Friday, April 15, 2016

Let's Relate

Group Hug!
Positive human relationships are critical for humans to become wonderful individuals. Compassionate communities and an overall amazing, global civilization will surely follow directly from maximizing the goodness in our personal relationships.

As social animals human individuals thrive when a variety of relationships are woven into the tapestry of the human experience.  Though the impact varies worldwide, in modern times our global culture and economy seem to emphasize productivity at the cost of developing meaningful personal relationships.

At the core of the personal relationship enterprise is the relationship with ourself. Certainly, the ability to channel ones vision and efforts as an individual grows out of this self-focussed, caring relationship.  Whether spending time alone meditating, contemplating ideas internally or exploring with abandon the world by one self, the skill to self-reflect generates fuel for each of us to relate empathetically with others.

Personal relationships with other people can range from familial connections to romantic friendships to professional alliances.  Each relationship is uniquely flavored by numerous factors: the culture, age, beliefs, sex and circumstance of each individual, not to mention the number of people engaged in a multiple personal connection.  Communication in these relationships occurs along any of the myriad of mediums in this technological age, including the oldest medium of them all, face-to-face conversation.  The experiences we share in this manner forms the very building blocks of what is a meaningful human life.  Sadly, in this day and age, many are lucky to have a handful of people to call our closest friends in with whom we comfortably share our unfiltered self.

Large numbers of people may eschew new connections whether in the workplace or in our personal lives, either because our psychological disposition wants private time or, more negatively, because our densely scheduled lives have conditioned us to avoid them automatically.  And like any conditioning, it takes quite a bit of effort to transcend expectations that have coalesced over decades.

Building relationships with animals is one alternative humans have pursued in lieu of the more difficult path of developing human relationships.  Animals that are kept for affection and company provide in many cases a simple caring connection that replaces caring humans.  In our culture, owning a cuddly or colorful conscious creature for this purpose has often become the norm.  Perhaps we ought to consider reducing the numbers of these captive animals and focus more on pursuing human connections in our lives.

In this technological era even virtual entities are beginning to show up as a surrogates for real human relationships.  We can now have conversations with chatbots and interact with fictional characters in video games, and often the personalities of these characters are designed to be friendly and enchanting.  To a degree these real time interactive experiences are an extension of an imaginary friend phenomena.  Whether a fantasy friend, or the robust characters we've come to love from novels, television series and reality shows, humans seemingly spend more and more time with passive entities rather than real life counterparts.

Working to build better personal relationships doesn't necessarily require the total elimination of non-human surrogates from our lives.  In many cases these technological, imaginative creations can prime our psychological health.  Of course, that psychological health at the end of the day is proven by the healthy circle of human relationships each of us weaves into our lives.

In an ideal world everyone should have circles of friends and family and lovers that give them the support they need to thrive in this world.  Integrating positive relationship skill building into schools, community groups and family circles can help us get closer to that joyful place.

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