Removing Obstacles and Seeing the Basis in Relationships

A relationship between two people means that they relate to each other. Before two people can relate to each other, they must remove the principal obstacles to relationship — reactive patterns. For present purposes, the reactive patterns are prejudice, closing down, contraction and feeling deficient. These four reactive patterns prevent us from relating to the other person as he or she actually is. When we have removed these obstacles, we can then see what the basis of the relationship actually is. Then we will know what relating means.

Removing obstacles

Surprisingly, true relationship is relatively rare. In most “relationships” people relate to an idea of the other person, an internal representation that has developed from patterns of perception and interaction.

The first step is to dismantle our internal representations and see the person for who he or she is. The practice of equanimity is the key tool for this work. By bringing attention to the arbitrary and fluid nature of internal representations, we first see them as constructions and then see through them to what is.

The second step is to open to the other. To do so, we must identify the ways that we close down. We usually close down out of fear of not knowing where we stand, of being engulfed, of being rejected, of being destroyed or of being nothing. We can use methods to transform emotional reactive patterns into attention and then use the practice of loving kindness to bring attention to the pattern of closing down itself. As the pattern of closing down falls apart, we become capable of a natural warmth and appreciation for the other.

The third step is to be able to be with the other when he or she is suffering. Our habitual reaction to suffering is contraction. The practice of compassion brings attention to contraction and dismantles the patterns discomfort, control and compulsion connected with it. The result is presence, the ability to be with the other in his or her pain.

The fourth step is to be able to be with the other when he or she is happy. The habitual reaction to another person’s happiness and success is for us to feel deficient or lacking. The practice of joy brings attention to the feeling of deficiency and dismantles the patterns of competitiveness, envy or self-pity associated with it. The result is a passion for life itself and the ability to be completely with the other without having to prove oneself or compete.

Basis for relationship

We now turn to the actual basis of the relationship. Problems in relationships often arise because two people have fundamentally different views of the relationship or because one or the other is undermining the basis of the relationship.

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