The ‘self’, ‘I’, and Freud’s ‘ego’ is the conscious part of the personality that interacts with the external social and physical world through subjective perception. The ‘self’ is imagined to navigate life from a personal point of view, using past experiences as a reference point and anticipation of the future that drives it in certain directions. But is the self as subjective as one imagines it to be? For the longest time, I considered the ‘self’ or ‘I’ to be an exclusive position in life where I imagined that my growing strong sense of self drives my life choices. I knew the world around me had a role to play and contributed to the forming of my ‘self’ but I believed that I alone was responsible for making my life choices; good and bad and was solely accountable to how I impact others. There indeed is a ‘me’ and the ‘other’; separate and yet we are interconnected in so many ways that make us inseparable.

Most relationships have a loud ‘you’ in the narratives. ‘You made me angry. You hurt me. You need to fix it.’ Yes, there is ‘you’ and there is ‘me’ but in reality, ‘you’ and ‘I’ are parts of a whole; a system where we are constantly co-organising our needs around each other.

The individual is one in relation to the other; linked in so many known and unknown ways; conscious and unconscious; part of something larger than either of us alone. Imagine the ‘I’ and ‘you’ to exist in this world; as if the world was an onion. We exist in layer after layer of onion rings as they keep peeling off; unfolding and bringing something new; unfamiliar and familiar. ‘You hurt me’. But then ‘you’ and ‘I’ are part of something larger than the life we are aware of, where so many participants played a role in bringing us to that point where ‘you hurt me’. We are only conscious of the hurt and perhaps only a fragment of that hurt which is in our conscious awareness, unaware of the participation of the unconsciousness of so many fragments that brought us to that point of hurt.

We get stuck in narratives and what is right before our eyes; the loudest moment that elicits an instant reaction from within us. And in that stuck-ness, we are blinded to so much that is evolving around that moment to bring it in the way it has been brought to us.

If we experience each other as part of something larger that is emerging within and without us; norming and forming life around, we can find the key to hidden and unconscious parts of our experiences within us and in relation to others. If we look at the hurt ‘you’ caused ‘me’ openly and curiously; as part of a greater systemic system, we might have some insight into how we arrived at that moment. Sometimes we limit ourselves to one profound moment or act in relationships and in that we are blinded to all that is unfolding around it. It’s almost like keeping our eyes glued to the main act on the stage; the beautiful ballerina dancing and we neglect the supporting dancers who bring her to centre stage.

The individual is one related to the other. There is no ‘I’ without a ‘You’. We imagine our relationships as linear dualistic spaces where there is a reaction to action but it’s larger than it looks. ‘You’ and ‘I’ are learning to dance together on the stage of life; spinning, swirling, stepping on each other’s toes. We are dancing together and learning how to while we are both ‘in’ it.

Our individuality is filtered through all that is around us and that self-image keeps getting constructed and deconstructed as life keeps revealing new images which keep getting painted on the canvas of the psyche. Hold on to your ‘I’ but experience it in an ‘us’.

We are co-regulating our physiological and psychological systems with each other all the time; be it our nervous system or our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. It’s emerging on its own; a powerful organic process with or without participation. Experience it. Embrace it. Contain it.

The ‘I’ is a beautiful illusion; entrenched in narcissistic pleasure, distracting us from consciously being aware of the depth and intimacy of our relatedness to the ‘other’. ‘I am yours. Don’t give me back to me’—Rumi.