Why Are You In the Relationships You Are In? (On “Right Relationship” . . . For the Bluebird in Your Soul)

Why are you in the relationships you are in?


Because they’re fun and they make you feel good about yourself and being you?

Because the other person supports and accepts and salves you?

Why do you choose to let some people come closer to you and keep some people at a distance?

Certainly pathological liars, manipulative people, erratic and abusive people should be kept at a distance. But that’s not who and what’s being talked about here.

Peck defined mental health “as an ongoing dedication to truth and reality at all costs.” How many of us have chosen and value our friends and relationships for such a reason—because they show us who we are and provide us with a very honest mirror for us to see who and what we are? How many of us choose our friends because they are very truthful with us and don’t just pander to us and salve us emotionally?

How many of us choose to enter certain relationships because they offer us an opportunity to see ourselves more clearly, because the other person is fairly wise and discerning and clear thinking? How many of us have friends like that—friends who are willing to risk being that honest and candid with us?

How many of us want our friends to be honest with us and ask them to be so? How many of us have relationships where when we ask, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” our friends won’t bullshite us and tell us that “we’re the fairest of them all”? How many of us can ask our friends honestly, What do I need to do to become a better person or a better me? What do I need to do to grow as a person? What are some things that you all see that I should think about working on?

If you don’t have friends and relationships like this, why not? Do you not know any honest and deep thinking people?

Or have you just succeeded in your avoidance and in walling them out? (Cue up Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men” . . .) Are you the type—and if so, don’t sweat it, because you’re not alone; you’re in good company because there are many like you, the vast majority of men and women are like you—who can’t handle the truth?

“For it is not inertia alone that causes human relationships to repeat themselves from case to case with such unspeakable monotony and boredom; it is timidity before anything new and inconceivable—any experience with which we feel ourselves ill-equipped to cope. But only someone who is ready for everything, who doesn’t exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible, will live the relationship with another human being as something alive and will himself sound and draw on the depths of his own being.” ( – Rilke, “Letters to a young Poet,” in letter no. eight)

Can you handle the truth?

Can you deal with the truth?

Do you have any interest in the truth?

Or are you content just to hide out from yourself and life in your relationships?

Are your relationships a means of self-avoidance or self-revelation and self-awareness?

How examined or unexamined a life are you interested in living? If you’re not interested in living an honest and examined life, then you are wasting your life—you are just another troubled guest darkening the earth.

Why do that? Why be that way? Isn’t there something in you that tells you that you’re better than that? Or has that part of you been killed off or covered over and is buried so deeply that you no longer hear its small still voice? Have you bound and gagged it and buried it beneath the floorboards of your life and you can no longer hear its muffled cries?

Bluebird” – Charles Bukowski

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do


Only in relationship can you know yourself, not in abstraction and certainly not in isolation. The movement of behavior is the sure guide to yourself. It’s the mirror of your consciousness: this mirror will reveal its content, the images, the attachments, the fears, the loneliness, the joys and sorrow. Poverty lies in running away from this, either in its sublimations or its identities.” – Krishnamurti

Powerful words. Easy to quote. But incredibly difficult to practice. They require (as well as create) immense courage and integrity. It’s much easier just to read such words, quote them, pass them along, and just continue on your way living and acting as you do, than it is to actually stop and think and look honestly and candidly at oneself and see how they might apply to your own life and actions and how you show up and behave towards others.

If you are willing to serenely bear the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter.” – St. Theresa of Lysieux

Many of his disciples who were listening said, ‘These sayings are hard; who can accept them?’ And as a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” – John 6:60, 66

I know it is obvious that you will listen but will go on in your way, because that is the most convenient irrational thoughtless way. And if that is comforting, then it indicates that you really don’t care what happens in the world, that you really don’t have any affection, love for mankind. All that you are concerned with is you own little comfort. Right?” – Krishnamurti, in “On Relationship,” pg. 145

Only by slowing down and watching honestly (with no softeners, no bullshite) how you act in your relationships can you know who you really are. If you are avoidant of some people, why are you avoidant of them? What makes a particular person “dangerous” to you? What makes you incapable of or unwilling to invite that person to tea or to sit still long enough to risk an honest conversation with him or her? Afraid of being see for who you really are? Afraid of being busted?

