I have recently been pondering this principle we call mutuality. The more I ponder it, the more I am in awe of the depth and width of its implications. Here are some of my thoughts on it.

When two people come together socially, there is an instant and automatic investigation of each other that I call scanning. We scan each other to get a reading on the mutuality meter. In our deep psyche, the inquiry goes something like this: Do you really see me? Can you truly feel and receive who I am? Can you hold me in my darkest places, even while you are in yours? When you freak out, can you still remember me, and hold me dear to your heart? The more strongly the answer appears to be yes, the more I can trust you. Perhaps I can trust you to hold me in this hell of a life and not to drop me just because you are in your own hell. Perhaps, after all the pain, denial, abandonment, and torture we have endured in past relationships, perhaps you can really just be here with me and hold me as I am in all my pain as well as my glory.

During the “due diligence” phase of a relationship, challenges to trust will arise. We all yearn for an absolute version of Truth, because that would make us all simply One; it would reassure us that we could not be harmed. But because we are both One and Many, because we are individual and very different manifestations of Being, our truths will never exactly align. Therefore, we cannot avoid having the experience of speaking our truth, and having another person disregard it, push it aside, or deny it outright in order to defend their own truth. This is because most of us grew up being taught (at least psychically) to defend our truth or lose our integrity; we didn’t know how to maintain integrity while fully permitting the truth of others.

In such moments of conflict between truths, a short of shock sets in. Have you noticed that sort of “swimming” feeling inside when this happens? Perhaps a sense of panic? I propose that the shock and the panic are actually masking a deep and unmitigated degree of sheer terror. It is the terror of the truth that we are God trapped in Hell. It is the unendurable intuition that, despite the fact that we are infinitely free and Only, nonetheless we are simultaneously trapped in an endless and unstoppable nightmare of separation, fear, pain, and death.

When two people are faced with a conflict between truths, there are four fundamental options:

  1. Run. Or cause the other to run. Variations include taking one’s leave in any manner of ways from polite to sociopathic: excusing oneself discretely, announcing you’ve just had a psychic vision that the other’s house is about to catch fire, killing oneself, killing the other, or even staying put physically, but running internally by numbing out, hiding, or otherwise pretending not to be actually present. In any case, the consequence is separation in relationship and deep wounds of abandonment.
  2. Subvert your own truth in order to align with the truth of the other. The problem here is that you can’t really change your own truth. You can deny it. You avoid it. You can manipulate it. But your truth is simply your truth. Thus, any attempt to change or disregard it, must necessarily result in a separation within your own being. You betray yourself. The consequence is self hatred and distrust of one’s own being. And hatred and distrust of the other for permitting or encouraging such a painful and dishonoring self-betrayal.
  3. Subvert the other’s truth in an attempt to get their truth to align with yours. The problem here is that their truth cannot actually be changed. You can threaten, induce, seduce, dissuade, hypnotize, manipulate, or overpower another. But ultimately, their truth remains untouched, unchanged, and frustratingly different. If you succeed in getting another to abandon their own truth, they will hate you for it, and they will hate themselves for wanting your love and this life so much that they were willing to abandon their own integrity.
  4. Permit the uncomfortable paradox of mutuality. In other words, after one has exhausted all other options, one can begin to investigate the magic that can occur in relationship when we can recognize and endure the simple fact that we are separate beings with individual truths. But permitting different truths will necessarily activate our awareness of the Core Wound. It stimulates that nagging sensation of our chronic sense of separation, along with self-confusion. Permitting mutuality reminds us that we are God trapped in Hell. I’ve noticed that most people aren’t really interested in noticing that.

Again I say that we are God trapped in Hell. I suggest that our predicament is so terrifying on such a primal level that we cannot maintain sanity without having others to hold us. We are petrified to our core, and desperate to find a way out. Without the sacred holding of one or more others in our lives, we feel that we will drown. The love of another human being is a literal lifeline; without it, we shall surely die. Yes, we shall die even with it, but love makes life tolerable, even worthwhile. And so, as God, we have an awesome power over each other; the power to grant or deny life. We live in fear of that power in ourselves and each other. We are well aware of how we have deeply hurt each other and how we have been deeply hurt by others. We are deeply aware of the awesome responsibility we have in relationships. And we are all driven, whether consciously or not, to find a way to live in loving relationships in a way that actually permits the totality of ourselves as well as the totality of the other: in a word, mutuality.

Permitting ALL of self and ALL of another is a workout. Not only because it requires constantly taking others deeply into consideration and being limited by all that entails, but also, and more fundamentally, because it requires us to face the paradox of mutuality within our own being. Mutuality means permitting both consciousness and the body. It means facing the existential torture of being both Absolute AND Relative. It means finally squaring off to the truth that we are both free AND forever burned in the fire of interminable change. To permit mutuality on all levels is to cease running from the fact that we are all God trapped in Hell. We will never escape from the wheel of birth and death because we ARE the wheel of birth and death. When the truth of this statement begins to sink in, you’ll start to get a feeling for the awesome grandeur and the majestic darkness of Who you actually Are.

Those who speak of a realization that transcends fear scare me the most, because I sense that they are most in denial of the truth. Such people are still on the hopeful trajectory of escape, and are so seriously intent upon it that they are unable to notice how they hurt others in their desperation to get out of here. If you are on such a path, I send you all possible blessings. If you locate the final exit from which there is no return, I guess you won’t be able to send back the instructions on how to follow. However, I think you’ll eventually (whether day, years, or aeons from now) discover that there was nowhere to go. I suspect you’ll discover, as I have, that despite every possible attempt to transcend this world, it still exists and we are forever trapped in relationship with it. Even the realization of Consciousness does not stop the world, no matter how much we wish it did.

“Yes,” say the venerable traditions of Enlightenment, “but when you realize Consciousness, you are forever free of the limitations of the world. You are no longer bound because you have come to rest as the Truth and Bliss of That which is beyond all change and illusion.” To which I can only reply this: It is true that you are Consciousness. But there is something to realize beyond that. You are not merely Consciousness. You are All. You are the Absolute and the Relative both. And if, as you say, the Relative is nothing but the Absolute, then how could it be otherwise? I say that in your second birth, you will realize this Onlyness and you will realize its implications.

This is the end of our childlike innocence about the truth of who we are. This is the end of our hopeful trajectories of escape from the whole picture of reality. It is time for the realization of our TOTAL Self, not merely our Transcendent Self. We ARE the world as well as the Divine. There is no escape. It is finally time to reckon with this sobering fact and begin the process of healing and integration.

© 1998 Ted Strauss