Do you have a relationship with yourself? Someone recently asked that question of a friend, and then proceeded to tell her that having a relationship with yourself was the cause of many conflicts and problems. Is this so?
It’s common to hear people talk about having a relationship with oneself, yet what does it mean to do so, and it is healthy or not?
The word relationship implies that there are two or more entities to be in relation with one another. So, to say “a relationship with yourself” indicates a belief that there are two or more of you.
If you pay attention, you’ll likely notice that you have a variety of motivations, thoughts, and emotions even about the same issue. These "voices" may represent the points of view of our parents, our siblings, friends, generation, country, and others represented in our thoughts. Each of these different positions seems to have a mind of its own and often there is conflict between them. I’ve heard it said that there is a committee within each person’s mind.
But are these different voices actually different people?
Because all these different thoughts and emotions swim though our awareness, it’s easy to identify with them, so when happy thoughts arise, you feel happy, and think “I am happy.” Then a sad thought arises, and you think, “I am sad.” Later a feeling of tiredness comes into the mind, and you think “I am tired.”
Are you really the happiness, the sadness, the tiredness? Are these ever-changing conditions you?
To further complicate the matter, we tend to identify with some of the thoughts and emotions, but not others, and this draws us into inner-conflict.
If you observe even more carefully, you’ll notice that there are all these different voices, and yet only one who observes them all, only one who is the constant witness.
According to Yoga philosophy, the True-Self, the real you, is the inner-Seer, the One who is aware of all of this passing show. Everything else, the thoughts, emotions, memories, and sensations that are observed by that Seer are simply the content of the mind. Yoga philosophy goes on to say that when we identify with the contents of the mind, we make a crucial error that leads to ongoing pain.
If you think back, you may realize that throughout your whole life, with all it’s constant change, the one thing that was constant was that you witnessed it all. At one time you saw yourself as a child, and later you saw yourself in various stages of growing up. In each of these situations, the only part of you that was the same was your awareness and your sense that "this is me." You are the witness not the changing conditions.
So from this perspective, there is only one you, the Inner-Witness.
Because there is only one you, the idea of “having a relationship with yourself” doesn’t make sense.
Rather than having a relationship with yourself, what you can do is to begin identifying with the real you, the witness, rather than with the contents of the mind.
If you try this, you’ll likely find that it’s challenging to do because you’ve been identifying with your thoughts throughout your whole life and doing so has become a very strong habit.
At the same time, to the extent that you succeed, rather than being involved in all the conflicts that occur in the mind, you’d be observing them. This may produce an increase in inner-peace.
When the person warned my friend that having a relationship with yourself would cause conflicts, she was probably identifying with the contents of her mind, thinking she's one of the voices in her head, and this definitely leads to inner-conflict. Actually, because most people strongly identify with parts of the contents of their mind, and reject others, inner-conflict and angst is the "normal" human condition.
To overcome this situation, we can change our identification from the mental content to the pure awareness. Then we can observe the conflicts the mind, but not “be” them. Then we can begin to pacify the inner-war, and start extending that peace out to others.
If you would like to read more on this subject, an excellent book is The Unteathered Soul, by Michael Singer.