Connection and The Golden Rule

Welcome! I’d like to begin this post by sharing some research I found especially interesting in my classes at The New School.  Bruce K. Alexander is a psychologist and professor emeritus from Vancouver, BC, Canada. He has taught and conducted research on the psychology of addiction at Simon Fraser University since 1970. He retired from active teaching in 2005.  He has studied addiction for a number of years and through his findings he stated, “Everything that we know about addiction is wrong.” This really interests me, since I have personally struggled with addiction for a number of years.  Through Alexander’s research, he found that the overdose rate when some one is struggling with addiction is 100% when the person is isolated, not connected, and not living a life he or she enjoys.  In society today, we have replaced connection with material objects such as phones, cars, clothes, the real estate value of our homes, and we have made money the most important element of our lives.  In the long run, however, material objects and money are not what empower us to thrive.  As human beings, we crave connection, without which it is hard to have a sense of truly being a part of a world with billions of people.   Alexander observes, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety it is connection.” In order to have healthy and fulfilling connections, I believe it is so important to live by the Golden Rule.  This post includes my experience with treating others the way I want to be treated.  I hope you all relate, and I look forward to hearing your reactions!

One of the values instilled in me by my parents, which I have always believed to be true and never questioned, is “treat everyone the way you want to be treated.”  I was taught that this is the way I should treat the people that I encounter in my life from a very early age.  Even if I had or have a preconceived idea about a person, I should still treat them with the respect that I want to receive.  Universally, this practice is known as the Golden Rule, and in almost every religion, this is the universal cornerstone taught by our greatest religious thinkers. 

This concept is often correlated to the concept of karma, which can be described as follows: “It's a Sanskrit word meaning 'act', 'action', or 'word'. The law of karma teaches us that all of our thoughts, words and actions begin a chain of cause and effect, and that we will personally experience the effects of everything we cause. We may not experience the effect (the returning karma) right away, and it may not even be in this lifetime, but you can count on it just the same. It is a cosmic law, which means that it applies to everyone, everywhere, all the time” (http://www.spiritual-encyclopedia.com/karma.html). The concept of karma is especially valuable to consider because it makes clear that how we treat others is not necessarily something we will experience as an immediate cause and effect of our actions; we must treat others justly simply because we know that it is the right thing to do.

One of the reasons that I carry this value with me in my daily life is because I believe that what you put out into the universe is what you are given back.  I think that treating people with respect and kindness is a way to connect with other human beings.  We are all connected somehow, by something, in the universe, and without connecting and caring for other people, how are we supposed to ever get that back in return?  I know that if I treated every person I encountered in an unkind way, I probably would not be connected to or cared for by many people.  Not following this value, I believe, leads to isolation, and for me isolation leads to a very sad and lonely life.

Our human condition is rooted in feeling comfortable, connected, and loved by others.  If we do not feel these things, we are not truly happy.  Yes, we all need to survive, but in order to thrive, physically and emotionally, we must stand together.  We must love one another, and we must learn to love our brothers and sisters in the universe as we love ourselves.  It can get tricky here, especially when it is very difficult to sometimes love even ourselves, but our duty is not to cause pain to others.  I believe that helping others, and lifting others up, is humanity’s essential purpose.  Society wants us to believe that happiness relies on how much we possess, and on knowing all the answers, but, in reality, this is a false ideal.  Most of us have what we need to survive in terms of material goods, but despite, or perhaps because of, all the chaos in this world, we thirst for peace and thirst for love.  We need to feel affection from others, and that is why “treating others how you want to be treated” is the key to creating a peaceful world.  As I grow older, I see how truly powerful this value is for me and how it guides me each day of my life.

If we disrespect our fellow human beings through judgment, gossip, and hate, the peace that we seek will never be met.  When I was a child, I was very shy and I remember how embarrassed and hurt I would feel when someone said something that hurt my feelings.  I remember those deep feelings of sadness and embarrassment even to this day.  I must always remember the little girl inside of me, and how she felt when people did not treat her with kindness and love.  I think all of us have to remember the small child inside us and how we would feel when someone hurt our feelings.  That child is still inside of us, and inside of others too, and no one should want to diminish that innocence through unloving words or actions.