Relationships break up because of incompatibility or lack of emotional stability or relationship skills to navigate the relationship through the challenges life brings.
We are incompatible with someone when we allow ourself to get swept away with delusions. For example, we marry someone so beautiful or rich that we fail to notice the other aspects that we will later claim makes them incompatible.
We lack competence when we lack the emotional foundations and stability to be able to manage the emotions our relationship brings up.
When we lack the relationship skills to be able to understand our partner, express our needs and negotiate both our dreams the relationship puts more and more demands on our emotional capacities.
These seven delusions are what determines how well you live. In other words how honourably you live and how good a person you are being.
We are at our core animals. Clothed and primped, but animals none the less. Nature is monstrous. Animal survives by eating animal. Our nature is to feel threatened, angry, envious and so on.
The art and challenge of living is to transcend our nature and become the product of our choices and not our instincts.
Catholics for centuries have been guided by the seven deadly sins. Whilst I don’t believe in much else from religion and much as I’d love to have come up with my own original collection (Pride) after long thought and analysis I have to admit this covers the range of personal failings.
Since relationships are between people, thus the problems we see in relationships are reflections of the weaknesses of the individuals involved and mastering these goes a long way to mastering relationships. Relational skills are learned and developed. What determines their success or failure is the emotional foundations they rest on. The breaking point of relationships is when we can no longer manage our emotions
Hell has traditionally been thought of as a physical place with burning fire, the devil poking you and the moans of tormented souls.
Hell is really about the here and now. Life sucks when your relationship sucks. You can’t focus on anything else and all you want is to just be happy again.
Heaven is thought of as a paradise where you can do what you want, where actually heaven is the state of happiness. The deep inner peace and security that comes from a well lived life.
A happy relationship doesn’t in itself bring you happiness, but it does give you a large part of it and gives you the secure base to be more confident and effective in the world.
The Seven Deadly Delusions And The Solutions That Make A Well Lived Life
Life is a series of challenges. How well we meet these challenges determines how we feel about ourselves.
You see, one of the most bandied about concepts is self esteem. Everyone is diagnosed to be suffering from low self-esteem, yet really what self esteem boils down to is how well you are doing at living and how good a person you think you are being.
If you’re shagging your secretary, cheating your boss and too lazy to take an interest in your kids how good of a person are you going to think you are?
Sometimes our low self esteem is because we’re afraid to look at ourselves honestly. My opinion is that much of depression is based on a fundamental basis of believing that you are a bad person and therefore having an unwillingness to examine yourself to the core.
So here is the list of sins or delusions and their counterpart virtues which lead us out of pain and into peace.
Pride vs Respect
Life is a dance. What you have interacts with the context you live within. Some of what we achieve is because of our efforts, but only because of the opportunities. Nothing is all us. True self esteem comes not from thinking we’re wonderful, but from knowing our place within the grand scheme. We are a part of life, just like every other creature.
Pride is the origin of narcissism. It’s ultimately the idea that you are the centre of the universe and so are special. The danger to this is that it makes you believe that you are different and therefore better and subjects the universe nature etc to you.
The damage to our universe, cruelty to animals and to humans comes from pride.
Pride is damaging because it makes us love ourself over others. In a relationship this might mean refusing to accept that you’re wrong. It might lead you to be condescending, controlling, critical or contemptuous. It will mean you won’t accept being wrong and so fights can’t be resolved.
The solution is respect for all. We are all a part of the whole and it is the whole that matters. When we deeply understand that we are all parts of the same jigsaw puzzle we give up the need to be more important than everyone else and we also let go of the pressure of always being right and having to prove how great we are.
Envy vS Acceptance
Envy is about wishing life was different. Wishing I had his looks, her brains, riches etc. Essentially wishing the cards you were dealt were something other than they are.
There is no better. It’s not the situation, but the way you respond to the situation that matters.
