What role do other persons play in our awareness of our self?
The popular attitude is that I shall not allow others to define me and that I need not explain my decisions to anyone. We often hear people saying: “Nobody will tell me what I may or may not do., or how I should do it.” It is true that others can imprison us through their expectations of us, and through manipulation and fear. We tend to defend and protect ourselves, to withdraw behind the expectations of society and family. Or, we react with anger and behaviour that we hope will destroy the threat and often only destroy relationships.
For me, photos provide a nice metaphor to understand the role of other persons in our lives. Most photos have a focus point – an object that is in sharp focus and thus defined as an object. That is me. But the object is always captured against a background (even sometimes merely white or black or out of focus) that foregrounds the object. It is in a relationship with others that we can find our voice, our true self, where we discover freedom.
Our neighbours, friends, family, colleagues can help us to discover our true self through their acts of love and kindness. Their words of wisdom and insight can open doors through which we can enter and begin to understand our behaviour. They can help us to see the flaws in the mental pictures we paint about ourself and others. In that way, they help us to become free from deception and fear.
During the following weeks, I will reflect more on his question.
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