It is often true that people in our lives are able to perceive aspects of who we are which we do not or cannot know. Many of the processes which influence our behavior are unconscious to us, and through our facial expressions, body language, and even tone of voice people can pick up on patterns of our behavior and mood of which we are wholly or mostly ignorant. This is how many of our close family, friends, or partners are able to predict, better than we can ourselves, what we are likely to do next under certain circumstances.
When we enter into relationships, part of the relationship is getting to know our partner(s). And while it is true that we will never know them completely, it is true that if the relationship is base upon honesty, openness, and a meaningful and long-lasting intimacy develops, you will get to know your partner(s) fairly well and will learn to anticipate their needs, wants, etc.
But if you care enough to interact and learn about yourself, the other people we are involved with will have things to teach us which we will not find elsewhere. Because even a highly observant, self-reflective, and introspective person will miss more about themselves than they knew existed. There are other perspectives than our own conscious awareness, and those perspectives give angles to what we are which are not available to us without mirrors.
And while other people are not always the best mirrors, sometimes what they perceive about us is extremely valuable if we want to understand more about ourselves and how we interact with the world.
Seeing ourselves from the point of view of others is, therefore, invaluable.
For one, certain aspects of our personality only become relevant through interaction with other personalities. And the more types of personalities we interact with, the more we will have experience with those behaviors, and thus to aspects of ourselves which would otherwise remain hidden.
Secondly, those other people will be able to observe things about us which we may not see even when they do surface. They will likely have access to information that, due to biases, lack of a mirror, etc, we simply cannot see. And by listening to what other people may say about us, even if they will sometimes be very wrong, we can get clues to aspects of ourselves about which we would otherwise remain ignorant.
The importance of relationships
The above is why it is important to have relationships with many people. It does not mean these relationships need to all be sexual, romantic, or even always friendly (our enemies have many valuable things to teach us as well!), but they need to be transparent and honest, at least to some degree.
That is, simply having interactions with people is not always enough. We need to say what we think, openly feel what we feel, and express our actual desires (when appropriate, of course). If we keep communicating and being genuine and authentic people, those around us will give us opportunities to learn important things about ourselves, even when the conversation is not about us directly.
We need to be paying attention to how people react to us, how they initiate (or don’t initiate) interaction, or even to what type of language they use in response to something we say or do. If and when the time is right, we may choose to interact with people about what they see in us, what we see in them, and both may gain perspective on who we they are.
Of course, you may not like or believe what you hear in all cases, but don’t simply reject what is said. They may see something about ourselves that we don’t like but also may be true. They may also see something about ourselves which we like but don’t believe, and it also may be true! No matter how much we like what we hear, how much we believe it, or how true it is, something will be learned from such interactions.
They may be biased about us as well, after all. And sometimes their biases draw them to us despite our imperfections, even if we should know that such a bias will eventually wear off and they will start noticing those imperfections, becoming a clearer mirror for our self-awareness. So long as we keep being real, these types of relationships will give us more perspective, in the future, about how to improve ourselves for your sake, their sake…for everyone’s sake, perhaps.
And we can become better people, in better relationships, who can be better partners and friends to more people.
Polyamory as parallel processing
We are complex beings. Our romantic, sexual, and day-to-day living wants and needs are complicated, diverse, and sometimes conflicted. Figuring out how best to live, to love, and to lust is a life-long learning process. The more relationships we have in our lives, the more we know about how to satisfy our desires and needs (while simultaneously learning ow to satisfy the needs of many types of other people, hopefully).
And while learning these lessons serially can give us plenty of information and perspective, there is no comparing serial to parallel processing. Being able to see ourselves reflected in many multiple relationships simultaneously is a crash course not only in how to maintain relationships, but also in who we are as people, especially as we evolve socially, romantically, and sexually throughout stages in our lives.
If we care to be fully authentic and self-aware individuals, we need to start by being honest, first with ourselves and then the people close to us. And then we need to listen to them, not only about themselves and their needs but how we tend to respond to such things, how they see our strengths and weaknesses, and what concerns they have about us.
Through such methods we can reach levels of self-knowledge unavailable to most. It is a difficult and often emotionally destabilizing climb, one which takes courage and a willingness to look into the dark recesses of the soul (metaphorically speaking, of course), but it is worth it. It is worth it even if we will never know all of ourselves. In the same way that we can never fully know another person, we can never completely know ourselves. But the process of trying reveals possibilities for happiness and satisfaction previously unavailable for our consideration.
Plus, it makes you look wise and shit. Chicks (and dudes) of quality dig that.