Images in relationship

We all (or at least most of us) have images of each other in relationship which actively or passively interfere with our ability to directly relate to one another.

These images may be in part based on actual observations we have made of each other, or they may be complete projections of our own imagination; but the images themselves - the images as images - are always based on memory. And memory is inevitably co-constructed from a background of our own particular conditioning and knowledge, our own subjective experience, which - in subtle or gross ways - distorts what we register (and later reconstruct) as the image.

As Krishnamurti spoke a lot about this subject, I am sharing a 4 minute excerpt from a discussion in which he outlines the basic problem for us. But I do not wish to tie the thread down to what K has said about images in relationship. In sharing this extract I merely want to indicate what the general outline of the problem may be.

How are we to approach this issue of images in relationship?

Video length: 4 mins, 56 secs (followed by a transcript of the same extract):

Can I observe myself through relationship? Can I know myself fundamentally, basically, all the reactions, all the nuances, the subtleties of myself in relationship. Right?

So we have to enquire what do we mean by ‘relationship’ - the word itself. To be related, to be in contact, to be not physically intimate but, not only that, but to have a relationship at the same level, at the same moment, at the same intensity, then there is a relationship. Right? There is a relationship between a man and woman, or a friend and another, or a boy and girl, when they meet not merely physically only but much more, which is when they meet at the same level, at the same moment, with the same intensity there is actual relationship, because they are meeting at the same level. Right? That can be called a real, true relationship.

Now, one’s relationship with another is based on memory. Right? Would you accept it? On the various images, pictures, conclusions I have drawn about you and you have drawn about me. The various images that I have about you - wife, husband, girl or boy or friend and so on. So there is always image-making. Right? This is simple, this is normal, this is actually what goes on.

When one is married or lives with a girl or a boy every incident, every word, every action creates an image - no? Are we clear on this point? A word is registered, if it is pleasant you purr, it is nice, if it is unpleasant you immediately shrink from it, and that creates an image. The pleasure creates an image, the shrinking, the withdrawal creates an image.

So our actual relationship with each other is based on various subtle forms of pictures, images and conclusions. That’s right?

Now I am asking: when that takes place what happens? The man creates the image about her, and she creates an image about him. Whether in the office, whether in the field, or anywhere this relationship is essentially based on this formation of images. Right? This is a fact, isn’t it? Then what takes place?

You have an image about her and she has an image about you - doesn’t matter where it is, in the office, in the factory, in the field, in every way, labour: there is this image-making all the time. So when there is an image like that, she has and you have, then in there there is division, and then the whole conflict begins. Right?

Where there is division between two images there must be conflict. Right?

(Discussion 2, Brockwood Park, 1978)

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One of the things I wanted to look at in relation to this topic is that (as I wrote on another thread) our images of each other are in part based on what we actually observe and experience of one another. Our observations and experiences are coloured by our own peculiar conditioning, by our own attitudes and prejudices, but unless we are blindly projecting out of pure fantasy - which does often happen, and which I am not denying - there is often an element of fact in what triggers the image. This is what makes image-making so complex and visceral.

For example, I have an image of Donald Trump (aka the ‘orange Jesus’). This is partly based on what I have read about him, what others have said or reported. But it is also based on having watched him make speeches, the way he interacts with people on video, the kinds of things he says on social media, the sound of his voice, the words he chooses to use, his general attitude and manner of expression. All of this has contributed to the image I have in my mind of Donald Trump.

Clearly I have never personally met Donald Trump, so how can my image accurately correspond to who he is as a real, living person? Obviously it must fall short for this reason alone. And yet, I do feel that there is some basis in fact for my image of this person. Except for those who have a curated mental image of Trump as being a white saviour of Republican America, etc, I think most sane observers would agree that this person is a malignant narcissist with authoritarian tendencies who is a threat to global social-democratic society. This isn’t just a fantasy projection of one’s prejudices and imagination. This is an assessment based on what he has consistently said and done ever since he became a worldwide figure in global politics.

So our images of each other may contain elements of fact, and may even have their place: for instance, at the ballot box :ballot_box:. Although how far do we carry this? How many of our socio-political images of politicians are actually useful? Or are they more often than not actually harmful? - So this is a complex and subtle issue for me.

But certainly when these images are carried over into our intimate relationships with family and friends - or, for example, here on Kinfonet - they are often the cause of unnecessary division and conflict.

