I recently read a book called “The Courage to be Disliked” by a couple of Japanese authors and couldn’t help but notice the overlaps with yoga philosophy. The authors base the book around the premise that all our problems are essentially interpersonal relationship problems.
The quality of human life should be calculated based on our emotional states. Thus, if a person has a net worth of $1 billion, but is constantly experiencing emotions of frustration – the person’s quality of life can be depicted as one of frustration. Similarly if one has a beautiful loving family, and lives on a tropical island, but mostly experiences sadness and depression; the quality of life could be described as being sad or depressed.
Our emotions govern how we feel in every moment of our life. Where do these negative emotions arise from? Jealousy, greed, anger, sadness, irritation, shame, guilt, fear, loneliness, disgust and frustration all result from issues or challenges in our interpersonal relationships.
We constantly compare ourselves to others, are worried about what they think of us, fear being rejected, and strive for recognition. As social animals, all humans experience feelings of inferiority and inadequacy. We learn to cope with the feelings of inferiority in a combination of four different ways.
- The first is we develop an inferiority complex. We feel that it is impossible to live our best lives because we didn’t grow up with opportunity or we faced extreme hardship and so on. Our past traumas dictate our present capabilities.
- The second coping mechanism is to develop a superiority complex. We deal with our feelings of inferiority by developing a big ego and a sense that we are better than everyone else. One thinks that one is right, in all situations and at all times.
- The third coping mechanism is to think of ourselves as being different or special. We take on the role of a victim, and then want others to talk to us or treat us in a way that acknowledges our specialness. We try to bully all our interpersonal relationships to treat us in a way that feeds into our identity of specialness.
- The fourth coping mechanism, according to the authors, is the only healthy way to cope with our feelings of inferiority. We stay humble, recognising that there is nothing special about us, that we are not unnaturally gifted or superior. With that recognition we work harder every single day to become better versions of ourselves. We keep reminding ourselves that apart from the work we put in on a regular basis, we would simply be average. We harness our inferiority and transform it into a continual quest for growth and improvement.
Humans live in complex societies whereby each and every one of us has to develop and nurture many different kinds of interpersonal relationships.
- Work relationships are essential to thrive professionally and feel good at work.
- Friend relationships are essential to feel a sense of belonging. Having the right kinds of friends around us can also inspire us to improve and become better versions of ourselves.
- Our intimate love relationship is even more important as this is the person we will spend the majority of our time with.
- Probably the hardest set of relationships are those with family. An intimate or marital relationship after a period of struggle, can be ended, but the relationship with one’s parents or children can’t simply be ended because things get rough. How we create and deal with all these relationships lead to the emotions we feel, which in turn feeds into our quality of life.
This makes me think that working on myself also essentially involves working on all my interpersonal relationships. The quality of my life is dependent on the kinds of interpersonal relationships I create. Thus yoga can be viewed as a practice that allows me to take care of my inner self, which would result in taking better care of all my relationships. This in turn will help me feel better, resulting in a positive feedback loop. Take care of yourself, but also take care of your people!