William from Canada is struggling to feel understood in his relationships. He sent us this question and elaborated further by sharing:
I feel that my mom doesn’t fully understand me. I tend to be an intellectual, always pursuing knowledge and the truth, resulting in few (if any, I can’t say) friends. Yet I feel she simply has a tolerance for my passions rather than acceptance which is noticeable with her reading a book called “The Teenage Brain” when I don’t feel that’s me. That book would rather describe a young soul. What can I do?
This is an excellent question that many people on their journeys of personal growth and spiritual maturity will experience at some point.
The Isolation of Change
By its very nature the desire to grow, to mature and transcend your current self and societal norms will cause resistance around you. Any type of change appears threatening to the very delicate balance of life that has been created to keep us sleepwalking throughout our days.
This dream-like state of being is so wide spread and collectively accepted that if you do try to seek more depths and greater maturity you will actually be perceived as being “immature” by the rest.
Take for example our cultural ideals of pursuing a career so you can get a mortgage to buy a big house and expensive car, get married and have children. Often in your exploration of yourself and the questioning of the beliefs and values you hold, you determine that you don’t want to contribute to the materialism of society. Because of this questioning process, you make a decision not to study and instead pursue your authentic passion of being an artist. Or perhaps you decide that you don’t want to have your romantic relationship dutifully bound by a religious/political contract and that overpopulation is a dangerous epidemic and you’d rather remain unmarried and adopt a child instead. In response to these decisions, the people around you who have been taught what is and isn’t a “grown up” thing to do might actually perceive your behavior as immature, fearful or irresponsible.
Often we face these types of maturity/immaturity dilemmas in our friendships and relationships. For example, if you’re a self-destructive person who loves to escape life using drugs with friends and then one day decide to stop consuming them, you’ll find it incredibly difficult. Your friends depend on you to continue the destructive behavior because it allows you and them to continuing wallowing in joint misery, to continue hurting each other to rejoice in the drama of reassuring each other how little you think you’re worth. Growing will mean no longer fitting in, having to make new friends, and dealing with potential hurt feelings.
I’ve also seen many marriages suffer from maturity/immaturity problems. For instance, one case was where one partner in a marriage was suffering from obesity, and the other partner served as their carer. The moment the obese person started to lose weight to become more healthy the dynamics of the whole relationship collapsed. Why? Because the relationship depended on the carer keeping their role and their identity of “nurturer” in the relationship which now wasn’t possible.
At some point, the dream-like perception that we each create to make our lives and relationship feel safe and comforting is shattered once a person doesn’t behave as they “should” do. We may not be machines but we often behave like them and it is the thirst for truth within a rare few – the spiritually mature – who see through our habitual, mechanic patterns, deciding to “disturb” them, preventing them from stagnating, and maintaining the stream of spiritual evolution flowing.
Truth at a Cost
Some people will argue that being on a journey of spiritual development, of “always pursuing knowledge and the truth” as mentioned in the original question, is a self-absorbed path and even a refuge to avoid having to “grow up” and deal with the “real world.”
Although this argument is true in some cases, there is much more to it than that. We are taught to believe that ultimately our purpose in society is to be a “productive” member. If by “productive” this means keeping the world running the way it has been for untold millennia; full of wars, suffering, inequality, environmental destruction, superficial ambitions, idolization of material wealth, afterlife rewards and social status – then by all means be an “unproductive” navel-and-star gazer and refuse to be another “cog” in the collective dream machine.
In my understanding the problem with other people is not so much their dislike of being “immature” and self-absorbed, as it is about fear: their fear of not wanting to explore themselves and find out who they really are – and the old soul’s rebellion reflects badly on them, reminding them of their inauthenticity.
There are three main stumbling blocks you’ll have to come across when searching for truth and going beyond that collective “dream“; your social-economical conditioning, your religious beliefs and your immediate family. How your family perceives you is perhaps the most difficult to deal with as we so often become overly dependent on our parents for acceptance and approval. Unfortunately, due to the nuclear way our family is structured (as opposed to traditional tribal families), this provides the opportunity for great resentment and hatred to operate between parent and child, especially when the parent carries deep core wounds and wants their child to live out a particular life.
What is True Intelligence?
Many people who consider themselves to be old souls also consider themselves to be intellectual. One of the greatest old souls to have embodied this intellectual identity was Socrates. His whole approach to life was relentlessly questioning dogma, so-called “certainties,” and the habitual way in which we all taken on views and perceptions without ever truly taking a close look at them.
Socrates believed that the ultimate purpose of reason and self-examination, was to discover what is pure, good, and sacred within us all; or in other words our greatest potential. He called this Agathon, or “absolute Good.” The Delphi Oracle declared him “the wisest man in Athens” which he objected to. After speaking to a few local so-called wise men who turned out to not be so wise, he finally agreed with the Oracle only because of his famous statement, “I know that I know nothing.”
Socrates declared his ignorance not to denounce knowledge, but because he understood that there was a deeper form of knowledge beyond just the mental one. This knowledge is a spiritual understanding that is beyond the logical mind. He knew that to pursue truth we must first recognize and relinquish the false.
As you’d expect, Socrates’ community wasn’t very pleased with the ambiguity of his teachings and how it was influencing the youth to become freethinkers. When the Athenian jury gave Socrates three choices: give up the practice of philosophy, leave Athens, or die, Socrates chose death. His last act became his most unambiguous and eloquent teaching as he explained, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
To the ocean, the waves may appear selfish in their actions by deciding to rise and leave the group, but in doing so they open up a way for the rest to follow.
The secret to operating smoothly in relationships with other people is not about getting them to accept us as we are, but having so much self-acceptance for ourselves that we accept the way they see us.
Try thinking of the purest and most unconditional forms of love, such as those given by children or pets. They love us exactly for who we are without any expectations or desires to change us to be otherwise. We screw up and they wag their tails, bark and lick us. But as humans we create these ideas of perfection for each other; of how we should be and how the other person should be, which is why many of our relationships end up disappointing us.
If we have a partner who isn’t the way we expected them to be, we have the freedom of finding someone else. But with parents and immediate family members, what can we do?
The first thing we can do is become aware that each person lives habitually looking at the world through their own dream lenses. This realization provides us with the freedom to take responsibility for our half of the relationship as we realize we can’t change them. With this in mind, we can try to find new ways to have a heart-to-heart conversation with them explaining our feelings, our views about life and sharing our experiences. It’s amazing what honest communication with another person can do when it comes from a place of inner peace and understanding that everyone perceives life through their own special kind of dream lens. If verbal communication isn’t our strength, writing a letter or even making a video can serve the same purpose.
If all effort fails, at least you know that you have tried your best upholding your side of the relationship, and that the other side is out of your control. Whether this relationship is with your mother, father, sibling, friend, partner or child, accepting them is knowing that they are completely responsible for their half of the relationship and respecting what they do.
This is the only way there can be peace within any relationship.