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Does Your Sense of Otherness Keep You Small?
A seminar speaker asks each person in the audience to write their name on a balloon with a marker.
Then all the balloons are collected and placed in another room, and everyone is asked to find the balloon with their name on it, within 5 minutes.
They all start frantically searching for their name, colliding with and pushing one another.
Nobody is able to find their own balloon in this chaos.
Then everyone is asked to randomly grab a balloon and give it to the person whose name is written on it.
Within minutes everyone has their own balloon.
The speaker explains that this is exactly what happens in our lives, because everyone is frantically looking for happiness all around, not knowing where it is.
His conclusion is that our happiness lies in the happiness of other people, and that this is the purpose of human life.
I'm sure most people read this story and feel that it makes sense, that life is about making others happy.
I, however, don't believe this is totally true.
Don't get me wrong, I think that the greatest gift you can give yourself is serving others, but only if if comes from a place of love-and most importantly, if you don't exclude yourself in the process.
Otherwise the motivation is probably ego-based and the unconscious pay-off an unspoken attempt to protect an emotional wound.
How do I know this? Because you can try to make others happy, please everyone, and feel miserable and resentful.
To feel joy, you have to tap into what lies beyond the fleeting, ego-based sense that you're "good" or doing the "right" thing.
The speaker in the story above was missing this because our experience of the world reflects the dynamic between our sense of self and our sense of "otherness.
" Our sense of otherness is part of who we are, and it's shaped during early childhood through our interaction with the world.
It's everything that is not perceived as "I"-our parents or caretakers, teachers, friends, family members, and so on.
However, because our attention is always on the outside, the line between the world and ourselves gets blurry and our sense of otherness becomes an integral part of our own identity.
It maintains both the illusion of individuality and our codependency to others.
As a result, it dictates how we relate and respond to the world, how much intimacy we allow, and most importantly, how we believe others perceive us and what they expect from us.
Yep, it's those authoritative internal voices that are always judging, censoring, and bullying our attempts to freely express ourselves.
Like kids asking for our parents' approval, we automatically filter everything through them.
The problem is that these voices have overpowered our own true voice, keeping us in a codependent trap, which is what in my opinion, the story above reinforces.
It's precisely when we start looking for ourselves and breaking free from the old codependent patterns that we can focus our internal radar on finding the balloon with not just our name but our soul signature on it-and restoring the power of our inner voice.
Grabbing a balloon and giving it to whomever it belongs to may come easily, almost naturally, but it maintains the belief that only through someone else can we love ourselves or find happiness-that we need someone else to feel connected, joyful, or alive.
Yet happiness is our true nature, and tapping into it requires a harmonious relationship between our sense of self and our sense of otherness-a playful dance of acceptance and self-love.
And this can only happen when we become familiar with our emotional terrain and give our sense of self a stronger voice than that of a judging censor.
When we stop believing the bully within we become our best, most loving friend.
Once that balance is restored, all other relationships can also become supportive partnerships based on equality and creative cooperation.
And boy, isn't the world in urgent need of those?