Validity of self and others

It seems to me that much of the conflict in life ~ both in the society around me and in my personal relationships ~ boils down to the misconception that more than one viewpoint, opinion, belief, or experience cannot represent truth. The pervasive lie that if your understanding is different or in “opposition” to mine then you are trying to invalidate me.

It calls to mind the parable of the four blind men trying to describe and categorize an elephant. One was feeling the tail, one an ear, one a leg, and one the trunk. With only their limited sense of touch and staying within the scope of the available range from their fixed position, they each had a singular experience which only encompassed a small portion of the whole. So, when they each described the elephant none of them had it completely right, but they argued mightily, each insisting that his experience and understanding was the only correct one and that all of the others were wrong, ignorant, mistaken, and invalid.

The reality is that none of their descriptions were complete. Even if all of their descriptions had been combined, their understanding would still have been incomplete because no one had experienced the body, the tusk, or the head.

However, each one had a valid experience and perspective to offer. Just because each was dissimilar from all the others does not mean that any were wrong or invalid.

What if, instead of needing to have his viewpoint validated by the agreement of another, each man accepted the validity of his experience and extended that acceptance to each of the others? Would they then have been able to piece together a more complete picture? Would they have been able to invest their energy into working together to discover the greater truth?

How does this apply in my life? I can accept the validity of the experiences of each of my loved ones and understand their experiential realities of the pain and harm they have experienced with each other and with me. I can accept the reality that what each experienced during their impressionable and early developmental years informed and impacted their thoughts, feelings, and actions today. I can validate each one without negating the other.

However, I can’t change the fact that each one is still in the space where they believe me validating another’s experience means I am invalidating their own.

In the meantime, I continue to choose to walk this difficult path of accepting each one’s truth as part of a greater whole, even as I battle my own internal questions of my validity because all of those around me accuse and demand I choose one over the other.

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15 comments

  1. Great post. And I can relate on some level. The two most important people in my life–my husband and son–have a very adversarial relationship currently. And, of course, I am stuck in the middle, with each of them trying to make me understand why the other is at fault and how their beliefs and actions are “wrong”. It seems like I spend my whole life saying things like, “From his perspective . . .” and “The way it seems to him . . .”, trying to make them each understand that it’s okay not to agree on things, because we all take our life experiences and form our own memories, opinions, beliefs. The trick is to learn how to accept our differences and still maintain our critical relationships. So far, I’m not having a lot of luck, but as I keep working through it, I’m going to remember this post, and your parable. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Great post, reminding us that there is in fact not one “truth”, as the truth depends on our own ideas, experiences and education.
    I remember seeing a play a few years back at Lewes Little Theatre – “The Memory of Water” – which really brought home this perspective as three bereaved sisters discussed their recollections of their childhood, which were so different and widely separated.
    It is also, I believe, where modern medicine is restricting its viewpoint by looking for one “right” way to treat a situation, rather than taking into consideration the individual before us – such as people’s decisions about taking medication, improving their lifestyle, or deciding on childhood vaccinations – each is a highly individualised choice.
    Thank you again for highlighting an important issue!
    Dr Alison Grimston, Holsitic doctor and women’s health and wellness mentor.

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    1. Dr. Grimston,
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

      I believe that there is a greater truth that includes and encompasses all individual truths. My truth expands and increases as I make the effort to incorporate the truths of others, yet it is still incomplete.

      The greater Truth is yet a mystery to be explored, experienced, and discovered.

      Be well,
      Kina

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    1. Paralaxvu,
      I’m so glad this spoke to you and reminded you of a truth in your own experience. As Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” So, mine is not an original thought, but a universal one, I think.

      Be well,
      Kina

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  3. It sounds almost as if you’re walking a tightrope and various people are on different sides of you, pulling at you, trying to upset your balance, yet maybe not being aware that’s what they’re doing (upsetting your balance, that is.)

    Sometimes it seems that if you agree with one person, you are indeed taking their side. That’s how it was when we were children and a friend is suddenly no longer a friend: we want those who are our friends to now choose our side and dislike the former friend as we do. If they choose to remain friends with both of us, our feelings are hurt and we think they like the other person more than they like us. For some people, they have this thought process their entire lives. Some, as they grow more mature and more experienced in life, become capable of seeing what you’ve just wonderfully described.

    I’ve heard how difficult it is for police and lawyers when dealing with eyewitnesses who were all present for the same event yet are describing something completely different. I remember watching something on tv a long time ago where it clicked with one detective. He went up to a board where the crime scene was depicted, included where each witness was standing. Taking into account the various things that would block a person’s view, a tree, a car and a building, he was able to accurately reconstruct the entire scene. He took this person’s view, added another person’s partial view, then another person’s view from a different angle and therein found the truth!!

    Excellent post!! Thank you so much for sharing!!
    –Kathy

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    1. Kathy,
      Thank you for your time and consideration in commenting. The sum is greater than its parts, is what comes to mind as I read about the detective.

      You are quite correct, I am finding a balance inside of myself and three of the most important people in my life are inadvertently pulling and tugging at me because of the conflict in their relationships with each other and how they perceive and feel about my relationships with the others.

      The reality is, at this point I am ultimately only responsible for myself and how I invest into Luna and I have to just accept and allow the others to feel and believe what they will. It is a difficult choice and realization to walk out.

      Be well,
      Kina

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    1. Athena,
      Thank you. I really think the crux of the problem is that most of us have gone through our lives learning to live from the outside in instead of the inside out. Most of us learn at an early age that our value in existing depends on how others in our world treat us and see us. We don’t learn we are valuable and valid just because we exist, we feel we have to do in order to rate being.

      Not sure if I made any sense.

      Be well,
      Kina

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