Life is easier when we can assume things. Assumptions save us a lot of time and pain. We can assume that a flame is going to burn and so we probably shouldn’t put our finger on it. We can assume that if you go around screaming into people’s ears, they will probably become very bothered and dislike you. We can assume that most people would not mind having the door held for them because it makes their life easier. We can also assume that holding the door open for someone who is halfway across the room from the exit is not a very good idea because it puts pressure on them to hurry towards the door so you can fulfill some sense of politeness.
These assumptions ultimately culminate into our social decorum- our sets of rules and manners that guide us towards treating others pleasantly and with respect and consideration. We usually learn these manners and the reasoning behind them from our parents/elders/peers. What is of utmost importance is really examining the reasoning behind these behaviors. What we need to do is question these assumptions.
If we do not question these assumptions, we let “society” dictate the way we live. To live in such a way is to place your happiness and power in the hands of an imaginary set of players. We must engage our curiosity and live in the moment. Each social situation is new, and though it is helpful to call upon wisdom we’ve gained from previous situations, most of us have not even gone out in search of such wisdom.
To gain such wisdom is to observe the effects of your actions on others. The trick is to seeing the effects for what they are instead of what you think they should be. This requires us to look at each situation with new eyes.
We need to examine the assumption, our actions, and who we are effecting. Out of the people we are effecting, we need to decide who we care about (and to what degree we care about them) enough to adapt our behavior to their wishes. These people are our “society.” We are the center of our “society” and we must choose the people who we respect and care for the most to be our influences. These people are the ones we adapt our behavior to in order to foster love and cooperation to the highest degree.
We must respect the desires and wishes of these people we place highly in our society. We also need to be able to discuss their wishes and assumptions about our behavior with them to make sure they are responding from a conscious place instead of reacting to it via their own set of assumptions. This practice obviously requires a good amount of time, thought, introspection,and communication. It is a challenge, but it will lead to a more conscious way of living with people we love and care about. These relationships are worth all the trouble of hard conversations and hard questions.
As we travel further away from the center, we must still try to foster that same good will, but we can do it to a lesser degree. The “outskirts” of our society are people we don’t really know, so we don’t give them the power to influence us. We must still treat these people with respect and politeness- this behavior is much more casual and impersonal.
There are also people we do not want in our “society.” These are people we do not wish to interact with and want nothing to do with. Do not let these people influence you into behaving in a way that opposes/defies them. For example- we probably do not want that religious nutcase in our society. But to allow our distaste for him to color our behavior is to allow him to influence us. We cannot let our hate and displeasure shape our behavior. This puts us into defensive and passive aggressive living. We must instead sculpt our behavior with a positive approach- we should conduct ourselves with intentions of cultivating our examined values.
As we move along in life, we can expect our “society” to change. We choose different people as we choose different values to pursue and uphold. Though we might not have to cast out people from our society, we can expect to change out the people who we allow to influence us and whom we adapt to consciously.
I consciously choose my best friends and family as my inner society. I care deeply about how my actions and behavior affects them. They care about me enough to communicate and discuss my behavior and their expectations and assumptions. Under the right circumstances, we can do this calmly and effectively. (This is just a reminder that communication is hard because asking challenging questions is hard and requires lots of time and good attitude- so be tactful in bringing up these discussion). I am willing to change the way I conduct myself to please them as long as the root of that change lies in a shared value.
—> For example: If my friend thinks I’m too aggressive in my jokes, I will tone down my jokes. I respect her need for more balance and diplomacy. I also hold those values. I consciously choose to alter my behavior to cooperate with my society. Our relationship improves. Our lives improve.
When we maintain the respect and good graces of our society, we actually give ourselves more direction in challenging and testing out our assumptions. Our inner society gives us structure, and with structure comes limitations. Limitations can be a good thing.
For example, if I have a romantic partner in my inner circle and we agree consciously to monogamy and exclusivity, I put limits on my curiosity. I have a set of values to respect and uphold while in my relationship, so I no longer need to explore assumptions about monogamy and commitment. If this feels authentic to me, I can stop questioning it and move onto experimenting with other aspects of our relationship until we find more alignment and authenticity. With all of that cooperation comes stability and support, which allows more freedom for other pursuits.
Let’s observe a relationship with less structure and limitation. Some people may have partners with values contrary to strict monogamy which is also valid. They test out different degrees of exclusivity and commitment. They can explore different modes of the “romantic relationship” because they place value on experimentation and openness. In my opinion, this openness can become destructive if there isn’t a goal or end point in sight. Experimentation can become blind exploration without a theory in mind. This theory needs to center around finding true happiness. For example, this theory could revolve around finding authentic connection. I urge you to have some sort of grounding theory about what you ultimately need in a relationship before experimenting and exploring.
The more we test out our theories on fulfillment and alignment with our changing set of values, the more we become aligned with behaviors that lead to true happiness. As we refine our behaviors, we adopt lifestyles that center around our values. This is the way to true happiness and productivity. When we can easily maintain lifestyles that support our values, we free up a great deal of time and energy. With this abundance of resources, we can go full force into our creative pursuits and help build the kind of world we want to live in.