BY: T. Franklin Murphy | March 2017
Finding Joy through Imperfect Relationships
Our faulty expectations interfere with healthy connection, expecting more than a partner can give. When grounded in reality, with more accurate expectations, we can enjoy and grow through the imperfect bonds we have.
Social connections, at a party, at work and at home expand the experience of living. We need connections. I am a bit of a recluse, much like my father. But I still need connections. Some, naturally gifted, easily connect; others, like me, struggle. Over the years, I have forcefully pushed past the natural shyness and created new connections. The shyness still exists. Inner forces of shame cripple but outwardly I march forward despite the disabling demons. Working against our nature is like keeping a misaligned car from running off the roadway. We keep our hands on the wheel; our sights on the goal; and accept we must work harder to get there. Our minds interfere, making excuses, projecting blame, and denying realities but ultimately, it is our lives. We must live with the consequences whether stuck in a ditch on the side of the road or happily parked at home.
Through casual introspection, we fail to see a clear picture. The mind seamlessly distorts reality to conform to subjective beliefs. Past pains and pleasures bias current observations—especially observations of the self. If we struggle with shame, the slightest imperfection becomes an uncrossable gulf. Self-appraisals, instead of instructive, bombard our senses disturbing equilibrium and prevent sleep. Our automatic response seeks to calm the storms, implementing safe-guards that maintain homeostasis—distorting reality to keep it manageable. Perplexingly, we speak rudely but fail to recognize the rudeness. Through our blindness, we lose friends, destroy romances and limit business opportunities; but remain dumbfounded to the cause of these losses. The world appears crazy. Unrecognized internal disruptions create the conditions for blame.
A destructive mindset misdirects thoughts, instead of soothing momentary emotions, we react, harming our futures, pushing us further from intentions. This poisonous approach to experience expresses an internal hostility; the unknown forces wreak havoc and we are befuddled on how to resolve the repeating failures. We hate life and eventually hate ourselves.
"Through our blindness, we lose friends, destroy romances and limit business opportunities; but remain dumbfounded to the cause of these losses."
In relationships, we excuse our harsh damaging words with psychological mush. We find a quotation, take it out of complex, and use it to support our sociopathic dysfunction. During an argument, we belittle, shame and hurt but then sooth our guilt by saying, “They needed to hear that" or "If they can't accept me as I am, then it is their problem." Both arguments—on the surface—appear legitimate; but disguise the tactless approach to connection that contributes to the repeated failing relationships.
We protect self-image by limiting awareness. The immediate benefit of soothed emotions comes at the cost of continued disruptions. By dodging responsibility, we never change the damaging behaviors. Happiness doesn’t require the introvert to become an extrovert. I never will. We can leave the party entertainment to natural extroverts. But we are social creatures. A rich satisfying life requires healthy social interactions. We must catch a glimpse at our inadequacy, grab a hold of the wheel and keep the car on the road.
We must examine a little closer, looking at patterns, identifying growth-limiting projections and the damaging dodging of blame. We’ll still feel shame; but we can giggle at the intrusion, realizing the feelings come from ancient programming. It’s easy to identify fault in others; they are imperfect. But fault finding is unproductive, misdirecting focus, destroying relationships.
In our imperfections, we can connect with the imperfect others, creating imperfect bonds that we can, however, perfectly enjoy.