Knowledge creates obligation. And as long as we surround ourselves with crooked mirrors (what Schnarch calls “mutual admiration pacts” where the participants provide distorted and warped and unwarrantedly generous and optimistic positive-only reflections of each other), then we can keep up the façade and continue on in our thoughtless irrational uncaring ways.

But the moment an honest reflection of ourselves enters into our lives, that moment creates a potential tremendous crisis of conscience for us. If we allow the reflection and we don’t run from it or wall out of break the mirror, then we will have to do something about what we have seen in ourselves—that self-knowledge will create obligation; it will oblige us to end the dissonance between who we think we are and what we have just seen of ourselves. That is, if we have any real integrity.

Or we will get busy walling out the mirror—walling out the other person from our life. . . .

Relationship is self-revelation; it is because we do not want to be revealed to ourselves that we run away and hide in comfort” (Krishnamurti).

Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” – John Kenneth Galbraith, “Economics, Peace and Laughter,” (1971), p. 50.

Make no mistake about it, honest, clear thinking people scare the shite out of us. They bust us, they lay bare our bullshite and call us out on our nonsense—all of our weaknesses, all of our little psychological games, all of our flaws and nasty little interpersonal habits and vices and cowardices and avoidant tendencies. They show us what we are. And because we don’t like what we are (or see), or because we already have such low self-esteem that we don’t feel like we can handle seeing ourselves for who and what we are, we run, or we wall the other person out. We act like a coward and in doing so lose even more respect and esteem for ourselves. We set the bar even lower for ourselves.

Are you really so weak and broken that you can’t handle an honest reflection of yourself? Is that what your life has come to? Is that what you’ve been reduced to—a life of dishonesty, self-deceit, dedication to avoiding reality and truth?


If we examine our life, our relationship with another, we will see that . . . [w]e are really not concerned with another; though we talk a great deal about it, actually we are not concerned. We are related to someone only as long as that relationship gratifies us, as long as it gives us refuge, as long as it satisfies us. But the moment there is a disturbance in the relationship that produces discomfort in ourselves, we discard that relationship. In other words, there is relationship only as long as we are gratified. This may sound harsh, but if you really examine your life very closely, you will see it is a fact; and to avoid a fact is to live in ignorance, which can never produce right relationship.” – Krishnamurti, “On Relationship,” pg. 11


If we look into our lives and observe ourselves and our relationships, we will see it is a process of building resistance against another, a wall over which we look and observe the other; but we always retain the psychological wall and remain behind it. And as long as we live behind a wall, there is no relationship with another.

We live enclosed because we think it is much more secure and gratifying that way. The world is so disruptive, there is so much sorrow, so much pain, so much misery, and we want to escape it and live within the walls of our own psychological being (or in our little on-line pseudo-worlds).

The question is can we commune with each other—which is have a real relationship on all the different levels of consciousness with another—if we are related to each other primarily through physical desire or psychological need? We know what relationship is at present—a contention, a struggle, a pain, or mere habit. And to understand the alternative—which is right relationship—we have to go into the question of self-knowledge, because without knowing yourself as you are, you cannot have right relationship with another.

Do what you will—escape, worship, read, go to the movies, turn on the radio—as long as there is no understanding of yourself, you cannot have right relationship—only contention, antagonism, confusion—not only within yourself, but around you in your relationships. As long as we use relationships merely as a means of gratification, escape, distraction, mere activity, there can be no self-knowledge.

Self-knowledge is uncovered, revealed, through relationship—if you are willing to go into the question of relationship and expose yourself to it honestly and completely. Because relationship, if we allow it, can be a process of self-revelation. But if we do not allow it, then relationship becomes merely an escapist activity, an exercise in self-gratification. And as long as we merely use and value relationship for security and gratification, and not as a means for self-knowledge and self-revelation, then relationship is bound to create confusion and antagonism.

– Krishnamurti, “On Relationship,” pp. 11-19


About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
This entry was posted in Courage, Love, Mature Love, Rilke, Schnarch and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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