The belief that that you’ve been dealt a bad hand is implying that others have been given an unfair advantage over yourself. This is a way to excuse yourself and so fail to fully engage in life.
Envy is damaging because it leads to wishing things could be different over working with what is. In a relationship this may cause you to look at other couples or potential partners and expect your relationship and partner to match up to someone else. It can lead to bitterness and unrealistic expectations.
The solution is acceptance of what is and gratitude for what you have while working towards getting together wherever you want to be.
Gluttony vs Temperance
Gluttony is about wanting more than you need. Losing yourself in excessive consumption.
This comes from the belief that the good life comes from eating, drinking and indulging. It causes you to seek pleasure from things rather than engaging with life.
The problem with gluttony is familiar to anyone who’s ever tried to diet. What you soon realise is that were you in control, it would be effortless to cut out foods. However, you have allowed your cravings to take over you.
Aside from what it does to your health, gluttony is damaging because it signals a loss of self-discipline. It is overvaluing consumption over connection therefore leads to seeking solace in food, drink, drugs etc. In a relationship the obvious impact is that it can lead to addiction or drunkenness and related problems. It can also lead to obesity and for the other partner to lose attraction. However, it is a little more than that. When you’re already pissed off with someone it can lead to disgust.
Also, the more subtle point is that Christians see gluttony as being so involved in the sentient life that you lose sight of God. I’m not religious, but what gives us meaning is our sense of spirituality. There has to be something more to our lives than physical pleasure and so gluttony has an element of spiritual decay that will reflect within the relationship more indirectly.
The solution is temperance. Not drinking, eating or consuming more than you need. It can seem hard to understand how this is considered a deadly sin for many people because surely overeating isn’t the biggest crime. However crimes are about behaviour within a context. These are about the distractions and temptations that can lead you off the straight and narrow and into attitudes and behaviours that make you lose yourself.
Lust vS love
Lust is about losing yourself in search of sex, power or money. Power and money are tools to be used for a greater purpose. Sex is about connection and fulfilment. It isn’t the enjoyment of these that is the problem, but a question of moderation and ethics. When sex becomes more important than consent from your partner or hen you’re supporting sex trafficking it has lost it’s moral basis. When making money or gaining power becomes an end rather than a means, you’ve lost your moral compass.
In order to be truly and deeply happy, your core focus has to be on being yourself and engaging with life. When your mind is clouded because you want to fuck someone or gain something it makes you behave differently and so you are controlled by your lust.
This is damaging because it causes you to values sex, money or power over the deeper purpose of your life. This is the start of using people as things and for your own purposes. In a relationship it can mean ignoring your partner, and kids, in the quest for riches and glory. It can mean manipulating your spouse for your sexual pleasure or cheating on them to fulfil your own urges.
The solution lies in having a clear purpose that you are working towards and not being swayed by desire, distraction or temptation.
Anger vS Forgiveness
Anger is losing yourself in rage and choosing hate over love. Once that choice is made, you have devoted yourself to hate and destruction rather than understanding and reconciliation.
Hell is depicted with a burning fire and rage is the vehicle through which that burning flow is directed. Love or hate are about your focus. Love leads to happiness and positive emotion. Hate leads to misery and suffering for you.
What a lot of people don’t see is that anger is a reaction to fear. Fear is the fuel that keeps anger burning. Anger like all of these delusions can be positive to a degree and within a certain context.
Anger is useful when we feel hopeless and afraid. It can give us a surge of energy to direct it towards someone else. Because the alternative is to turn it inwards and feel despair. Though it is only helpful as a short term fix towards focusing our attention on resolving the problem, any longer than that and it becomes toxic.
Anger is damaging because it is choosing to hate over loving. People often forget that while you direct it towards someone, it is you the emotion is flowing through and flooding. It is your body that is suffering from the toxicity of cortisol and all the other biochemical and physiological damage that hate and anger do.
