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What is a relation? For the purpose of this discussion, we shall define a relation when two persons interact with each other and develop a bond. The bond may develop instantly or make take longer. Why do we say specifically ‘two persons’? Simple; even in multi-directional and group interactions, we are actually dealing with one person at a time.
When we start building a relation; consciously or unconsciously, willingly or unwillingly, we relate at three levels; Intellectual, emotional and physical.
Intellectual level is when our mind tries to get connected to the other person’s mind. Quest is to understand the mind of the other and find a common ground. We may be intellectually stimulated by the other person’s sharp and superior intellect. It normally happens if we both like the same subjects, have read the same stuff and subscribe to the same theories. The discussion is intense, lively and very broad in scope. Relation develops quickly and makes way for other components to come in. Intellectual interaction does happen in all relations, but it may or may not last long. The ultimate building of relation is not entirely dependent on it.
Emotions come into all relations; like and dislike, love and hatred will always be there. There is no such thing as being emotionally ‘neutral’ in any relation. We have to be on this or that side. Emotional interaction is essential and integral. Emotions remain involved throughout the length of a relation and even afterwards. We mourn the loss of dears departed or separated, sometimes over our whole lives and remember them. This is also a check. If we do not feel anything about the other person, we are not in a relation.
Physical element is the third element which comes into play. From mere company to intense physical relations, there are all shades of physicality. Our preference to touch or avoid the touch, like to see or be contented with communicating from a distance, works towards developing the relation which in turn becomes dependent on it.
In order to further understand, we shall look at various relations. The authors of ‘Transactional Analysis’, originally coined and used these terms to discuss the anatomy of personal interaction in single frames. I am using the same terms to look at relations from a different view.
Adult – Child Relation: Adults/ parents/ seniors/ mentors/ spiritual guides mostly believe they can not relate at intellectual level with children/ off springs/ juniors/ mentees/ disciples due to difference in age and maturity. Therefore, the relation is almost entirely emotional and physical. We deeply love our children, hold them, cuddle them, kiss them and embrace them; all visible signs of emotional and physical bond. This works well for a while but starts failing later. When we as adults do not recognize that the children need to assert and get their due intellectual space, we are liable to creating differences and distances. With infants, the relationship is purely emotional and physical, hence so much cuddling. As children grow, the intellectual components do start coming in. What is lamentable however is that the intellectual relation stops growing after some time. Adults and elderly insist on treating children as children, no matter how much their age may be. This is unfair because every age must get the treatment due to it. Generation gap is not the fault of young generation entirely. Rather the problem starts from the older/wiser generation who refuse to understand and accept younger people’s views. The importance of intellectual interaction is severely underestimated in our society. We keep trying to resolve mind matters through heart approach. Of course, it is a misfit and does not work. It is so obvious yet so unrecognized. How many times have you heard a parent telling a child to study this or that subject because ‘I like it’? Or ‘I want you to become a doctor because I wanted to but could not’? Or ‘we want you to marry this or that boy/ girl; we like him/ her’? I am sure, plenty of times. You can clearly see that the adults/ elders are avoiding intellectual aspect and trying to fill the gap with emotional baggage. No wonder this approach is mostly ineffective.
Child – Child Relation: This relationship is mostly emotional and physical. It may not be correct to say that no intellectual interaction occurs; it does but it is not the objective. Playing video games together may be a lot of mental activity but the motive is pleasure (emotional) and not intellectual.
Adult – Adult Relation: This is the relation where all three elements, emotional, physical and intellectual, can and do come into play. The quality, consistency, stability, intensity and depth will depend upon the mix. Generally speaking, this relation follows a usual trajectory; starts from physical, adds emotional and then continues on to intellectual. At all times, all three elements will be active; the combinations vary. When we say it moves from physical, to emotional, to intellectual, we refer to the predominant element. Emotions decide whether to connect or not; physical is from mere seeing to intimate moments; and intellectual is from discussion to common causes and convictions. Buddies, friends, lovers, spouses; all have to go the same way. Any relation that gets stuck in any one element is doomed to deteriorate.
My thesis is that while emotional and physical bonds provide energy and excitement, intellectual bond provides stability and longevity. My suggestion is that we look at all relations comprehensively and deeply; and that we take control of building and maintaining our relations in our hands, rather than leaving it to chance, luck, or the other person.