So how do we tease out what is factual in observation, from what is put there as an image by our background conditioning? Or is this a wrong question?

I should say, the context of this post is a conversation from another thread where @crina eloquently presents the other side of the issue:

By observing and learning. ‘Vigilant’ is heavy handed, but it gets at what I mean. Gently vigilant? Seeing what’s really going on, what’s fresh (actual) and what’s conditioned (image-ined).

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Dev just shared an interesting article from the New York Times, in which they mention a few points that I feel are relevant to this discussion:

“Rather than being photo-accurate repositories of past experience, our memories function more like active interpreters, working to help us navigate the present and future. The implication is that who we are, and the memories we draw on to determine that, are far less fixed than you might think… we don’t replay the past as it happened; we do it through a lens of interpretation and imagination.”

“There is this illusion that we know exactly what’s going to happen, but the fact is we don’t. Memory can overdo it: Somebody lied to us once, so they are a liar; somebody shoplifted once, they are a thief. If people have a vivid memory of something that sticks out, that will overshadow all their knowledge about the way things work. So there’s kind of an illusion there.”

“We’re capable of remembering things in extraordinary detail, but we infuse meaning into what we remember. We’re designed to extract meaning from the past, and that meaning should have truth in it. But it also has knowledge and imagination…”

So, seeing as our images of each other are in large part based on the memories we have formed of each other, this subtly distorting effect of memory has to be taken into account.

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I’m sharing this from the other thread because it is relevant here. @Inquiry was responding to Crina.

@crina wrote, “So when I meet the person next time, I am actually going to meet the image I have created about that person. I can attempt, at least, to look afresh at my own creation (the image), before I can see afresh the person.”

Inquiry’s reply:

It may be the right question because image-making is what the brain does to remember things. But it also raises the question of whether we need to remember what directly perceived relationship reveals. It may be that with clarity, direct perception, the brain doesn’t have to rely so much on memory or recall. That is, when there’s clarity, no misunderstanding or interpretation, there’s little or no need for as much memory for future reference.

So it may be that the brain can’t “tease out what is factual in observation”. My guess is that the brain has to change radically enough to actually observe.

Another aspect of this is brought out by @Sean (which I am sharing here because it seems to be relevant).

So on the one hand there are observable facts. And on the other hand, there are our images or recollections of these observed facts, and the subtle distortions these memories or images may (or do in fact) contain.

@rickScott was suggesting that it requires a kind of vigilance to distinguish between these two things.

Yes. This is part of it. Perhaps this is what is implied in the vigilance that @rickScott is suggesting. To be able to observe someone objectively (as much as possible), to look at how they behave or speak or act, etc.

As you brought up on the ‘Listening is seeing’ thread, much - or all - of what we do on Kinfonet is solely text based, so how can we bring this quality of observation, seeing (listening) to the words we are each of us using.

As you mentioned, this requires an art of reading.

Is this really possible? Or will there always be misunderstandings (and therefore problematic images being built) so long as we are reduced communicating in words alone?

I think there will always be misunderstandings when we communicate, period. Communication is error-prone. We can’t know what’s ‘in a person’s head.’ This might not matter for simple things: “What time is it?” But any subtlety and misunderstanding is all but guaranteed! “How are you?”

That said, how may we optimize the accuracy of a written asynchronous communication? It’s a very fun question!

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My images

  • how they exist in my mind, how they interact in memory, how an image can not act outside my memory.

I think it is accurate to say that I have 2 main sets of images: images about my self & images about others. They are influencing each other. I can never count my images, I can never know them all. They are constantly changing.

My self images try to define me. My images about you try to define you.
These are my 2 Sets of images. They are mine, internal to me, they exist in my memory, and are personal. The other can not know/experience my images.

If I meet you I bring with me my self images and my images about you. “Our encounter” is the encounter between my self images and my images about you. These images are my creations. “Our encounter” occurs in my own mind. Our encounter is imagined by me. You have no contact with what happens in my mind.

I am in my own mind, and you are in your mind. We don’t meet at all. Not even my own image and your own image can ever meet. We live in our minds completely. Two separate prisons can not interact.

The 2 sets of images are part of memory, I may think that they are fixed, but they are not, they are constantly affected by my new experiences. The most incredible thing is that I can’t even describe one self image. If you ask me to tell you about my self I will never finish to describe my self. We do say that images are limited, but they are unlimited in # cause they are fragments that are constantly changing.

