Perhaps the biggest obstacle on the spiritual path is the distorted role relationship plays in our lives. Why? Because we have unwittingly assigned qualities to others that we feel we need for our security, happiness and our sense of self-worth. Most people depend on their friends, family and intimate others for their sense of self-worth, confidence and self-esteem. They depend on these relationships to help them through hard times and to provide them with a sense of protection and security from the vulgarities of life. These relationships define who we are, our value and worth. If these relationships become threatened then we feel threatened.
The foundation of relationship is ego. Ego, one discovers, is a temporary construct that is sustained by our unwitting attention. These structures define our separate existence. Ego is the principle that allows us to imagine that we are separate. Without ego there would be no sense of individual self; no ‘me’, ‘mine’, ‘you’, or ‘yours’. With separation the value of another becomes essential to preserving that sense of separate self. Relationships give us the kind of individual attention (positive or negative) that verifies and validates our ego.
With relationship we create an agreement for our sense of self, reinforcing who we believe ourselves to be. In time we become dependent on ‘others’ for this reinforcement, thus entrenching our identification with our current ego or sense of self.
Unfortunately there is no self, no ego. It is false, unreal. Because of this lack of Truth suffering occurs. In fact, this sense of separate self or ego is the source of all suffering. Whenever we give our attention and power to someone we veil and lose our ability to recover our true nature as the Self or Being. Anything outside of this true Self is impermanent, constantly changing and shifting, thus creating suffering.
This suffering can become especially poignant on the spiritual path when those we have depended on in the past begin to feel threatened as we shift in consciousness. Their reactions and demands ‘pull’ us back down to the lower vibration in which the relationship was established and sustained. Even when a seeker is able to detach from past relationship, this mechanism of ego continues to operate as it seeks new relationships to project onto its needs, hopes, wants and desires.
These new relationships have an especially powerful attraction for the ego as the seeker at this stage is more powerful and tends to attract people who are themselves more attractive to us than any past relationships and inevitably have matching egoic issues, thus seducing the advancing consciousness, in both parties, into a new and improved egoic self, perpetuating in this new context the same old paradigm one had broken out of.
When in the Self or the Truth of our reality, there is no egoic self, no experience of separateness, and thus no need for self-worth or self-esteem. These disappear from one’s consciousness. Self-worth and self-esteem become irrelevant when there is no sense of separation. There is then no need for others to validate or confirm our sense of worth or self-esteem. We know who we are and stand free of anything and from anybody. This freedom brings forth a confidence or authority that allows one to ‘stand’ in their own reality without need for validation or confirmation from others. This is the sign of one who has become established in their true nature.
Many people whom I work with feel that their relationships are essential to their sense of self and define what is important and valuable in their lives. Thus when they advance on the spiritual path they become distressed and fearful when those relationships withdraw or become threatened and angry with them. Or when encountering a particularly difficult stage of their transformation they feel pulled irresistibly to the old egoic paradigm and often run off seeking solace and refuge in old relationships.
Relationship is not the problem. It is our inclination to identify, attach and become dependent on the relationship as a means of defining who we are. This inclination is the problem because it prevents us from becoming established in the Self, the truth of who we are. Once established in this reality, relationship is no longer a problem. Rather relationship becomes an opportunity to experience the delight of the Self in the dance and play of life.
Photo by Captain Kimo