Thursday, October 24, 2013

Our Common Humanity vs. The Separateness

When you encounter a stranger, it's helpful to remember that you and that person share a common humanity. You know that much of the experiences that define your life - the joy, the wonder, the challenges, the adversity - also define the lives of people you know nothing about. This understanding can be the source of humility, compassion, sympathy and empathy.

Our common humanity - some of the characteristics and tendencies we all share that make us different from other species...
  • Earth is our home - we depend on its atmosphere, its gravity, its magnetic field, its large moon, its proximity to the sun, its water, its abundance to survive and thrive
  • The human body - its capabilities, physical limitations, needs and vulnerabilities to accident and disease
  • The human brain - the power to imagine, to reason - some of us better at this than others
  • Sentience - we're alive, and we know that we're alive
  • The need for answers - Who am I? What's my purpose? Where did everything come from?
  • Mortality - a limited life journey in which we will grow old and eventually die, and we know this in advance
  • Fear of dying - the ultimate horror, which often drives us into evasion and denial
  • Language - written and spoken communication, which powers our intelligence
  • Human civilization - all the technical wonder, all the bullshit
  • Free will - we have the power to decide what we want to do
  • Feelings - dozens of ways to experience emotion, including self-defeating emotions, such as envy, hatred, vengeance, pride, and guilt
  • Tendency to judge people initially based on physical appearance
  • Tendency to believe a pleasant lie rather than a troubling truth
  • Tendency to decide based on emotion more often than on reason
  • Tendency to think other people are pretty much like we are
  • Tendency to believe that the way things are now are the way things will continue to be
  • Need for love and companionship - being alone makes us anxious
  • Challenged by life - the difficulty to manage meaningful work, family, friendship, food, shelter
And one more thing we all share, our separateness - all the differences that make us totally unique.
  • Genetic make-up - every human body is different
  • Personal history - every life story, every sequence of life experiences, our memories
  • Values - our life priorities, what we care about
  • Knowledge - our education, what we've learned from life
  • Skills - among thousands of possible practical and mental skills, the set of things we've gotten good at
  • Habits - the collection of behavior patterns for dealing with life situations
  • Feelings - the way we react and experience feelings - all different
  • Attitudes - the set of thousands of opinions, conclusions, understandings, assumptions we believe are true
  • Health condition
  • Level of physical fitness
  • Financial situation
  • Life challenges
  • Tastes and preferences
  • Circle of friends
  • Character strengths
  • Personal philosophy or religious beliefs
In other words, even though we can appreciate much of what our brothers and sisters are going through in life, we really don't know what they're going through in life. We know what it's like to be human, but we really don't know what it's like to be them.

File this understanding under "Amazing, But True." Maybe it will help keep you out of trouble and be a better friend to someone.

A Lloyd Bridges Story - How Much Do You Really Know About Your Friends?

With Stories We Defeat the Separateness

Intimacy, Separateness and Social Media

Separateness - What I Don't Know about My Friends and Family

Relationships and Separate Journeys

Six Ways to Be Strong for Relationships

Awareness -  We Are Blind to the Tragedies Around Us

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2013. Building Personal Strength .

1 comment:

Matt Bauman said...

Great Post. It was a pleasure to read.