When I walk into a grocery store to look for some yummy hot sauce, I often look at the products on the shelf, compare the labels, compare their prices, compare their ingredients, and decide which one matches my criteria for taste and price.
These comparative computations are necessary, and I quite enjoy making them. I get good feelings because I have choice. Back in the day, my ancestors had to labor for hours on end to brew hot sauce. Today, I can get it delivered to me on Amazon while laying on the couch carrying out my “work from home” activities on my iPhone. Ahh … how the times have changed 🙂
But there are matters of comparison that often afflict most us human beings on a day to day basis. Ones that drive us to sacrifice our well-being in service of becoming better for someone or something, such that we can “earn our right” to have things be good, valid, or worthy. Or, to diminish our well-being by curtailing all the good things life throws our way, throwing it to someone or something else we deem as more worthy of it; hoping that we can improve their lives by doing so.
Conversely so, there are specialized expressions of human beings who will find it their duty to over-exert their self-worth too, claiming that their well-being depends on sacrificing, diminishing, consuming, and discrediting others’ well-being such that they can be well. Though these beings are rare.
All the afore points of discussion are matters of worth; the lack of and the exessive. And worth, as Carl Buchheit so aptly taught me, has an in-built comparative in its linguistic construct. We cannot compute worth without comparing the subject in question (often ourselves) to someone, some ‘ones’, something, or some ‘things’.
How this manifests in our lives is to be observed on a case-by-case basis. Common behaviors that you may be familiar with include:
… Finding proxies for measuring our “worth” by identifying with a number in our bank account, a certificate from some respectable authority, or the number of people who “like” our Facebook page or posts.
… Measuring our success by comparing our competency with other perceived “competitors” in our field; pursuing their shadow with the illusion that their shadow is a mirror of our “better Self.”
… Deciding what we can or can’t do, based on someone or something whom we empower to decide the validity and quality of who we are in accordance with their standards and expectations.
… Gaining validation and worth by discrediting the validity of another’s opinion, behaviors, and life as whole.
All of these have their use of course, and having, achieving, and wanting are all wonderful human experiences to embrace. But in many contexts, computations of worth have their shortcomings. Especially since they draw out our attention to the external world, and reinforce the presupposition that other people in life are their behaviors.
Put simply, who we are = what we do and have.
This places a trance, a mist, or a veil between us and all our interactions with other people and aspects of life. In relationships, rather than being able to see the other person, and feel seen, our attentions are drawn to assess and compare their behaviors with what they do. For example …
… Did he or she tell me how amazing I am?
… Am I doing a good enough job to make sure she or he isn’t abandoning me?
(Note: this is different to the healthy give and take you expect from relationships. Where both parties communicate their unique and common needs, and find a middle ground to continue that interaction.)
Rather than being able to be present with another human being which includes what they are ‘doing’; comparative compulsions of worth delete the recognition of the “Self” we are interacting with, drawing out our focus on what the Self is doing.
But there is no human being’s whose behaviors we absolutely agree with or whose behaviors are a perfect match for our life’s criteria since everyone is unique.
When we presuppose another’s behavior as Self, we are incapable of appreciating the entire human being in front of us. Rather, we project our expectations of how they ought to be (or not), and how we ought to be (or not). You can scale these same expectations to our relationship with the world at large.
In NLP Marin land, we say it is more useful to distinguish the behavior from the Self that is generating their behavior. So someone can demonstrate behavior we would consider unacceptable without presupposing that that person’s existence is unacceptable. That is, we can embrace the eternal validity of any human being, whether we agree with the way they behave or not.
This is a Rapport-enabling maneuvre, and one that allows us to open up to the intended positive outcomes of all beings and their behaviors, extending the ways we can connect with ourselves and each other.