Lately I’ve been wondering if perhaps my upbringing did me some favors after all. If I’d been raised in a healthier way, I think there would be lots of questions where I would know (or think I knew) the ‘right’ answer. So I wouldn’t bother digging deeper. I wouldn’t approach the question as if it were a research project, and I probably wouldn’t be open to learning things that (might) confound my expectations.
For instance, there are one or two people currently in my life that I’ve known all my life. They genuinely care about me, and I, them. But I don’t know why they like me. If I could take for granted that of course people I’m related to like me, I probably would’ve never thought about why (or why not). I have considered asking these people what it is they like about me, but I’ve tried that with other people, and those people couldn’t think of anything that they did like, which was traumatizing for me. Plus, it would probably put these people in an awkward spot, which is not my intention. (I’m really not interested in having another round of, “of course your family likes you! It’s just that the ways they show it are toxic and almost killed you, but they really meant well! Maybe you’re being oversensitive!”)
No, my point is, I have had to think long and hard about why anybody does like me. Because any answers are not obvious. And then I can generalize from that, what do healthy relationships feel like from the inside?
And once I think of feeling — how a situation feels to me — I have data, sensory impressions and emotions, to work with.
Now that I’m not automatically discounting my own perceptions, I find there is a wealth of data from interacting with others. I’m just not sure how to interpret it with regards to non-humans. With humans, it’s a simple matter to notice that when I have to interact with Person V, my stomach hurts, and I feel dread and despair. But I don’t think I’ve ever had an unpleasant experience interacting with non-humans. So what am I doing right? Or wrong? What could I do better?
I have to ask the questions, and then I have to experiment, and see what works or doesn’t. And I bet a lot of it is dependent upon the personalities involved, so that I can’t really generalize. Just because the maple tree outside my window seems to enjoy my interactions with it, I can’t really assume that any maple tree I meet will feel the same way about me. Why would they?
So if every relationship is different, then I think I need a lot more relationships. And I think I need to dig deeper into what I’m feeling: who do I really enjoy spending time with? What might be possible reasons for that? Are some of those reasons things I could add to my other relationships?
To reconceptualize how I behave within my relationships, I need more data than I have now. And maybe I need to try not-gardening again.