Recognizing love in others

That we want others to like what we like isn’t a secret. When we are tasked with buying a gift for someone, we tend to use our own tastes to buy it. We do that by default. We use our own mental model to process everything around us.

Sometimes it is as simple as a gift. Other times we use our mental model to filter more complicated things like work, friendship and of course, love.

One of the most difficult mental exercises is to break out of our model of reality. It’s hard because it’s what we call an unknown-unknown. That is, something we don’t know we’re doing. As we aren’t aware, it’s tough to step out of it. Not only that, we’ve been educated, ingrained and indoctrinated in a series of values, values that tend to become absolute in our heads.

While it’s hard to reframe our model, it’s not impossible. Being mindful and empathetic are two tools that help with this.

It’s already hard to decipher how we feel for someone, much less how the other person feels for us.

Once we step outside, we start understanding the world in different ways. It’s that moment where life turns to grays, and not black and white. We start seeing different interpretations for the same facts, and how each one of us interprets them through our filters.

We use our definitions of how people should express their love or care for us. If they don’t match our expectations, then we suffer.

Arguably, one of the most conflictive interpretations is love, that feeling of care for those around us. It’s already hard to decipher how we feel for someone, much less how the other person feels for us.

Still, we tend to get trapped in our realities when assessing how others think or feel about us. We use our definitions of how people should express their love or care for us. If they don’t match our expectations, then we suffer. We torture ourselves, thinking they don’t care, that they should do more, that they should express it better.

It’s important to understand each person is different. Some are closer to us; others are the very opposite of what we are.

There are times where this is true. But in most cases, we need to step back. We, humans, are inclined to suffering, so we’ll stick to our uncomfortable feelings. It’s hard to walk away from that feeling of sorrow, of unfairness. So we’ll keep on the dwelling, without even realizing the problem might be in our interpretation.

It’s important to understand each person is different. Some are closer to us; others are the very opposite of what we are. For some, expressing certain feelings will be easy, for others, it’s increasingly hard.

When judging others, we need to shift our perspective; we need to understand what the other person is overcoming. This exercise isn’t altruistic; it’s not something we do for the sake of others, but for our own sake. It enables us to avoid false conclusions, rooted on one-sided interpretations.

Love is a very tricky feeling. It has as many faces, tones, and shades, as atoms in the galaxy. Which makes it impossible to judge under a simplistic category.

The question is, what has the other person overcome to give back to you? What are they willing to do for you? How far are they willing to go? These questions shouldn’t be answered with our perspective, but with the other’s person’s reality filter. Are they already giving more than they’ve given anyone before? Have they’ve pushed themselves for you? Are they exploring uncharted territory for your sake?

Those are the questions that matter. What does it means for the other person, not what we expect under our standards.

Let me add that this, which comes easy with words, is very hard to do. When we care for someone, there is a certain part of us that’s operating under an emotional mode. In that realm, especially when in a heightened state, it’s hard to move away from our feelings and focus on the other person. Even more complicated is to ditch our mental model and reinterpret the situation under a different lens.

Creating meaningful relationships is rare. It’s something that happens few times in our lifetime.

So, while sometimes we might not feel the same care and love from someone than the one we expect, we need to ask ourselves if we see the truth. Are we valuing what the other person is doing for us? How far they’re going for us?

Creating meaningful relationships is rare. It’s something that happens few times in our lifetime. It would be sad to see them destroyed because we were unable to see the truth behind them.

Don’t waste these opportunities, as life is, indeed, short.

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Alex Barrera

Alex Barrera

Chief Editor at The Aleph Report (@thealeph_report), CEO at Press42.com, Cofounder & associated editor @tech_eu, former editor @KernelMag.