Relationships Are An Inside Job


relationshipsI received an email this week from one of my lovely Australian subscribers in response to a “Life Happens LIVE” podcast episode called “Opening Up To New Thinking”. She told me how it had given her new insight about the way we experience our thinking and, in particular, a new understanding of how we experience other people.

Inspired by this feedback, today I want to expand a little on the tangible difference we can all make to our own lives when we deepen our understanding of the inside out nature of relationships.

Often times, particularly when we are busy, tired or stressed, we react to relationships as if it they are happening to us; like we are the puppet and they are the puppet master pulling all the strings.

But moment by moment we live in the feeling of our thinking… always. There is never a time when we are not feeling what we are thinking, even when it really, really, REALLY looks like it is the outside world that is responsible for our emotional state.

As Mr. Einstein wisely put it, “Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one.”

You can transform your experience of any relationship for the better by taking ownership of the part you play in creating it.
So here I’m going to address relationships from two angles. The relationships you have with others and the one you have with yourself.

Owning Your Experience of Other People

I believe that fundamentally the purpose of having relationships with other people is that they serve to teach you more about yourself. They are a magnifier of your personal values. There is nothing like a close relationship to highlight what is really important to you, which is why they can be both a source of joy and immense frustration.

With an ‘outside in’ perspective it is easy to believe that the attitudes and actions of others is the reason you are not getting more of what you want in life. You might feel hurt by something they’ve said, restricted by their judgments or feel agitated by their different point of view. But when you calmly take a step back and see what’s really going on you are likely to recognise that things aren’t quite what they seem. There are actually four people in every relationship:

  1. You

  2. Them

  3. The version of them you hold in your head of who you think they are and the story you have about the way they should be.

  4. The version of you they hold in their head and the expectation they have for you.

It is fascinating that you are never really seeing the person as they truly are. Your interaction with them has to go through the filter of your thinking, which is clouded with all your personal philosophies, beliefs and values. And of course they are doing the same back.

Owning your experience of other people is about recognising that they are far more than you perceive them to be. If you feel tension or frustration around your relationship with them, it is not necessarily entirely their fault. It is more likely that something has rubbed up against your story, which means it is time to create some space to reconnect to your inside out understanding of the ‘thought / feeling’ system. Of course, other people can encourage you react negatively, but they can’t make you. You provide your own thoughts and interpretations that make up your reality.

All relationships heal and flourish when both sides are willing to drop their story and allow the other person to be a whole human being. But even when the other side still holds onto their story about you, you can be wise enough to know that they are just expressing their own ‘outside in’ experience and that, deep down, it has surprisingly little to do with you!

Owning Your Experience of Yourself

In the same way that you create stories and mental versions of the people in your life, you do exactly the same to yourself too. We all do (ain’t no shame in it!).

You have a self-image; a way of identifying with the kind of person you think you are. You have a belief about whether you are a good person or not. You compare yourself to others and get a feeling of being better or worse off than them. You praise yourself for a job well done, but you are also your harshest critic. You probably have a feeling of certainty about what you can and can’t do.

But again, you far more than you think you are. Your self-image is a product of the ego, whose primary function is to keep itself alive and relevant by feeding you stories and false evidence about the way human experience really works. It’s intention is always positive, but it often has a cack-handed way of serving your best interests. It thinks that by making you judge and chastise yourself you’ll do better next time. Or it will show you a vivid mental disaster movie of what will happen if you get something wrong, so that you don’t risk it and stay playing safe on the lower steps of life.

The ego is a ‘learned-self’. Through a lifetime of interpreting your experiences and applying meaning to them it has learned and created ‘plausible’ concepts to help you navigate your world.

But beyond you ego is your ‘unconditioned self’. This is who you really are. It is the you that plays host to your true potential, your inner wisdom and intuition. Is it the BIG you.

Your unconditioned self is a place of permanent and pure wellbeing because it has not been polluted by personal thinking.

Have you ever wondered why some of your most insightful ideas have come to you while you’ve not been thinking about them too much? It is because you took your ego out of the equation and let your wisdom do its work.

Spending time contemplating what you would be capable of if you no longer believed the limiting stories of your ego is one of the most freeing exercises you can engage in.

Real personal growth is less about trying to improve yourself and more about accepting your true nature. No amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance.

The most effective way to own your experience of you is to know that you are not your ego and to practice self-forgiveness. Genuinely forgive yourself for all the times you’ve put yourself down, prevented yourself from taking courageous steps, or for judging others unfairly.

Without forgiveness you can never fully connect to the potential and the wholeness of your being. Forgiveness really does set you free.

And the next time you notice your ego trying to convince you that your experience of life is coming from out there rather than from in here, you can just smile at it and say, “Thank you very much, I’ll take it from here.”


With love


“Here to help you live with purpose.”

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