I don’t have a good understanding of being included or… Read more »

9 years ago

Thanks for FTKL1234 for your honest and human struggle with this “We-ness”. I’m going to jump into the mix here. In my own experience this “We-ness” is based on a recognition of what we all, and I mean all, share. Yes, even the most outlandish strange and apparently entirely foreign individual shares so much of their experience of life with us: be it feelings, thoughts, sensations etc. This recognition of this shared we-ness can come immediately through deep direct insight, or more slowly through engaged contemplation. It can be a practice also. This we-ness can include all beings, including imagining… Read more »

Frank Luke
9 years ago

Hello, Mo ! TY for your response, appreciated because they’e ew and far between. To have feedback assures me there’s someone out there who’s read my message. Yes, it’s an ongoing effort to live by the intention to understand “we-ness” and to be trying to create the world I would prefer and wish to have. If “we-ness” were universally understood, that world would be existing, for sure. Best regards and good wishes for a happy Thanksgiving we Americans are so lucky to have !!

9 years ago

Maybe my home country, New Zealand, or my adopted country Germany should adopt that American thing called Thanksgiving. Good idea!
Greetings from the global zone we call the internet.