There is no such thing as one self image. I have innumerable images about my self, some are more active than others, others are almost forgotten. There is nothing whole in memory, only fragments in constant “chameleonic” change. Memory is like a container of infinite number of finite fragments.

This morning, I read again my last night post and I would like to add this:

  • I see intellectually that you and I are separated by/due to the images we create for ourselves. You and I have our own sets of images. We live with them, for them, in them, while trying to engage with the world, which is “out there”.

K speaks about seeing that I am not different from you. And indeed, I do see it, intellectually. Our prisons are the same… But what makes this seeing visceral ?

When I see I am the world (psychologically speaking), I am still in prison, but I see it is not mine, it is the prison of the human mind, in which we all live in separation, “together”. We share the same prison.

You make images, I make images.
…but wait, what is this “I” that seems to make images ? is it my “I”…? or is it the “I” of the human mind, which takes various shapes…as me and you ? Or rather, this “I” is not taking any shape, is just my brain that makes it “individual”, mine. It is an error, a false interpretation that makes the “I” of the human mind a personal “I”.

The human mind keeps changing, thorough time. This change is not an entity, an individual, it is the activity, a constant movement in the human mind. So, now I wonder if there is such a “I” which is of the human mind …

:point_up: And this was a display of my thinking that probably makes no sense to the reader…CAUSE WE DO NOT MEET AT THE SAME LEVEL

PS: I know K uses the word “change” in a different way. But I call that change a “radical change”. Here the word change means a movement that takes various shapes while remaining the same. (is there a better word for such movement ? )

Apologies for not getting back to you about this topic. I have been involved in another discussion on the ‘Beginner’s mind’ thread, so am only reading your posts now.

This is certainly correct up to a point - it is in fact what K says too - but it nevertheless feels to me like an overstatement. I feel we can get a sense of where other people are coming from which is not purely a projected image. There can be a sense of emotional intelligence in relationship which “reads between the lines” of what others say and do.

But the issue is that our capacity for empathy, for emotional intelligence, for sensing where another is coming from, is usually drastically limited - if not outright impeded - by our mental beliefs and attitudes in the moment of interacting, by our mental preoccupations.

So, for example, if I am in a bad mood, this mood becomes the screen behind which I perceive you. Or if I have an image of myself as clever and important, and you ignore me or call me stupid (or whatever), then I feel diminished in myself and perceive you through the screen of my hurt.

So clearly our moods, our reactions, and our images - both of ourselves and each other - impede our relationship. When we are embedded in these images then we cannot meet each other.

The question we have been asking on the other thread is why we are so unwilling to put aside these images, these mental preoccupations, and perceive or be aware of each other and the world more objectively, without resorting to our ideas and reactions?

The issue seems to be that we have found security in these images and preoccupations, and so are reluctant to set these aside in order to look afresh, to be aware.

Only when we do that are we then perhaps able to see that we in fact share a very similar consciousness with each other, maybe even the same consciousness… But such a perception is unlikely to take place so long as we are giving primary importance to our images and mental preoccupations.

This is how I presently understand it at least.

Meeting at the same time, at the same level, with the same attention, clearly means stepping outside our images (of ourselves and of each other). So relationship and the quality of thought-free attention (where thinking can still, nevertheless, take place if necessary) are really the same thing.

I hope I have understood your question. :pray:

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Do we meet each other by stepping outside of ourselves, and then return to our prisons until our next meeting? Or do we step outside of ourselves before we know what we’ve done?

What I’m wondering is whether we can free ourselves; whether freedom can be mine?

Obviously, I can’t be free since I is a limited condition. All I can do is think about what freedom may mean for I, and that leads directly to more emphasis on sensitivity than thought.

Yes. Though I would perhaps express it slightly differently: we can try to feel out, get a sense of, what it means to be aware, and this leads directly to an emphasis on one’s sensitivity (not on one’s capacity for logical thought).

As I was saying to Rick on the other channel (‘A beginner’s mind’), I feel that there is always something potentially interesting - in a humble or small way - about what is going on within ourselves or around us. So just experimenting with using our senses a little bit can reveal aspects of experience which we didn’t even know were there to be felt or perceived - until we feel or perceive them.

So yes: I think reflecting on - or giving attention to - what it means to be sensitive is a crucial point.