In a relationship anger is toxic because it leads to attacking your Partner. It narrows our focus and hjacks our ability to think more clearly so that we stop operating on reason and react emotionally. Obviously it can lead to physical violence, but also to verbal and emotional violence which can cause wounds that are hard to heal.
The solution is in listening and understanding to be sure that the other person really has done what we think they have. And then even if they have forgiveness is a better reaction for us as well as them.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we just let people treat us however they like. It means we decide how we respond to what has been done and then we let it go. We have to allow people the freedom to do what they choose, but that doesn’t mean that we have to always feel the same about them. We are free to choose who has our attention at any time. However, if we have been betrayed, then we have to process the emotions associated with that and still move on. All emotions are valid and all have their place, but negative emotions should only be visited shortly as a milestone on our journey back to being happy, positive and excited.
Greed vS Generosity
Where gluttony is concerned with consumption, greed is about possessing. Greed is the love of things. It’s wanting to gather and hoard more than you need. What drives this is an insecurity that you will have enough in the future. The fear that you need to amass lots to feel secure and trust in tomorrow.
Greed is damaging because it can make you strive for things and in their pursuit we can devalue people. Within a relationship it can blind you to the needs of the people around you. It can make you want more than your fair share and cause you to be stingy with others. No one goes into a relationship wanting to give more than they get and so greed can make people feel cheated and undervalued within the relationship.
The solution to greed is generosity. Yet generosity taken too far can bring its own issues. We need to have the awareness to know what we need, what they need and what is appropriate to share and how to give others what they need without that coming at our expense.
As with all of these qualities it’s not as simple as having black and white rules. It’s about refining in ever clearer detail rather than broad strokes.
Sloth vS Dedication
Life is a journey. It’s about the process of wanting to become more and moving towards that. It is the process of becoming where the magic of life happens and we, often unwillingly, have to transform ourselves to gain pleasure and avoid pain.
Sloth is the unwillingness to engage with life and strive for something other than you are. It’s the unwillingness to change. It can be seen as laziness, but it’s more complex than that. It’s usually rooted in a deep fear of taking the risks that accompany any action. The fear of embarrassment. The fear of losing. The fear of failure. And so on.
Sloth is damaging because it is refusing to engage in the process of living. In life we have a certain amount of time. We have certain opportunities and resources and what we make of these is down to our actions. Failing to attempt anything is failing at the first hurdle of life. It is rejecting the gift of life.
Sloth is damaging in a relationship because a relationship is an unspoken contract where we both work to make each other’s life better. We get into a relationship and we project expectations on the other. We hope that they’ll live up to what we hope they are and will be. Sloth means not growing and so not living up to your partner’s expectations, which may or may not be realistic. It is also failing to do what is necessary to make the relationship work.
The solution is to dedicating yourself to your journey of life. We have time, we have energy, wants and goals. The quest of life is in the pursuit of these, which always brings up fear and disappointment and all the other emotions we feel as humans. We have to develop the ability to manage these and to find comfort from within the uncomfortable.
The Basis Of All Emotion
Our natural state is to feel excited and happy. Watch a very young child and you’ll see they’re curious and excited to interact with the world. From time to time they’ll get scared, upset and angry, but they usually pass through these quickly.
As we develop our ability to think more deeply and as we interact less directly with the outer world, and more with our narration of the world, we ruminate longer on our wounds and our interpretation of why people act as they do and so we get stuck in negative emotions.
Underpinning all negative emotions is fear. Without fear in our happy and excited state we are open to loving all. Fear contaminates us. It’s toxic in anything other than a momentary awareness and the emotion we feel depends on the degree and intensity of fear present.
Yet fear is a necessary and protective warning signal. We can’t ever eliminate fear. Nor would we want to. However, we must learn to manage fear in order to manage our emotions. Because unless we can manage our emotions we cannot ever master ourselves in order to be a partner that can sustain a happy, healthy and lasting relationship.