“He is using you….that is just wrong.”
The words left my mouth even before I knew fully what I was saying. A friend had just been explaining their recent life dilemma to me and was seeking advice. It’s easy to give advice, to look at a situation from the outside and speak about the themes that we see, to worry about protecting those we care about from the narcissistic behaviors or others dangers we see in the world. We do this with good intentions, just like I gave my friend the above advice, but the problem is that while we do have positive intentions we don’t always have understanding. The concept of echo chambers have been around for a bit, you can find more info on them here. But the basic understanding is that echo chambers prevent us from true self-reflection, because we surround ourselves with people that just validate all the stuff we are currently carrying, we don’t experience true self-growth. And while echo chambers are often in reference to our ideas about the world, we would be ill informed to not consider them within our social relationships as well. It’s easy to validate a friend in their feelings, or take their side on their viewpoint of a person or situation, sometimes without even realizing it. And it doesn’t matter how honest our friend is, the concept based on the energy and cognitive orientation between two people or a group of people. So what do we do, how can we avoid or at least minimize these chambers in our lives? The first consideration people often have, is to simply have a lot of diversity within their social circles, and that this somehow solves things. While this can be helpful in the reflection of political ideals, it still doesn’t really get to the heart of the social level question being presented. If you can’t tell, this issue is super important to me, as self growth is a core value I hold. Recently I’ve been struggling with not feeling validated in relationships, and slightly disconnected. I was writing about this, and it kept me up till four am one morning till these thoughts just spilled out of me: “I’m struggling to sleep, and then I had this thought come to me, that brought some comfort. I’m stressed because I no longer have any sense of what to trust, self, other, “outside”, theory, they have all “failed” me and I’m a bit lost on what to do. And then I thought about listening to the depth of my heart, and being super raw and honest as a way of living. Of knowing that people have great intentions, of listening to their words, but honoring truth as well. Of knowing that things are connected in a way that I don’t understand, but that I don’t need to understand in order to live fully.” This concept, of listening deeply to our hearts, and finding a community that does the same seems like a step in a different direction for me. But it goes beyond that if we are to get away from echo chambers. Alan Watts says it well when he talks about how we have created so many wonderful systems of language and understanding within the world, and that in doing so we may have missed the world for what it truly is. My sense is that this notion is something that is deeply true, and it goes beyond shifting of language. It goes beyond a sense of letting go of “wrong” or “right” thinking, into sinking into the deep narratives of our lives, our stories, and the stories of those around us. Of seeing those stories, of living those stories, and allowing those stories to happen without them determining who we are. Of letting go of things like shame, guilt, hurt, and wounding but before we let these things go, we must own them. Healing begins with truth, and the truth is, sometimes we are all just hiding behind our words.