I believe that relations are the key to human happiness and growth. When a client I’m seeing begins a new relationship of any kind, I know to get ready, because life is so much easier when we’re on our own. It’s the relationships we enter into are that are the true testing ground of maturity.
There’s an old story – perhaps you’ve heard it: A monk, living on his own on a mountain top, was revered far and wide as wise and learned. One day, a fellow monk heard of this, and being a little mischievous, decided to visit the revered recluse.
The curious monk showed up on a day when the reclusive monk was meditating (which he did for long hours every day). He didn’t bother knocking; just came in, leaving the door ajar and incidentally letting the debris from outside scatter on previously clean floors.
The reclusive monk took in a deep breath, then returned to his meditation.
Then the curious monk began to relate everything that happened to him on the way – in detail and loudly – speaking not 2 inches from the recluse’s ear. Wreaking of garlic.
The reclusive monk took in another deep breath, then returned to his meditation.
Finally, the curious monk began opening up all the windows, letting in the rain that had started, along with more debris. He declared he was hungry and ate all the stew that had been made earlier, leaving the dirty dishes piled in the sink.
The reclusive monk had had enough! He lost it, railing at the visitor about his rudeness, lack of manners, intrusiveness, and so on, until finally he was out of breath and energy.
The visiting monk had made his point: It’s easy to be serene and perfect when you’re a hermit. The real work begins with relationship with others.
The key component to developing trusting relationships is openness and honesty: of admitting to a mistake instead of trying to hide it, thereby validating what the other person likely knew anyway; of being clear and honest about your own needs and desires; and caring about the needs and desires of the other.
In today’s atmosphere of mistrust, it’s tempting to turn into a recluse. But that is a dead end that will never lead to a sense of living well. It’s a lot harder, but much more satisfying, to find and build trusting relationships that you can count on in both good and bad times.
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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .