Paradox?

April 28, 2012

I remember President Obama (I think he was Candidate Obama then) saying something about the ego involved with running for president.

I was thinking this morning as I woke up about my repeated failure to distinguish behavior arising out of a lack of love in the other person for me and behavior arising in them out of their own ego needs, including putting their own priorities first (in some of these people, we could call it narcissism, but it varies along a continuum) — the person can love me and still present me with a relationship I have difficulty handling.  Processing that difficulty as the other person rejecting me (which is my tendency) is inaccurate, I was thinking, because the attitude towards me I have trouble with is not directed towards me personally, it is a backdrop, the ground out of which all the person’s relationships grow.  The problem I have with the person is at the level of that backdrop, not their feelings of affection for me.  The intersection of those issues occurs, I think, in the concept of caring and consideration for someone beloved, but a person who lacks the ability to empathize with another person well does something that comes across as uncaring or inconsiderate out of ignorance, not bad intent.

What I thought was a more interesting issue is whether a person can armor themselves with enough ego to do something like become president of the United States, or become successful in the material world in other ways, and still be able to take off that armor, perhaps in private, to access inner wisdom, to “bow to their inner self” as the mantra “om namah shivayah” suggests.  In some ways, it’s none of my business, but I find myself wondering if people, or individuals, can do that when they interact with me in ways I find difficult — am I getting unrealistic expectations of theirs for me because of their ego, or are their requests coming out of some deeper place I can trust?  Part of my evaluation of this rests on whether I think they are capable of and practicing taking off their ego-concerns and looking at a situation from a perspective beyond them.

It’s hard for me to know.  That’s why it’s a lot easier if we “meet in the middle,” in that space between our egos which I think we get to through some form of prayer or meditation.  Willy had a different rule of thumb: he would point out to me when I seemed to him to be trying to tie myself into a pretzel in response to somebody else.

I wonder if the challenge isn’t in a way for me to figure out how to have a relationship that works for me too with someone incapable, even benignly, of considering thoroughly what it’s like to be me.

The countervailing issue for me to take into account is that of throwing out the baby with the bathwater — pushing away a loving relationship altogether because it is difficult to work out easily.  Because if it serves my greater good to try to maintain  such a relationship by, for example, politely explaining my needs, then I shouldn’t avoid that experience, then the challenge isn’t to walk away and deal with loss but to learn how to identify and present my own experience, perhaps to someone who is not able to apprehend it any other way.  In a lot of ways, that for me would be a bigger challenge than disentangling from the relationship altogether.

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