Larry Barnhart
May 1983, Updated May, 1991

  How often have we heard people say -- or have we ourselves said -- "I am done with relationships: all they do is cause me pain and disillusionment!" Of course, after a period of time for "licking our wounds" we are out there playing in the game again. Doesn't it seem strange that for all the heartaches and troubles we experience in relationships, we nevertheless find ourselves irresistibly drawn back into them like a moth to a flame? If we really think hard about this problem, it soon becomes obvious that we are being plagued by some strange primordial CurSeS! What are these CurSeS? These CurSeS are simply certain strong desires that have been programmed into us by Mother Nature so that when our desires are fulfilled, her desires are fulfilled too. Let's take a closer look at these CurSeS:

    Skin Hunger

  Now you know what I mean by CurSeS!

  What are we going to do about these CurSeS? It seems that one half of the world is trying to deal with these CurSeS by denying that they are legitimate and acceptable desires, and the other half is not only trying to satisfy these desires, but are inventing new desires every day. The common denominator in both of these instances is that these people are being owned by their desires instead of being owners of their desires. Somewhere in between there must be a balance! (Hazrat Inayat Kahn once observed, "Balance is the keynote of spirituality.")

  A perfect example of an imbalanced approach is the case of my friend, George, who has a wooden eye. George was so self-conscious about his wooden eye that he wouldn't even ask a woman out for a date. (Of course, the reason we got along so famously was that I was also afraid even though I didn't have a wooden eye. It has been said that "those guilty of the same sin often join together to make it a virtue.") Then came the day George's psychiatrist could afford to feel guilty about taking any more of his money. The psychiatrist's practice had started to overflow with new patients, so George was rudely told to "cut the crap" and do something other than sitting around "navel gazing." That really shook him up, so one night we both went out to do some serious women-chasing at one of the local bars. Soon after we went in, he noticed a very nice looking woman who probably could have been a cover girl, except that she had big ears. This really got George excited as he reasoned that they would be a perfect match for each other because their imperfections would cancel one another out. After a few drinks and a lot of support and encouragement from me ("we teach best what we need to know most"), he finally stood up, crossed the room and asked her if she would like to dance. She became very happy and exclaimed, "would I, would I!" Poor George immediately jumped back, overcome with pain and anger, and then he cried out, "Big ears, Big ears!!"

  Now this is a rather extreme example of how an unbalanced perspective can create problems even in the most favorable circumstances. And then again, this story is dear to my heart because it describes very well the perception that I personally had during my late teens and through most of my twenties. And like my friend in the story, I indulged in many a "pity party" about how unfair, mean and rejecting women were. I was not willing to consider the wisdom offered by James Allen in his book As A Man Thinketh, where he stated, "A man only begins to be a man when he ceases to whine and revile, and commences to search for the hidden justice which regulates his life. As he adapts his mind to that factor, he ceases to accuse others as the cause of his condition. . ."

  In the light of the previous story and quote we can see that our problems are not problems of situations so much as problems of perceptions. In fact, at least half of the problems we experience are caused by an unquestioned belief system that says we should not have any problems. Therefore, stacking the weight of our judgment on top of an already existing problem only serves to make two problems where one problem would be quite sufficient. Of course, this is nothing new. Back around 100 A.D., a Roman Stoic Philosopher named Epictetus observed, "Men are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of things. Thus death is nothing terrible else it would have appeared so to Socrates."

  What I would like to suggest is that we start looking at our relationships as being, first and foremost, a school for our individual development, with the realization that we cannot build strength without first overcoming resistance. Now I am not advocating taking an adversarial position with our companions -- we all know how far that will get us! What I am advocating is that we realize that we each have weak spots in our nature and that we will invariably attract someone to us who will play a complimentary role, and in turn help us create the perfect environment for becoming aware of, and for correcting our weakness. It helps to keep in mind that if we ourselves were different, we would have attracted someone else into our lives and in turn would have created a totally different environment to play in. These ideas can be related to the ancient Greek philosophy that likened life itself to a gymnasium -- by mastering life’s challenges, we gain strength and dignity.

  In closing, I submit to you that only people with a "perfect" consciousness have "perfect relationships." I know I do not fit that description. Do you know anyone who does? Besides, who but us Americans could buy the idea that anything less than perfect and anything less than forever is a rip-off? I believe that we are well advised to accept the imperfections of others and of ourselves matter-of-factly. Then we can use the energy we usually spend either blaming others or beating ourselves up for self-analysis and positive action for change. Once again, I am obliged to call upon the wisdom of Epictetus who also said, "It is the action of the uninstructed person to reproach others for his own misfortunes; of one entering upon instruction, to reproach himself; and one perfectly instructed, to reproach neither others nor himself."

  Therefore, from an old-fashioned medical perspective, we could consider these CurSeS (Companionship, Skin Hunger and Sex) as being the three "sugar cubes" Mother Nature gives us to make us willing to "swallow our medicine." Our dignity and peace of mind requires that we neither lust after nor run from these "sugar cubes." We will best survive this course of instruction by becoming good students who have decided to start Learning Through Relationships.

(Please feel free to make copies of this article and pass them on to others.)

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